It remains to be seen whether any of Thursday’s moves will meaningfully alter the title landscape, but Miami President Pat Riley was aggressive at the deadline for the second year in a row. Oladipo, a 28-year-old guard who landed in Houston from the Indiana Pacers as part of the James Harden trade, will give Coach Erik Spoelstra a proven backcourt scorer and two-way contributor. Although Oladipo has struggled with his efficiency since suffering two major injuries in recent years, the two-time all-star came at a modest cost because he is heading to free agency this summer.
In separate deals, Riley acquired veteran wing Trevor Ariza from the Oklahoma City Thunder and stretch forward Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings. The result of the moves, which cost starting big man Kelly Olynyk and four players who have barely played this season, should be some added pop to the Heat’s 25th-ranked offense. Oladipo will have the chance to earn his next contract in potential playoff matchups with Kyrie Irving and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat, in the East’s No. 5 seed, could still add veteran forward LaMarcus Aldridge if he is bought out by the San Antonio Spurs as expected.
The Magic, which has been ravaged by injuries to key players this season, dominated much of Thursday’s action with a sell-off of Vucevic, forward Aaron Gordon and guard Evan Fournier. After years of deliberate management, Orlando pulled the plug entirely and now has a decent chance to finish with the league’s worst record.
Vucevic, a 30-year-old center who made two all-star trips during his nine years with the Magic, was sent to the Chicago Bulls for center Wendell Carter Jr., forward Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks. Gordon was dealt to the Denver Nuggets for guard Gary Harris, rookie R.J. Hampton and a protected first-round pick. And Fournier was sent to the Boston Celtics for guard Jeff Teague, who will be waived, and two second-round picks.
Orlando was wise to cash out on its veterans, as Fournier’s contract expires and both Vucevic and Gordon had plenty of chances to lead winning teams without much success. When the dust settles, the Magic could have two lottery picks this year to build with as Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz return from injuries next season. In the meantime, Carter and Hampton will have the opportunity for plenty of developmental minutes.
Vucevic was the best player to move Thursday, and he will form an inside-outside pairing with Zach LaVine, who earned his first all-star nod this season. A skilled and proven scorer, Vucevic will be complemented by center Daniel Theis, who arrived from the Boston Celtics in a cap-clearing trade. By taking on two veterans and parting with Carter, the Bulls, who enter Thursday’s action as the East’s 10th seed, are clearly signaling their desire to be a playoff team this year and in the future.
Denver’s acquisition of Gordon was the biggest move for any aspiring West contender, and the 6-foot-8 forward plugs into the hole created by Jerami Grant’s offseason departure for the Detroit Pistons. Gordon’s athleticism and size should make him a nice fit alongside franchise center Nikola Jokic, and his defensive versatility is needed in the Nuggets’ frontcourt. In a separate deal, the Nuggets also acquired center JaVale McGee from the Cleveland Cavaliers as a replacement for Mason Plumlee, who also left for the Pistons in free agency.
Fournier’s arrival in Boston will add some scoring and playmaking that have been lacking since Gordon Hayward’s departure for the Charlotte Hornets in free agency. Celtics Coach Brad Stevens recently lamented his lack of second-unit production, and Fournier is a proven scorer who can create a shot. Even so, the deal amounted to a modest win at best given that Fournier is a subpar defender and unlikely to boost the underwhelming Celtics back into the East’s top four. Adding Fournier’s salary with a trade exception led Boston to ship out Theis, a quality glue guy, so that it could duck under the luxury tax line.
Toronto’s decision not to trade Lowry was the day’s biggest surprise, but it appears President Masai Ujiri’s asking price was ultimately too high. The Heat opted for Oladipo, while the Philadelphia 76ers acquired backup guard George Hill from the Oklahoma City Thunder. With no deal for Lowry, Ujiri instead shipped guard Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.
Powell and Trent are both upcoming free agents who make more sense in their new homes. Powell, 27, will bring a bigger scoring punch to Portland’s playoff chase, while the 22-year-old Trent looks like a potential long-term fit in a retooling effort in which Toronto has identified Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby as younger building blocks.
The Lakers’ inactivity was no surprise, even though recent injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis will probably compromise their position in the West standings. None of their top conference rivals made major moves, although the Clippers did acquire Rajon Rondo, who won a title with the Lakers last year, from the Atlanta Hawks for Lou Williams. The Clippers will hope that the 35-year-old Rondo can bring pass-first playmaking and playoff savvy to a backcourt rotation that has lacked both.
Elsewhere, the Washington Wizards acquired Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison from the Bulls in exchange for Troy Brown Jr. and Moritz Wagner, while the Dallas Mavericks added sharpshooter JJ Redick from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Beal, Lowry, Aldridge, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins were among the prominent names who were not traded. Aldridge and Drummond both appear poised for buyouts.
See below for more details and analysis on Thursday’s trades