It’s the most electric time of the year! Christmas? Summer? Nope: It’s the NBA Trade Deadline. With teams desperate to make last-minute moves, dump salaries or just stay put, The Daily Californian’s sports department gives you the recap on the winners, losers and biggest surprises.
Who was the biggest winner of the trade deadline?
Abhi Erra: Ben Simmons. He’s finally left the 76ers. It was quite clear throughout the entire offseason that Simmons did not want to be in Philadelphia anymore — and Philadelphia didn’t want Simmons anymore, either. Only time will tell if Simmons will fit in Brooklyn, but in leaving the toxic environment in Philly, Simmons gets an opportunity for something of a fresh start.
Ethan Moutes: The Los Angeles Clippers. While 2022 won’t be their year, the additions of Norman Powell and Robert Covington — without any notable departures — has them primed for a deep postseason run next year. When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are reactivated, the league is in trouble.
Justin Kim: A championship is the ultimate goal for any team, and the 76ers got themselves much closer to that possibility, essentially swapping Seth Curry for James Harden at the guard spot. While Curry is a good player, he’s nowhere near the ceiling raiser Harden is. Moreover, Philadelphia didn’t even have to push all of its chips into the middle of the table, as it still kept rising star Tyrese Maxey and defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle.
Who was the biggest trade deadline loser?
AE: The Sacramento Kings. The Kings look on the way to missing out on the playoffs for a 16th consecutive season after the 13th-place team in the West traded second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers. Haliburton’s efficiency and playmaking ability are obvious green flags for any team looking to win. The Kings received crafty big man Domantas Sabonis in return, but trading away a future star such as Haliburton makes the Kings the biggest losers of the deadline.
EM: The Portland Trail Blazers. Somehow, Rip City managed to get fleeced not once but twice. First, they gave up Powell and Covington for what remains of Eric Bledsoe and a couple of former Clippers reserves. Then, they sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans in return for Josh Hart, reserves, what will likely be a nonlottery first-round pick and a second-round pick. Blazers fans should bid farewell to Damian Lillard.
JK: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While this saying rings true for many teams, the Lakers do not fall into that category. While no move would have made this team a championship contender, not even being able to make a fringe trade to reinvigorate the team and salvage the season will cost it. Just look at what the Clippers gave up for Powell and Covington.
What was the best fringe move made at the deadline?
AE: The Phoenix Suns getting Torrey Craig back. The No. 1 team in the NBA added more depth in a former player, much to the chagrin of this Warriors fan. Craig was a key player off the bench for the Suns in their NBA Finals run last season, so the Suns getting him back from the Indiana Pacers for Jalen Smith should help with their chemistry by the time the playoffs come around. Alas.
EM: If the Nets may be called a “fringe team” in spite of their recent 11-game skid, their acquisition of Curry, Andre Drummond and, of course, Simmons in exchange for Harden was the best fringe move at the deadline. Even if Simmons is a net negative on the offensive end when the postseason arrives, he’ll provide all-NBA level defense. Add to that better depth in the backcourt and a competent big man, and the Nets are revitalized.
JK: Derrick White to the Celtics. Adding White’s defensive prowess and off-ball slashing abilities to an already surging Boston squad could spell trouble for the rest of the Eastern conference. For just Josh Richardson, a protected pick and Romeo Langford, the Celtics arguably have built the best defensive backcourt in the league. A lineup with the aforementioned backcourt, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams, is a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor.
What was the NBA trade deadline’s biggest surprise?
AE: The Kristaps Porzingis trade. Despite all of the chatter in the offseason about the rift between Porzingis and Dallas superstar Luka Doncic, it still seemed improbable that such an important piece such as Porzingis would be traded during the season. It was even more surprising that the Mavericks would take a struggling Spencer Dinwiddie and an overpaid Davis Bertans from the Wizards in return. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Mavericks move forward without Porzingis.
EM: Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Haliburton. There were other players involved in this deal, but these two were the headliners. Poor Sabonis finds himself shipped from one team doomed to narrowly miss the playoffs in the East to a team doomed to narrowly miss the playoffs in the West. Poor Haliburton, meanwhile, finds himself abandoned by a team that had hit the lottery by drafting him after years of questionable picks.
JK: Although I’m not surprised Sacramento traded for Sabonis, Haliburton seemed like the one untouchable player on that squad. As a Sacramento local — and with the little hindsight I currently have — I can grasp the rationale: The city is losing interest in the team and is desperate to make any noise. A 25-year-old All-Star-level player such as Sabonis is sure to bring that noise in the short term, at least. Nevertheless, I was still shocked.