Who made a deal at the NBA’s trade deadline?
The better question: Who didn’t make a deal?
Cleveland and Chicago did not. The other 28 teams made a trade – some small (Dewayne Dedmon from Miami to San Antonio) and some big (Kevin Durant from Brooklyn to Phoenix).
Starting with the Durant trade just after midnight early Thursday morning, the hours before the trade deadline were marked by flurries of activity.
The Western Conference definitely improved, and the Eastern Conference didn’t make the major moves that elevated a team considerably. While trades are done for the year, the buyout market is next, and there will be wanted players if they are bought out: Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, John Wall, Danny Green, Will Barton, Serge Ibaka, Terrence Ross.
But before the buyout market opens up, let’s take a look at the trade deadline winners, losers and to be determined:
Phoenix/new Suns owner Mat Ishbia
Nearly 36 hours after assuming controlling interest in the Phoenix Suns, owner Mat Ishbia, the CEO and chairman of United Wholesale Mortgage, stunned the league, acquiring Kevin Durant from Brooklyn for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four first-round picks. When healthy, Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul form one of the NBA’s most unstoppable offenses. At 30-26 and in fifth place in the Western Conference, the addition of Durant vaults the Suns to title contender.
Los Angeles Lakers
Mo Bamba blocks a shot by Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic in a Dec. 28 game in Detroit.
The Lakers improved with the Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba acquisitions while only giving up one first-round draft pick. It makes them better, but they almost fell into the to-be-determined category, because it’s unlikely this makes them a contender. Still, the front office gets credit for the moves while preserving roster flexibility in the offseason.
The first-place Celtics didn’t do much at the deadline (added a stretch big in Mike Muscala), but they watched a potential playoff opponent (Brooklyn) trade its two best players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, to teams in the West.
The Suns hadn’t played Crowder all season because he was not part of their plans despite having value. After the Nets acquired him in the Durant deal, they traded him to Milwaukee where he will have a chance to showcase his defense and 3-point shooting.
Beginning with the 2019 offseason, the Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, named Steve Nash their coach and traded for James Harden. By the 2023 trade deadline, Durant was sent to Phoenix, Irving to Dallas, Harden to Philadelphia last season and Nash was fired seven games into this season. Forming a Big 3 with a Hall of Fame player as coach yielded nothing better than a second-round exit and plenty of dysfunction.
OPINION: Trading Kevin Durant underlines Nets’ massive failure, writes Dan Wolken
FOLLOW EVERY MOVE: NBA trade deadline tracker
BLOCKBUSTERS: Nets deal Kevin Durant to Suns; Kyrie Irving to Mavericks
The Warriors reduced their luxury tax bill by trading James Wiseman to Detroit. However, Wiseman was the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft. The Warriors didn’t get much for him on the court, and other than tax savings, they didn’t get much for him in the trade. Golden State also traded five second-round picks to Portland for Gary Payton II, who the Warriors let walk in free agency in the summer after he played a key reserve role on the 2022 championship team.
Both teams made minor moves at the deadline, and nothing wrong with that. But the Nuggets and Grizzlies – the first- and second-place teams in the West – didn’t do anything to improve while other teams in the West did.
With Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nik Vucevic, the Bulls are 26-28 and fighting for a play-in spot. Vucevic is a free agent after this season, and the team’s attempt to build a contender on the fly, while admirable, hasn’t worked out.
To be determined
Kyrie Irving scored 24 points in his Dallas Mavericks debut.
The Mavs got Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn to pair alongside MVP candidate Luka Doncic. The Mavs have searched for a star to give Doncic some help. Dallas will be a dangerous offensive team, but this is a wait-and-see trade. How good will the Mavs be by season’s end and in the playoffs?
The Raptors were the subject of rampant trade speculation, mainly because teams were interested in their players and because they have several players (Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam) who will be free agents over the next two offseasons, and second-year foundation player Scottie Barnes will be in line for an extension on his rookie deal. It will be worth watching how this plays out in the offseason.
If a team wasn’t acquiring big-name players, they wanted draft picks, and second-rounders particularly were in demand. Portland and Brooklyn both ended up with five future second-round picks, and the Nets collected four first-rounders from Phoenix in the Durant trade. Utah added another first-round pick in the Westbrook trade with the Lakers and now have accumulated 12 first-round draft picks since July. But let’s see what those teams actually turn those picks into.
The Wizards rolled the dice with Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis able to become free agents after the season. Washington didn’t trade either player with the idea of possibly re-signing both in the offseason. But both could leave, too, putting the Wizards in position where they lose both for little in return.
Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA trade deadline grades give high marks to Suns, Lakers, Celtics