The trade deadline didn’t produce any blockbuster deals, with all-star players changing area codes. Several rumored deals involving Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith and Michael Beasley never came to fruition.
But that didn’t make Thursday any less frenetic or dramatic as teams made trades that were both logical and baffling. Some teams and individuals came out ahead in the process, while others did not. Here is the breakdown:
The Magic refused to react to wishy-washy whims of Dwight Howard. Orlando called Howard’s bluff on a flimsy trade demand and came out ahead when he decided to opt-in for another year rather than face the uncertainty of leaving the only team for which he has played. Howard had held the Magic hostage for nearly three months, waffling on his desires to be dealt before deciding to block out the outside chatter and remain “loyal.” The Magic could very easily wind up in the same situation next year, with endless speculation surrounding its franchise cornerstone, but at least it has more time to get Howard the superstar help he desires and keep the foundation in place for years to come.
New Jersey: Loser
After mortgaging most of its prime assets to get Deron Williams last season, the New Jersey Nets planned to purge the rest to pair Williams with Dwight Howard. But when Howard decided to stay in Orlando, Nets General Manager Billy King’s plan to have two superstars in place when the team makes his triumphant arrival in Brooklyn next season suddenly became a Dwightmare. The Nets panicked by trading away a top-three-protected pick to Portland – in a deep draft – to land Gerald Wallace. Making matters worse, Williams has already declared his intention to opt out of his contract this summer – opening a chance for him to bolt for his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
Los Angeles Lakers: Winner
Had they been able to acquire Deron Williams and/or even Michael Beasley, the Lakers would’ve pulled off a tremendous haul, but they actually did enough to enter the discussion as a championship contender – and save money – with some subtle moves. The Lakers significantly upgraded their backcourt with the addition of Ramon Sessions– a quicker, scoring point guard – should provide a boost to an offense that was too Kobe-centric and averaged its lowest point total since the franchise moved from Minneapolis. Sessions was having a down season backing up Kyrie Irving in Cleveland but still posted superior numbers to Derek Fisher and Steve Blake.
Derek Fisher: Loser
Derek Fisher’s leadership upon his return to the organization was essential in keeping Kobe Bryant happy and helping the Lakers win back-to-back titles. But his advanced age and inability to keep with quicker point guards and consistently knock down shots had become a detriment. On top of that, the collective bargaining agreement that he helped negotiate as union president came back to bite him when he was dealt to Houston. Under the new rules, he is unable to be waived and re-sign with his former team this season. So there is no road back to the Lakers to finish his career.
Milwaukee/Golden State: Winners
In a rare trade that actually helps both teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors filled desired needs at the deadline. The Warriors finally found a center in former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut, ended the Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt experiment and opened the door for Klay Thompson to give them a more traditional lineup. The Bucks finally got a consistent scoring threat in Monta Ellis, one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NBA. But Milwaukee also cleared up money to make a run at retaining Ersan Ilyasova, a free agent this summer who has emerged as arguably its best player this season.
Only a few weeks ago, the Trail Blazers appeared to be a franchise headed on the road to recovery, with LaMarcus Aldridge making his first all-star appearance and helping the team overcome the devastating losses of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden to remain relevant. But now the team is in shambles. Nate McMillan was fired. Oden was cut. Marcus Camby was traded for two draft busts. And now the team is in full rebuilding mode after dumping Gerald Wallace for a draft pick. Portland could prove to be wise for hitting the reset button before the situation got worse, but for now, the season is a disaster.
Wizards/JaVale McGee/Nick Young: Winners
The Wizards managed to create a different culture and acquire a serviceable big man in Nene in the process. Neither McGee nor Young will have the freedom to improvise that they were given in Washington, but they will both have the opportunity to settle into roles that actually fit their skills set. McGee and Young and were miscast in Washington and given responsibilities that exceeded their abilities. But in Denver, McGee will be in a situation where he will have to compete for minutes and possibly learn under an excellent coach in George Karl, who has worked wonders for big men throughout his career. Young will be a designated scorer for his hometown Clippers and given the opportunity to contribute to a winning team for the first time since his rookie season.
Jeremy Lin: Loser
Even at its apex, Linsanity was often dismissed as a product of Mike D’Antoni’s point-guard-centered offense. But the system is gone, and phenomenon has lost steam with Jeremy Lin putting up more pedestrian numbers. D’Antoni resigned after the New York Knicks lost six in a row and he reportedly lost a power struggle with all-star Carmelo Anthony. Now Lin will have to adjust to new coach Mike Woodson’s scheme, which will feature heavy doses of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire rather than Lin’s decision-making and fearless scoring. And speculation has already started that he could lose his job to Baron Davis.