We’re six weeks from the end of the NBA regular season, so it’s safe to say we can start to pass judgement on the majority of the off season transactions.
This week, we’ll look at the major trades that went down between seasons. Next week, we’ll look at the free agency additions.
Memphis received: Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, rights to Darius Bazley, 2020 1st round pick
Utah received: Mike Conley
The Jazz, as they were constructed, had reached the end of their journey. The defense first squad led by the Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors twin towers alignment was a juggernaut at one end of the court, but anaemic at the other. Utah’s brains trust of Justin Zanek and Dennis Lindsey saw their team fall apart on offense against the Rockets in back to back playoff series defeats and knew they had to pivot.
In amongst other moves, Conley was brought in for veteran backup Jae Crowder, draft picks and depth players. The move was designed to give Utah an elite pick and roll ball handler to take control late in the game, who was capable of playing off ball to compliment Donovan Mitchell. Whilst on the small side, Conley was also a surefooted on ball defender.
The move was met with near universal acclaim, with The Ringer’s Hayley O’Shaughnessy and ESPN's Zach Lowe amongst many proclaiming the Jazz as Finals contenders without even a preseason game having been played.
Conley started the season proper in an almighty slump – 3 of 20 from the floor over his first 4 games. He also failed to click with Rudy Gobert, who for sure rolls to the bucket at a different cadence to his former buddy Marc Gasol. Conley’s addition also moved Joe Ingles to the bench. Without an elite roll man to open up the lane for his crafty passing and finishing, Ingles’ production plummeted. In short, Conley threw out the whole equilibrium of the team. It was no coincidence that the team (and Ingles especially) went on a tear with Conley injured.
Since his return, Conley has certainly played to a standard much closer to his Memphis best. However Coach Quinn Snyder has struggled to find the right pieces to put around him.
The Jazz are flat-lining. If they’re to make any noise in the playoffs the team needs to get Conley up to speed as well as finding a way for the point guard and their existing pieces to dovetail.
As far as Memphis is concerned, the trade comes down to the upcoming draft pick, Brandon Clarke (brought in for Bazley) and Justice Winslow (brought in for Crowder). If any of those players turn in to solid starters, then (assuming Conley’s form doesn’t improve) the trade is a win for Memphis. Three bites at the apple mean that this trade could be a long term steal for the Grizz.
Miami received: Jimmy Butler, Myers Leonard,
Philadelphia received: Josh Richardson
LA Clippers received: Mo Harkless, 2023 1st round Pick (via Miami)
Portland received: Hassan Whiteside
How quickly we forget, but the rarely seen 4 team mega deal at the deadline isn’t even the only 4 teamer this season.
At the time, this deal seemed to have something for everyone whilst also posing some serious questions. That has proven to be the case, but in ways we hadn’t anticipated.
Miami were without doubt getting the best player in the deal, but how would Butler’s manic personality and lack of shooting fit in Miami? How would the Heat cope without Richardson’s ability from deep? Was Bam Adebayo capable of being a starting centre?
Fair to say it’s all worked out. Butler’s personality is perfect for the Heat DNA – he’s relentless and his coach loves him. The emergence of Kendrick Nunn and Spurs wet dream Duncan Robinson has more than covered for Richardson’s shooting, whilst Butler has taken over his play making duties. Adebayo isn’t ready to be a full time centre of defence, so the re-emergence of Myers Leonard to bang bodies at one end and space the floor at the other has been low key vital for Miami. It appears that literally everything else Bam touches turns to gold.
For Portland, Hassan Whiteside has been great, giving them a physical presence as they await the return of sharp dressed man Jusuf Nurkic, although Mo Harkless was missed once Rodney Hood went down with an achilles.
jusuf nurkic has kinda been a whole vibe all season pic.twitter.com/NsB7pigZwO— whitney medworth (@its_whitney) December 19, 2019
The Clippers gave up nothing of note and got a 1st rounder for their trouble – they’re happy to get a pick after giving up every other pick for all eternity to bring in Paul George.
The Sixers picked up a very good young complimentary piece in Richardson for the price of Jimmy Butler. Whilst his ability to close a game has been missed, would Simmons and Embiid have been able to grow with the overbearing Butler in their grills every day?
Despite the Sixers struggles, this trade remains a win for all involved.