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Thirteen Winners and Losers From the NBA’s Trade Deadline

Former teammates, top executives and frustrated fan bases make our list.

Another NBA trade deadline is behind us. Let’s run through some winners and losers!

Winner: Daryl Morey

All season long, I’ve said Morey was trying too hard to wait out the Simmons situation for a star. All season long, I said he needs to face reality and move Simmons for multiple parts, especially while Joel Embiid was playing at an MVP level. I was wrong! Morey banked on a superstar shaking free, and lo and behold, he moved somebody who hasn’t played since a playoff meltdown for a former MVP. I still have some doubts about the on and off court fit between James Harden and Embiid. But you cannot argue with a straight face the 76ers did not get more talented Thursday.

Winner: Ben Simmons

How Simmons was able to parlay a massive playoff failure and basically going AWOL into becoming Kyrie’s and KD’s running mate is nothing short of wizardry. It would’ve been hard for Simmons to fall into a better situation. He still gets to play for a winning team, and yet has two megastar teammates who will deal with most of the scrutiny. Simmons is not out of the woods just yet. He still has to prove he can be a valuable player down the stretch of a playoff game. It should be a lot easier for him to do so playing off of Irving and Durant than Joel Embiid.

Winner: Joel Embiid

His MVP-level play demanded the Sixers do something at the deadline. Embiid finally gets a running mate that doesn’t jam up the floor for him. This is now the best chance the big man has had at a championship.

Loser: Nets Fans

Simmons is a nice pickup for the Nets! It has to be deeply frustrating to go from one of the scariest offensive trios in league history to this new Big Three, however. Nets fans were robbed of a chance to see Harden, Durant and Irving play together with any sort of consistency. Brooklyn may very well still win a title. The Harden, Durant, Irving combo is going to be the greatest “what if?” of all time, though.

Loser: LeBron James’s Cigar Room

AKA the place where the plan to land Russell Westbrook was reportedly hatched. You can go back and forth debating whether Rob Pelinka or LeBron is ultimately more responsible for the Russ trade. The truth is this: That deal has handicapped this Lakers season and potentially the next one as well. It’s thrown a wrench into the team dynamic, it’s forced Frank Vogel to make uncomfortable fourth-quarter decisions, and it’s made the team so top-heavy contract wise they can’t make any trades to upgrade the roster. Los Angeles sunk its season the moment it landed Westbrook. And he’s still under contract through next year. With LeBron nearing 40, the Lakers have done a pitiful job of maximizing his time in LA.

Winner: Brad Stevens Sycophants

With Brad Stevens no longer coaching, it’s been a while since his biggest fans could sing his praises. I’m not sure how many people are still picking Stevens over Giannis, but he acquitted himself well during his first trade deadline as president of basketball ops. Derrick White and Daniel Theis aren’t going to take Boston over the top. What they can do is fill in nicely around a core that’s been one of the best in the league over the last couple months. Considering the team was likely losing Dennis Schroder in the offseason, turning him into a few years of Theis is good managing. And while Josh Richardson was giving the team solid minutes, White fills a need at point guard. Good stuff from Brad, as I’m sure you’ll hear in the days to come. After a rough start, the Celtics are legit.

Loser: Binging and Bonging

The Knicks really needed a shakeup, and as of now, it’s hard to see them jumping any of the teams ahead of them in the East play-in race. There was some conjecture before the season New York could be a better team but finish with a worse record. It looks more like the Knicks have taken a legitimate step back this year. And with Tom Thibodeau as the head coach, it’s more likely he rides the vets instead of tipping off the full youth movement down the stretch. R.J. Barrett’s star turn over the last six weeks means there’s still reason to be excited here. It just may already be time to find a new direction than the one that resulted in a playoff berth.

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Winner: Porzingis Truthers

Another team has taken a chance on Kristaps Porzingis’s knees holding up. I liked the move for the Wizards. Those who believed Luka Doncic was holding KP back (which may only be Porzingis himself) will now get a chance to see him play with a new star.

Loser: Sean Marks

Marks was given a Nets team with no draft picks and very little young talent. He turned them into a free-agent destination and landed Durant, Harden and Irving. It’s one of the all-time turnarounds. And all of his planning was derailed by a once-in-a-century pandemic and mercurial personalities. Marks is probably relieved after the deadline. And he made a great trade considering the circumstances. He’s also probably aged at an exponential rate since he entered the superstar business. That’s the life of a general manager trying to win it all.

Winner: Eastern Conference Playoff Games

The first round alone is going to be insane. The universe owes us a Nets-Sixers series, preferably in the second round, which is where both went out last year. Somehow, at least two of these teams won’t be in the final four: Heat, Bucks, Celtics, Hawks.

Winner: The Donovan Mitchell Photoshop Economy

The Jazz didn’t upgrade their playoff rotation at the deadline. Utah has a lot of the same problems it had last season, most pressing being its perimeter defense. Are the Jazz running their course with Mitchell and Rudy Gobert? Their on-again, off-again tension coupled with anything short of a conference finals appearance would ratchet up the pressure on the front office in the offseason. And you can guarantee everyone—Twitter, reddit boards, rival GMs—will be circling Mitchell like vultures, whether or not he actually wants out. The Jazz as presently constructed are still very talented. Does that mean they still scare the teams ahead of them in the standings?

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Loser: People Sick of Chris Paul

The Suns added some depth and none of their competitors got better. At worst, Phoenix is going to be back in the conference finals. Anything less would be a shock.

Winner: Warriors

A showdown with the Suns feels imminent. 

More NBA Coverage:

Trade Grades: 76ers Acquire Harden From Nets for Simmons
Imagining James Harden and Joel Embiid As Teammates
NBA Trade Tracker: Every Deal Made At the Trade Deadline

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