Now that the dust has settled on the NBA's trade deadline blitz, it's time to take stock of the day's events. From the top:
A team in Portland’s position has every reason to prioritize the present. Acquiring Afflalo speaks to that, as the Blazers have given up a future first-round selection to land a useful wing of good systemic fit. Their bench needed fixing. Select Blazers subs have had nice weeks or months, yet none is as steady or productive as Afflalo. Given that the wing was a point of particular inconsistency, Portland has plenty to gain from slotting Afflalo as a designated shooter with workable creative instincts. A future pick, particularly one with lottery protection, is a reasonable investment in Portland’s current contention. They have a shot at winning it all and are doing what they can to bolster their chances.
That Denver isn’t anywhere near that level makes all the difference in how they value Afflalo. For one: At no point in the past few months has Afflalo seemed all that interested in playing for the Nuggets (as appears to be the case with so many of his now-former teammates). He leaves a roster that lingers in a slow state of dissolution. Denver opted not to unload all of its assets at once, though it has now traded Afflalo, Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee to begin its roster turnover, netting two future firsts and clearing plenty of salary in those transactions. What follows is anyone’s guess.
Philadelphia acquires JaVale McGee and a protected first-round pick from Denver in exchange for inconsequential draft rights.
See above. There’s fair room to quibble with whether the Nuggets should have given up a first for the sole purpose of dumping McGee’s contract, though their growing abundance of quality picks over the next two seasons lessens the hit. Hardly an outstanding move, but an understandable one given the financial and cultural motivations.
This deal is also a quintessential Sixers maneuver: The use of cap space (at no real cost to the team this season) as a mechanism to add a draft pick. Teams wise enough to keep their salary low through the process of their rebuild can serve just this function to add building blocks along the way. Surely Philadelphia won’t actually use all the picks it has acquired, though a wider range of future deals becomes possible in having them.
There’s no harm in the Kings’ play for a George Karl favorite. In Sacramento, what’s to come this season is prologue. The limits of the Western Conference playoff race have already been defined and do not include the Kings. Wins and losses, then, matter far less than Karl and his players laying the foundation for a successful relationship. Miller could be valuable in that regard for his understanding of what Karl wants and the respect he so naturally commands from his peers. There’s something to be gained from his presence that couldn’t be from Sessions. Not to mention an out from the $2.2 million Sessions is owed next year.
Washington, for its part, has been following up every lead possible as to how it might improve its point guard rotation. Miller is on his way out. This season has brought a nightly struggle to keep up with opposing point guards, the vast majority of which reduced Miller’s defense to that of a traffic cone. Sessions isn’t exactly an upgrade in this regard. Yet rather than see things through with a known liability, the Wizards have rolled the dice on a younger, quicker player with struggles of his own. If it works, wonderful. If not, Sessions’ arrival comes at no real loss.
Minnesota acquires Kevin Garnett from Brooklyn in exchange for Thaddeus Young.
The Timberwolves are apparently willing to pay the price for sentimentality. What Minnesota is angling for here has little to do with basketball, as Garnett, the best player in franchise history, is no longer in a position to contribute that much on the floor. Instead he returns as a statesman, and perhaps a fixture within the organization in some other capacity. Garnett had already made known his interest in becoming a bigger part of the Timberwolves down the line. Perhaps a sobering season with the Nets convinced him that, at 38 years old, he should prepare for the next step.
Minnesota will have its emotional return, its video tribute and its grand reunion between Garnett and Flip Saunders. What it won’t have is Young, a quality player whom the Timberwolves surrendered a first-round pick in order to acquire. The pick in question (originally the property of the Heat) is likely to convey as a mid-first, which is entirely too high a price to pay for whatever the Timberwolves are getting from Garnett. What was a short-sighted move at the time looks even worse as Minnesota played out the string with Young.
Three cheers for mutual satisfaction. Every team involved in this transaction made out with a reasonable, practical address of its immediate needs. Detroit landed a starting point guard prospect worth its time and, if the price is right, its long-term investment. Oklahoma City managed three rotation players from an unhappy one. Jackson is better on balance than any of those three acquired, though stylistically the Thunder find better fit and balance in their newcomers. Utah worked the phones against a ticking clock to accommodate Kanter’s trade demands and made out with a pair of draft picks to show for it. Other teams pressed into similar deadlines have had no such luck.
There’s also a sense of this deal working out for the principals involved. Jackson’s relief in finding a team of his own is palpable. Kanter might be best positioned to work off of elite offensive talent and alongside one of the league’s best shot-blocking bigs. Augustin and Singler are nice complementary players moving from one fringe playoff team to another, albeit with a much higher ceiling. Everybody wins in ways that reflect each franchise’s priorities.
In a three-team deal, Phoenix acquires Danny Granger, John Salmons and two first-round picks (via MIA); Miami acquires Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic; New Orleans acquires Norris Cole, Shawne Williams and Justin Hamilton.
Once Dragic went public with his dissatisfaction in Phoenix, the prospect of trading him for equal value vanished. He was already set to be a free agent in a market lush in cap space. Yet in all but guaranteeing that he wouldn’t re-sign with the Suns, Dragic diminished his own trade value and put Phoenix under the gun. The Suns delivered. It’s important to remember that Phoenix put itself in this position in the first place by putting a trio of point guards in suboptimal circumstances, though once things went sour it made sense to redeem Dragic for whatever value it could. Two future firsts is a smart value play for a star with one foot out the door.
In surrendering that much, Miami doubled down on its short-term timeline. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng were both signed to two-year deals this past summer in the service of keeping competitive. Dragic is a huge step forward in that regard and is the biggest single-position upgrade made at the deadline. The Heat’s woeful point guard rotation is no more, and as the franchise moves forward, it could do far worse than re-centering around Chris Bosh and a re-signed Dragic.
In a three-team deal, Phoenix acquires Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton, Kendall Marshall and a first-round pick (from CLE via BOS); Philadelphia acquires a first-round pick (from LAL via PHX); Milwaukee acquires Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; and Boston acquires Isaiah Thomas.
Out of left field comes this swap of intriguing picks and prospects, most of which had kept out of the pre-deadline rumor mill. Knight is the best player involved and could be had largely for what he will eventually cost. This is Knight’s last year under the rookie scale, after which teams around the league will be forced to price his contributions. Steady development has made Knight a fringe All-Star and a stable leader for the sixth-seeded Bucks, though in a league overflowing with quality point guards he isn’t the hottest commodity. Milwaukee passed on the dilemma of offering him a new deal this summer and in return landed Carter-Williams who is a cheaper prospect with the size and athleticism to fit its strategy on both ends. Carter-Williams has a lot to prove in terms of becoming as helpful an offensive player as Knight, though one can trace the logic in Milwaukee’s acquisition.
Phoenix, meanwhile, sticks to its plan by replacing Dragic (and Thomas whom Boston stole in this deal for a future first) with Knight. The era of dueling Suns point guards lives on, though Knight and Bledsoe both have enough combo guard flexibility to make for a fascinating pair. They’ll need to stabilize quickly in order to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race, but ultimately they could be a more agreeable backcourt. The shocker is the Suns were willing to surrender a hugely valuable draft pick to make that happen. As good as Knight is, is he worth surrendering what could be a top-six pick or better (along with Thomas!) with his next contract undecided?
This deal is a direct consequence of McDaniels’ impending free agency. Philadelphia has extracted maximum value from second-round picks and undrafted free agents by committing to multi-year unguaranteed contracts. In effect, these deals keep the Sixers in control. They come with the freedom to part ways with prospects at minimal future cost while otherwise keeping a player under contract in the case that they pan out. McDaniels, by his own insistence, is an exception. He reportedly rejected that deal structure after being selected by the Sixers in the second round, pushing instead for a one-year contract. In doing so he accelerated his restricted free agency to a point that Philadelphia wasn’t comfortable with.
Its hesitation is fair. McDaniels is an NBA talent, though at the moment his high upside and iffy hard skills make him difficult to price. That Philadelphia moved him messages rather strongly they didn’t feel comfortable committing so much to McDaniels so soon, opting instead for a decent backup point guard prospect and another second rounder for the pile. Houston, if only by being accommodating, happily inherits a prospect who already changes games with his athleticism and could round out into a solid player.
The league-wide game of Alexey Shved hot potato has finally concluded with New York holding what remains of his $3.3 million salary. Getting him there, however, cost Houston a second-round pick and picking up Pablo Prigioni. That exchange is rather steep considering Prigioni’s marginal basketball value. All the same, that Prigioni is a better catch-and-shoot threat and pick-and-roll option make him more useful to Houston than Shved would have been. Assuming that the above deal for Canaan incentivized the Rockets to add an insurance point guard, this deal is acceptable. Not brilliant and not without cost, merely fine under the deadline.
This isn’t a deal of much consequence in the grand scheme of things, though again an opportunistic team made out well by taking advantage of another’s nostalgia. Jerebko has done well as a reserve for the Pistons and makes far more sense for the Celtics than the aging Prince did. That Prince has played reasonably well of late helps to balance the scales ever slightly, though as a bottom line Detroit still surrenders the most interesting of those players involved.
New Orleans acquires Ish Smith from Oklahoma City while surrendering nothing of import.
Nothing to see here, save for a team with a full roster making room for the rest of the day’s activity.