NBA Trade Deadline Grades

Los Angeles Lakers

Grade: B+

Shooting, spacing and depth.

The Los Angeles Lakers made a ton of noise during the 2023 trade deadline. After months of talks about where Westbrook would end up and their lack of shooting, there are now significantly less holes in the Lakers roster.

Prior to the trade deadline, the Lakers traded Kendrick Nunn and three second round picks in exchange for former 9th pick in the 2019 NBA draft Rui Hachimura. Since joining the Lakers, Hachimura has averaged a solid 11.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG on 49/35/56 splits.

It was clear that the Lakers were far from comfortable in terms of developing a more complete, complimentary roster.

On February 8th the Los Angeles Lakers acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt in a three team trade. The Utah Jazz acquired Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a 2027 first round pick.

This trade was absolutely perfect for the Los Angeles Lakers. It was no secret that the Lakers have been trying to move on from Westbrook, and they were finally able to do so. However, the biggest takeaway from this trade is the addition of former All Star and second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, D’Angelo Russell.

Since the start of the new year, Russell has been averaging an impressive 19.6 PPG and 5.7 APG. On top of that, Russell has been averaging 3.6 3PM per game while shooting an eye opening 45.3% from beyond the arc. Russell’s ability to create his own shots, play-make at an elite level, and space the floor should help the Lakers immensely. The pairing of Russell next to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis should help everybody thrive off of one another.

The addition of Russell also provides the Lakers with a great clutch scorer. Just over a week ago, Russell scored 14 points straight in under 3 minutes to help the Wolves get past the Warriors.

The additions of both Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt help the Lakers too. Beasley’s ability to shoot the ball on top of Vanderbilt’s tenacious rebounding and aggressive defense will all provide a lot of support to the current Lakers squad.

Both Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell are both top 15 in total 3 point shots made this season. Prior to the trade deadline, the Lakers did not have anybody in the top 50.

The loss of Thomas Bryant stings a bit for this Lakers team, but that hole will be filled by former 6th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Mo Bamba. Bamba’s length, rebounding, shot blocking and shooting will help the Lakers on both ends of the floor.

Projected Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Rui Hachimura
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, Wenyen Gabriel, Dennis Schroder

It will be interesting to see who Darvin Ham decides to start, and how this new rotation plays out as the team returns to the floor. Whichever way it goes, the Lakers now have a lot more depth and shooting than they did just a few days ago.

All in all, the Lakers gained a ton of pieces that should help propel this team out of their slow start to the season. With the second half of the season coming up, it is crucial that Los Angeles starts to gain some momentum and secure a playoff spot in the West.

Phoenix Suns

Grade: A-

The Suns by far made the noisiest and biggest splash of the deadline by acquiring Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, 4 1st-round picks and a 2028 pick swap. Man, what a way to make an impression as a new owner… Mat Ishbia was officially introduced as the Suns owner earlier in the day.

Gut reaction tells me the Suns just sold their souls for an injury prone 34-year old to pair with their two other stars who have also been fighting injuries this year. But this isn’t any other 34-year old. If there’s ever a player you gamble all those picks on, it’s someone of Durant’s caliber and those players don’t come along every day. You do this trade because there was no guarantee even in a wide open West that Phoenix would get back to the Finals.

The Suns currently sitting a few games above .500 now make an immediate push for a more favorable playoff seed and when healthy, it’s hard to not say they’re the best team in the West.

Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix got better. A lot better. That being said they’re very top heavy & it won’t take much for things to go bad if injuries crop up at inopportune times. KD has played in only 40% of his games over the last 4 seasons. With CP3’s injury history this Suns star group feels like a pretty risky move, but risks come with potential reward right? You still pull that trigger 10 out of 10 times.

This has got to feel good for CP3 who despite a decline in health and scoring prowess, is still an elite table setter and now has two elite shot makers to get the ball to.

Pushing all your chips to the center of the table is the clear approach and all it takes is 4 months of hot basketball to vindicate it. We saw it with Anthony Davis and the Lakers in 2020 and it worked, can the Suns follow suit? Only thing holding me back from giving this an A to A+ are the injury concerns and the depletion of Phoenix’s depth but the ceiling is now undeniably there.

Projected lineup:

PG: Chris Paul

SG: Devin Booker

SF: Torrey Craig

PF: Kevin Durant

C: DeAndre Ayton

Key Reserves: Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Jock Landale, Dario Saric, Bismack Biyombo, TJ Warren, Cam Payne, Darius Bazley

Brooklyn Nets

Grade: A-

So do the Nets fans get “I Survived the Kyrie Irving Experience” t-shirts after this deadline?

Now that it’s all said and done, the 2020-23 Nets have to be one of the weirdest eras for a team in recent NBA history. For as tumultuous and fascinating of a time as it was for the Nets, a time that is undeniably a failure considering the star power they had, they made it out relatively unscathed in terms of their future prospects.

For Kyrie they got Spencer Dinwiddie who, despite injury history, is a capable scorer, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 3-and-D specialist and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick that could be valuable since Luka’s contract expires in 2027 and you never know what could happen.

Then as for the KD trade the Nets got a haul from Phoenix in return for Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren. You got a war chest of draft picks, a fantastic role player (big Cameron Johnson fan over here), a player in Bridges who may prove to be more than a role player (despite some shaky play with increased usage this year), and a tradeable asset in Crowder (which they flipped to Milwaukee for picks). This sort of haul definitely feels like the Suns gave the Nets an easy way out of the KD situation behind the urgency to win a title. What else could the Nets have taken? Could there have been better offers come summer? I feel like they actually could have received a bigger haul but it’s clear they’re just done dealing with all the drama.

Regardless, it feels good to turn a new leaf in Brooklyn by moving on from a team that won one playoff series in 4 seasons (crazy when you see it spelled out). For some comedic relief it sure does feel like Brooklyn has a monopoly on the “3-and-D” market.

At the end of the day the Nets went from Eastern Conference contenders to a whole bunch of question marks in the span of a couple months. They’re currently 32-22 and 5th in the conference so it would take a pretty dramatic slide to fall out of even the play-in and I don’t think Cam Thomas possessed will let that happen. Even if they see a playoff appearance, this is a team officially rebuilding.

Projected Lineup:

PG: Spencer Dinwiddie

SG: Cam Thomas

SF: Mikal Bridges

PF: Cameron Johnson

C: Nic Claxton

Key Reserves: Dorian-Finney Smith, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Ben Simmons, Edmon Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Yuta Watanabe

Dallas Mavericks

Grade: B+

The Mavericks made the splash to secure that star player next to Luka Doncic, even though they had to sacrifice Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith, two role players who had huge impacts on the team. But bringing in Kyrie is huge for the Mavericks since he’s an elite secondary scorer who will shoulder some of that load that Luka has been carrying for years now in Dallas.

There is the worry that Irving will leave in the off-season, but even if that happens it would be through a sign-and-trade and the Mavericks would have their 2027 first-round pick and tons of cap space to bounce back and build around Doncic. Regardless, the Mavericks have positioned themselves as contenders in the wide-open Western Conference, the question is, will their defense hold up?

Projected Lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Luka Doncic

SF: Tim Hardaway Jr.

PF: Christian Wood

C: Dwight Powell

Key Reserves: Jaden Hardy, Josh Green, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Markieff Morris, Javale McGee

Los Angeles Clippers

Grade: A

The Clippers had to make moves considering their positioning in the Western Conference and their rivals (Lakers and Suns) making HUGE splashes. And oh boy, did they. I love what they did by picking up Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon, and Mason Plumlee which adds a needed backup center and shot-creating guards.

And the Clippers didn’t sacrifice a whole lot to get these pieces, as they gave up non-impact players in Reggie Jackson, John Wall, and Luke Kennard. I think adding in players that can support Paul George and Kawhi Leonard goes a long way instead of aging ball-dominant guys like Jackson and Wall.

Hyland will be a sparkplug off the bench with his exciting style of play reminiscent of Lou Williams. Gordon will provide long-range spot up shooting and a strong vet presence that understands what it takes to play along superstars (see his history with James Harden). And Plumlee provides a much needed backup big presence that can get a double-double any given night. Safe to say, I think these moves were perfect for the stretch run this season.

Projected Lineup:

PG: Terance Mann

SG: Paul George

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: Marcus Morris

C: Ivica Zubac

Key Reserves: Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon, Norman Powell, Nic Batum, Mason Plumlee, Robert Covington

Milwaukee Bucks

Grade: B+

After being linked to him for months, the Bucks finally got their guy in Jae Crowder. Crowder is a gritty defensive-minded forward and fans are optimistic that he can fill the role P.J. Tucker did during Milwaukee’s 2021 championship run. His ability to play either forward spot will give Coach Bud a lot of lineup options come playoff time, whether it’s the big four plus Crowder or small-ball with Giannis at the five. Milwaukee avoided parting ways with any key rotational pieces to get Crowder, but they did sacrifice a mind-blowing five second round picks. That looks like an overpay on paper but will be worth it if he can help this squad return to the promised land. The trade also cleared two roster spots which will be used to add another contributor such as Reggie Jackson from the buyout market.

The Bucks lineup will remain the same with the inclusion of Crowder off the bench.

Golden State Warriors

Grade: C+

The Warriors were of course involved in the aforementioned James Wiseman trade and got back Gary Payton II from Portland in the multi-team deal. This was an interesting move for an otherwise quiet Golden State deadline.

Warrior fans can say the Wiseman era was a success. Did they not win the 2022 title??

Jokes aside this trade signals the Warriors are waving the white flag on the Wiseman project and admitting it as a failure. In 3 seasons he only played 60 games in which he dealt with injuries and inconsistent playing time. He ultimately proved to just be a bad fit. Golden State accepted this fact and moved on rather than watch the asset continue to diminish in value.

They net GPII who should seamlessly slide back into the same role he had last year before he got hurt vs Memphis in the WCSF. When healthy he provides valuable defense and a spark on offense but that’s the issue, health. He’s barely seen the floor this year for Portland but appears to be healthy now.

In a vacuum getting him back is a positive, but it does feel like there were better players for Golden State to go after. It’s not like they’re far and away at the top of the conference like they’re accustomed to being. Even when healthy this year, the Warriors have struggled and are currently hovering around .500 with Curry still out for a while longer. Warriors fans probably would have liked to see a bigger, taller and longer version of Payton II be acquired and there were plenty on the market (I’m watching you Brooklyn). Payton II plays bigger than his size but at the end of the day he’s 6’2”. I wonder if the Warriors could have attached more assets to Wiseman in order to get a better player back.

That being said Payton II is going to contribute more immediately than Wiseman would have and that’s a positive for 2023. Jack Maloney from CBS Sports expresses the following sentiment, and it’s hard to disagree, that there is something to be said for the failure of the Wiseman project as a whole in which we basically saw the front office try to satisfy two separate timelines. The “win now” mentality with the old core and the “build for the future” mentality with young players. They did win the title last year but it’s rough to see a No. 2 overall pick leave even if cutting costs was the most valuable thing to do at this point. All they can do now is get right for a playoff push and figure out the future later.

Projected Lineup:

PG: Stephen Curry

SG: Klay Thompson

SF: Andrew Wiggins

PF: Draymond Green

C: Kevon Looney

Key Reserves: Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II, Donte DiVincenzo, Moses Moody, Anthony Lamb, Jonathan Kuminga, JaMychal Green

Denver Nuggets

Grade: C+

At the end of the day, it looks as though the Nuggets essentially flipped Bones Hyland for Thomas Bryant which isn’t the best swap but there didn’t seem to be a huge market for Hyland out there. The Nuggets get a nice stretch big in Bryant who can play spot minutes behind Jokic, but the defense is definitely less than desired as Bryant is no rim protector or switchable big.

As the season progresses I think the most important aspect for the Nuggets is health and continuity with their lineups as I would love to see more Christian Braun off the bench. Their bench is not the deepest out there so it would be nice to see development from Braun and someone like Vlatko Cancar on the defensive end.

But come playoff time, the one thing that the Nuggets need to prove is if their defense can win them some games and get them over the hump to the Finals. It will definitely be interesting to see how that plays out with this high-powered team.

PG: Jamal Murray

SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SF: Michael Porter Jr.

PF: Aaron Gordon

C: Nikola Jokic

Key Reserves: Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, Thomas Bryant, Vlatko Cancar, Jeff Green

Atlanta Hawks

Grade: A-

Another under-the-radar pickup that could pay huge dividends going forward with the Hawks picking up Saddiq Bey for next to nothing. The Hawks were rumored to be shopping John Collins but that never materialized, which I think will end up being a blessing in disguise since they have always played better when JC is hooping. But, back to Bey, who I think has the potential to turn into a strong 3&D scorer for Atlanta which pairs greatly with players like De’Andre Hunter and AJ Griffin.

The key going forward for the Hawks is health and continued chemistry development as they figure out the best rotations to put on the floor. The talent is there for Atlanta, but the biggest question mark is if Nate McMillan will get the best out of this roster? Based on recent history that remains to be seen. But it will be fun to watch this team make their playoff push and I expect them to surprise a few people along the way.

Projected Lineup:

PG: Trae Young

SG: Dejounte Murray

SF: De’Andre Hunter

PF: John Collins

C: Clint Capela

Key Reserves: Saddiq Bey, Bodgan Bogdanovic, AJ Griffin, Onyeka Okongwu

Toronto Raptors

Grade: B

Considering their underwhelming record and the swirl of rumors surrounding their players, it seemed like Toronto was going to be a seller at the deadline. Instead, they kept their core pieces intact and added one of the most underrated players in basketball, Jakob Poeltl. The big man, who started his career with the Raptors, is the complete opposite of flashy but gets the job done as a rebounder, rim protector, screener, and roller, and gets it done well. He’ll play a key role off the bench for Pascal Siakam and company as they make a push for the postseason.

The Raptors lineup will be interesting to monitor as one of Barnes or Anunoby would be coming off the bench if they start Poeltl.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Grade: C+

Interesting. That’s the one word I can come up with when reviewing the T-Wolves trades. Talent-wise, Minnesota lost quite a bit, but the addition of Mike Conley could prove to be key in the development of Anthony Edwards. Adding a guy like Conley can allow Edwards to be the guy in the backcourt when before D’Angelo Russell was also taking quite a bit of shots.

Another under-the-radar move for the Timberwolves in all of this was picking up Nickeil Alexander-Walker. A guy with 3&D potential at the combo guard spot, I could see (and hope) Alexander-Walker overtaking Jaylen Nowell in the rotation.

But, there is no real takeaway that can be made until we see Karl-Anthony Towns come back and play with Gobert and Edwards. But I do love the vet presence that Conley will bring to this bunch.

Project Lineup:

PG: Mike Conley

SG: Anthony Edwards

SF: Jaden McDaniels

PF: Karl-Anthony Towns

C: Rudy Gobert

Key Reserves: Kyle Anderson, Naz Reid, Taurean Prince, Luka Garza, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaylen Nowell, Jordan McLaughlin

Indiana Pacers

Grade: B+

Despite giving up nothing, the Pacers were gifted Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka (who was waived), and two second-round picks from the Bucks as a thank-you for their help facilitating the Jae Crowder deal. While George Hill returning to Indy is a fun story, the big get for them is third-year man Nwora. He’s a natural scorer with untapped upside who will really benefit from a change of scenery. This trade could end up looking like a steal for the Pacers if he becomes something.

The Pacers lineup will remain the same with the inclusion of Nwora off the bench.

New York Knicks

Grade: A-

I think the Knicks made an under-the-radar move that will end up being huge this season with the Josh Hart acquisition. New York only had to give up a first round pick and bench players (Reddish, Mykhailiuk, Arcidiacono), and now they have a legit game-changer in their rotation that can provide shooting, defense, and rebounding behind RJ Barrett on the wing.

Going forward, I would not be surprised one bit if the Knicks overtake the Heat for the 6th over even 5th seed in the East. Their defense will be top-tier and the scoring will be enough with Brunson and Randle to get the Knicks to potentially the second round of the playoffs.

Projected Lineup:

PG: Jalen Brunson

SG: Quentin Grimes

SF: RJ Barrett

PF: Julius Randle

C: Mitchell Robinson

Key Reserves: Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, Obi Toppin, Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims

San Antonio Spurs

Grade: B+

By sending Jakob Poeltl to Toronto and Josh Richardson to New Orleans, the Spurs are fully committing to the Wembanyama tank. The pair of deals open up larger opportunities for young guys like Malaki Branham, Romeo Langford, and Charles Bassey to show what they can do while effectively worsening the team, making it a winning situation for a team in rebuild mode. While Poeltl and Richardson will be missed by Spurs fans, it made sense for them to be traded. In return for their veteran wing, San Antonio received Devonte’ Graham. While he won’t be part of their long-term plans, the little guard can heat up in a hurry from deep and should be fun to watch while he dons the Silver and Black. Also joining the squad is big man Khem Birch, a quality rebounder and interior finisher who played big minutes for the Raptors in the 2020-21 season. Additionally, they received a protected first-round pick from Toronto and multiple second-round picks, adding to their growing collection of draft capital.

Detroit Pistons

Grade: D+

Well… an excess of big men on your roster who can’t shoot is certainly a choice to say the least.

The Pistons moved on from Saddiq Bey and Kevin Knox in a 4-team mega trade that eventually netted them James Wiseman.

Bey is a solid, young wing who was showing some flashes on offense despite inefficiency. He still has a long way to come on defense but his positional size indicates with effort he could develop into an above average player on that end. Where he shined was his promising ability to get to the line and take care of the ball for his age, a potential good piece to have around Cade Cunningham. He was also one of Detroit’s only decent floor spacers. While not a knockdown shooter necessarily, he was shooting about 35% (league average) on nearly 6 attempts per game from 3.

Now Detroit’s only good shooters are Bogdanovic and Burks. Other than that you have Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, and Marvin Bagley III and just traded for James Wiseman who was barely holding a roster spot and is on the verge of his second contract. I admittedly don’t get it.

Well, I kind of do.

The Pistons are bad right now and taking a flyer on Wiseman who absolutely has upside can’t hurt too bad. In a world where fans deem young projects “lost causes” way too early, it’s hard to not be tantalized by Wiseman who is literally 21 and has some nice physical tools. On his small volume he’s extremely efficient (64.5% TS) and is active around the rim on defense (contests 45.8% of shots at the rim with a 2.4% BLK Pctg). He’s raw but solid play can make him a building block or a trade asset to be moved into another nice situation.

In the meantime, figuring out these Detroit rotations is gonna be an act in wizardry. I assume Detroit still cedes most of the minutes to Jalen Duren but Wiseman should get some run and I’d hate to see him not get a chance at things. All that being said, it feels like an oddly unnecessary move and if they don’t end up paying Wiseman long term or get a good haul for him, then they moved on from Bey and Knox (was actually giving the Pistons decent minutes) for nothing.

Ultimately the outlook for the 2022-23 Pistons doesn’t change. Get Cade healthy and tank like hell for Wemby.

Project Lineup:

PG: Killian Hayes

SG: Jaden Ivey

SF: Bojan Bogdanovic

PF: Isaiah Stewart

C: Jalen Duren

Key Reserves: Alec Burks, James Wiseman, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley III

Charlotte Hornets

Grade: C+

The Hornets were expected to be sellers during the deadline and Plumlee was at the top of the list for a lot of center-needy teams. But only getting back a second round pick and the expiring contract of Reggie Jackson for Plumlee is disappointing. Additionally, the loss of Jalen McDaniels for barely anything isn’t the best return for Charlotte. Deciding not to trade PJ Washington should signal their interest in retaining him this summer over McDaniels, an interesting move considering similar production but Washington most likely costing more this summer.

Even with the questionable moves, this situation could end up being a blessing in disguise as it opens up playing time for Mark Williams and Nick Richards to develop as the centers of the future. It is also expected that the Hornets end up with a top pick in the lottery which should excite fans going forward.

Projected Lineup:

PG: LaMelo Ball

SG: Terry Rozier

SF: Gordon Hayward

PF: PJ Washington

C: Mark Williams

Key Reserves: Dennis Smith Jr., Cody Martin, Kelly Oubre, JT Thor, Nick Richards

Sacramento Kings

Grade: C+

The already-loaded Pacific division got infinitely stronger this deadline with Kevin Durant going to Phoenix, D’Angelo Russell joining the Lakers, and the Clippers and Warriors adding high-level role players. However, the Kings, who are having their best season in over a decade, stood pat which leaves them in a tough position.

The Western Conference playoff race is incredibly tight and if other top teams get hot Sacramento could fall to the play-in. They are undoubtedly in a good place, and understandably hesitant to mix things up and risk destroying the chemistry they’ve built, but they still could have benefited from improving around the edges to bolster their rotation. The sole move they made was a deal with the Nets to acquire sophomore forward Kessler Edwards from the Nets. Edwards likely won’t crack the rotation this year but has flashed switchable defense and shooting, making him a name to keep an eye on for the future.

The Kings lineup will remain the exact same.

Trail Blazers

Grade: D

For the life of me, I can’t understand the moves the Blazers made. They got rid of their two best defenders in Josh Hart and Gay Payton II and pulled in Matisse Thybulle, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Knox. For a team claiming they want to “build around Damian Lillard”, this looks more like a tank job to me.

If anything, these are moves that are looking to the summer for cap space and seeing the “potential” of guys like Thybulle, Reddish, Nassir Little, Shaedon Sharpe, etc. But based on the Trail Blazers’ history, I wouldn’t be shocked if they make fringe moves this summer and still expect to be a playoff team under Lillard.

Whatever it is, I feel bad for Lillard and hopefully one day he can play for a team that has actual potential to contend.

Project Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard

SG: Anfernee Simons

SF: Mattise Thybulle

PF: Jerami Grant

C: Jusuf Nurkic

Key Reserves: Nassir Little, Shaedon Sharpe, Drew Eubanks, Trendon Watford, Cam Reddish

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