As per tradition, the NBA’s trade deadline fell just a few days after the All-Star break, giving teams their (more or less) final rosters for the season’s final two months and the playoffs. In theory, the deadline day buzzer signifies the opportunity for fireworks and last-minute decisions that could be either brilliant or busts, but always provide potential for entertainment. Unfortunately, the truth in recent years has been far tamer than theory: over the past few years, the Trade Deadline has been tame and relatively risk-averse and most rumours haven’t bore fruition to reality.
Not this year, however. In the biggest trade deadline day in NBA history, 37 players moved in 11 trades across the league. 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams will enter the last half of the season with a roster change, including some dramatic moves that could boost various title aspirants.
With the number of multiple team trades, draft picks offered, protection on future draft picks, and the reshaping of rosters, it was difficult for even the staunchest NBA follower to clear the cobwebs and find where their favourite players landed or how their favourite teams have reloaded.
You can find a full list of trades made at and close to the trade deadline via NBA’s website, but to further analyse the biggest movers on this chaotic day, here is my countdown of the top ten players who have moved to new teams:
10. TIE: Andre Miller (Wizards to Kings) and Ramon Sessions (Kings to Wizards)
I refuse to choose one or the other. Here are two decent backup point guards who were traded for each other to (mildly) satisfy the needs for both teams. The Kings brought in the veteran Miller to provide some leadership to the backcourt of their young team.
The Wizards acquired Sessions to be a more athletic backup to John Wall for a team with legitimate hopes of making some noise in the East.
9. Kevin Garnett (Nets to Timberwolves)
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back… Before Kevin Garnett became the veteran leader and champion with the Celtics, and before he became the angry old man with the Nets, he was a superstar with the Timberwolves, a game-changer who was among the league’s best players annually and an MVP. Garnett is easily the greatest player in Timberwolves’ franchise history and his return to Minnesota (traded to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young) has more to do with his ties to the franchise than his talents. Garnett will be welcomed with open arms back in Minnesota by the fans and will be expected to mentor the young team where Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio have a chance at a bright future.
8. KJ McDaniels (76ers to Rockets)
A nice move for the Rockets as they acquired a decent young defensive talent in McDaniels giving up little in return to the tank-happy 76ers. The rookie small forward has been putting up decent numbers for Philadelphia (9.2 ppg in about 25 minutes) and will get an opportunity to play in a winning atmosphere in Houston. Rockets GM Daryl Morey will look like a genius if McDaniels can develop into a solid player over the next few years.
7. Aaron Afflalo (Nuggets to Trail Blazers)
Solid pick-up for Portland, who only lost a few under-utilized players and protected future draft picks for one of league’s more serviceable two-way shooting guards. Afflalo isn’t the same player he was with the Magic last year or his earlier stint with the Nuggets before that, but he will stack up Portland’s wing position and provide even more three-point danger for a team that already includes Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum.
6. Enes Kanter (Jazz to Thunder)
It wasn’t exactly a thunderous move, but OKC made enough wise decisions at the trade deadline to keep their fans a little more optimistic for the future. Kanter is a skilled, young big man who will boost their offensive and defensive abilities in the post. The Thunder gave up Reggie Jackson to avoid a growing team chemistry issue, and also received a serviceable backup PG (DJ Augustin) as well as talented wing shooters (Kyle Singler, Steve Novak) to compile one of the better bench units in the league. Kendrick Perkins ended up in Utah.
5. Isaiah Thomas (Suns to Celtics)
Are you ready for some point guards? Because the top five players on this list are all skilled ‘1s’ of varying talents. While he was a sixth man of the year contender for the Suns, Isaiah Thomas was one PG too many (with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic already in the team) for Phoenix. The Suns restructured their backcourt and gave up two of the three at the trade deadline. Thomas arrives in rebuilding Celtics squad who are looking more to the future than the present. He is a capable scorer with the ability to put up 20 on any given night and should put up numbers straight away in Boston.
4. Michael Carter-Williams (76ers to Bucks)
MCW could fall anywhere between 2-4 in this list, but it will all depend on how he fixes the glaring holes in his game to live up to his Rookie of the Year promise – even though the award came in one of the worst rookie classes of All Time. Philadelphia received little in return – mostly draft picks – for trading MCW and McDaniels away. Carter-Williams now finds himself in Milwaukee, where he will join hands with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker when the latter returns from injury. Can Coach Jason Kidd help mould him into one of the better PGs in the league? For now, his challenge will be to help the young bucks stay in the playoff hunt out East.
3. Reggie Jackson (Thunder to Pistons)
Jackson obviously has talent, and in my opinion, his angst at being a backup in Oklahoma City was understandable for a young player with ambition for greatness. But he was never going to earn minutes off the basketball monster that is Russell Westbrook at the PG spot. Jackson is obviously happy to find himself in Detroit, where he will get the starting slot in Brandon Jennings’ absence and have a chance to prove that he can survive in the challenging world of starting point guards in the league.
2. Brandon Knight (Bucks to Suns)
It’s unclear why the Bucks would choose to essentially sacrifice Brandon Knight (an All-Star contender and one of the most improved players this season) for Carter-Williams (a raw, unproven young player). The Suns probably gave up too much on the deadline, but they’ll be happy to at least get a decent return in Knight, who will now form their new starting backcourt along with Eric Bledsoe. Will it be enough to keep up in the playoff hunt out West?
1. Goran Dragic (Suns to Heat)
Kudos to Pat Riley, one of the shrewdest minds in basketball history and a winner at every level. Somehow, Riley was able to steal the Dragic Brothers (Goran and Zoran) from Phoenix and only lost Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams, Norris Cole, Danny Granger and two future picks in return. Goran Dragic was an All NBA player last season and has the ability to blossom into a bigger star if he stays in Miami long term.
A lineup of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh (get well soon!) and Hassan Whiteside (an incredible rise into prominence in the post) makes the Heat a contender for the East title again. The bench will be iffy, but Riley and Miami fans have reason to celebrate again after losing He Who Shall Not Be Named in the offseason.