The mid-season NBA trade period is always an entertaining time as teams around the league scramble to become relevant or look to offload unwanted pricey assets. As with all things there are winners and there are losers, and that was certainly the case during a frenetic close to the trade period last week.
Let's recap who walks out of this trade period smiling, be they teams or individuals.
Los Angeles Lakers
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Purple and Gold as they have struggled to move on from the post-Kobe era. However, it felt like a significant move back towards relevance was made before last week’s trade deadline.
In trading Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson for Channing Frye and Isaiah Thomas, the Lakers off-loaded Clarkson’s huge cap hit next season and picked up two expiring contracts. This means that Los Angeles will have the cap room this summer to make a big run at some big free agents.
The trade probably won’t help them much this season but if they can entice Paul George or LeBron James to Los Angeles in the summer, this trade will have been crucial.
Things in Cleveland didn’t work out for Jae Crowder. He was asked to play power forward and didn’t look comfortable away from Brad Stevens' tight-knit defensive system. Cue a move to Utah, which was confirmed last week.
Luckily for him, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is the Western Conference’s Stevens, and in his system Crowder should thrive. He can go back to be the hard-nosed 3 and D specialist we saw him be during the last two seasons in Boston.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors had the luxury of sitting back and watching the teams below them scramble to assemble a unit that could come close to challenging for top honors.
There were rumours of Avery Bradley going to San Antonio, which would have had folks in the bay taking notice. Bradley is a supreme defensive talent who along with Kawhi Leonard could have smothered Golden State’s star-studded perimeter.
However, the trade did not materialize and Golden State will still feel that they are a class above the rest of the NBA.
George Hill’s year out in Sacramento finally came to an end when he was traded to the Cavs on deadline day. He has looked a shell of his former self this season, but hey, playing for the Kings will do that to you.
Hill has landed in an incredible situation in Cleveland. He is playing for a squad that for all their inconsistencies have a genuine shot at making the NBA Finals. Having started the season on one of the worst teams in the NBA, vying for the championship would be a remarkable way to end his season.
For all the shrewd moves and new opportunities offered to some, the trade period also had some hard-luck stories. Here are the teams and players that will be hoping to forget the period as soon as possible.
Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers
The Blake Griffin-Clippers breakup was a mess from start to finish. The cringe-inducing faux jersey retirement to persuade Blake to extend his deal was nauseating. The Clippers then proceeded to go back on the ‘Clipper for life’ promise and panic-traded Griffin away for a collection of ill-fitting pieces.
Griffin’s head will be spinning having just a few months ago thought he would be spending the rest of his career in Los Angeles, a city he has come to love. Now he is halfway across the country playing on a young team scrapping to make the playoffs.
Griffin’s legacy with Los Angeles will forever be a story of what could have been. The Clippers should have given him the chance to change that.
The Clippers have left themselves in nether zone in-between rebuilding and contending. Their roster makes no sense, however, and they also have minimal cap room to overhaul the squad. It seems that the balance of power in Los Angeles has shifted back towards the Lakers.
A year ago Isaiah Thomas was the NBA’s sweetheart. The diminutive point guard had captured the league’s imagination with his incredible, height-defying performances for the Celtics. Now, 12 months on, he has been shipped to other teams and looks set to come off the bench for the Lakers.
Thomas is a player who needs to be loved and it seems unlikely he will get that in Los Angeles. In all likelihood, he will be moved on again in the summer to make way for bigger stars more suited to the showtime brand.
Whilst the Western Conference leaders could sit back and relax, Boston had to watch teams in the East get better. The Celtics didn’t make any significant moves and there is a feeling that they are too reliant on Kyrie Irving’s magic offensively.
The Celtics didn’t get Kyrie the help he will need when playoff defenses start scheming to take him out of the game. There will be a lot of pressure heaped on the young shoulders of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum come playoff time.
Up in the air - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs were the big movers towards the end of the trade deadline, and they had to be. The team culture had become toxic in Cleveland as the Cavs' defense had slid to 29th in the league. Only Sacramento have been worse at that end of the court this season and they are barely an NBA team.
George Hill and Rodney Hood will bring some much-needed steel to the Cavs' perimeter defense whilst Larry Nance Jr. will bring energy to the front court. Moving Dwyane Wade on was sensible and the Cavs will be delighted they didn’t have to give up Brooklyn’s first-round pick.
However, Jordan Clarkson is a big risk and has a big contract which will be hard to shift if he doesn’t work out. The Cavs also lost one of their best shooters in Frye.
Change was certainly needed and Cleveland has managed to press the reset button without mortgaging the future. Whether or not it will be enough to convince a certain someone to stay in the land remains to be seen.