Last week in sports was supposed to be defined by the upcoming Super Bowl, but apparently no one told the NBA. With the NBA trade deadline coming and going February 17th at 3 p.m., a multitude of trades went down before the proverbial clock struck midnight. Let’s break down all the action that happened on a wild Thursday in February:
Brooklyn trades James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, a 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), and a 2027 first-round pick (protected 1-8)
So it finally happened, huh? Not only did Daryl Morey and the Sixers get their wish in shipping out Simmons, but Morey is finally reunited with his long-lost love James Harden. From Philly’s point of view, things couldn’t be better. No more will the shadow of Ben Simmons’ future be cast over Joel Embiid and the Sixers. Unfortunately for Philly, they had to let go of Seth Curry and a couple of firsts, but in acquiring James Harden they are receiving one of the most steady superstars in the league and a potentially lethal pick and roll partner with Embiid.
I do have concerns with Harden’s fit in Philadelphia. While Harden is a pick and roll maestro, Joel Embiid has never really been an above-average roll man. Now, he’s never played with a ball-handler with Harden’s talent, so the offense might be a bit clunky at first as Embiid and Harden try to figure out a good balance with each other. The learning curve will only be exacerbated by the absence of Seth Curry, who is an elite shooter, one of the best role players in the league, and works exceptionally well as a glue guy. Still, despite a less-than-perfect fit, the duo of Harden and Embiid instantly makes Philly one of the best offenses in the league.
Where there is more concern with Harden’s fit on the Sixers is the defensive side of the ball. Harden has a reputation of being a … less than stellar defender. However, his teams in Houston always had good team defense because they played a switching style to mask Harden’s deficiencies on that end. Philadelphia does not play that system. They have one of the best rim protectors in the league in Embiid and implementing a full-on switching defense would force him out of the paint and away from where he can wreak the most havoc. I’m not entirely sure which scheme(s) Doc Rivers will utilize, but Harden will be a glaring weak spot on that end. Compounded with the loss of key role players, the Sixers will have to hope that Embiid’s rim protection and Matisse Thybulle’s elite point-of-attack defense will be enough to hide Harden.
Despite this, the 76ers went from having a $30 million player intentionally sit games to pairing Joel Embiid with another bonafide superstar in James Harden. This is a clear win for Philadelphia, who just became that much scarier in a loaded Eastern Conference.
Moving onto Brooklyn’s side of the deal, it was clear by all reports that Harden wanted out. He didn’t make it quite as explicit as Simmons in Philadelphia, but all signs pointed towards the three-headed monster of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant coming to an end. One of the most hyped superteam trios ended in less than two seasons with all three players spending a total of 16 games on the court together. Yes, 16 games. Antonio Brown and Tom Brady had more games played together than that. With that being said, the Nets’ return for Harden is a pretty good haul.
The biggest piece of this deal going to Brooklyn is pretty clearly Ben Simmons. While Simmons is known for his… offensive hesitancy in the playoffs and subsequent choice to sit out the 2021-22 season, it’s easy to forget just how talented the 25 year old is. Already a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive First team member, Simmons adds a level of defensive impact that Brooklyn simply has not had in the KD era. On a team where he is no longer forced into a spot on the perimeter because of Joel Embiid, Simmons can more fully embrace his role as a switch-everything, small ball center a la Draymond Green. If Durant can come back healthy in a few weeks and Kyrie can understand that playing home games is usually seen as a good thing, the Irving-Durant-Simmons trio will be poised to make a deep run in the playoffs.
While the source of innumerable headlines, Simmons isn’t the only piece Brooklyn got back in the deal. A very underrated aspect of this trade was the Nets’ acquisition of Seth Curry. Curry is an elite shooter, plain and simple. With Simmons’ lack of ability to space the floor and Joe Harris’ long-term ankle injury, having Curry to stretch the defense is critical for success on a team where all eyes typically follow one very lengthy man. Curry has also been developing some intriguing pick and roll ball handling that – while it may not be called upon often – adds a nice wrinkle to Brooklyn’s offense.
All in all, it was a good trade for Brooklyn to recoup some of their losses from trading for Harden only 13 months ago. They added two players that should fill out the roster in a very complementary role to Durant and Irving and also added a couple of first-rounders for any additional trades going forward. It’s a bit anticlimactic to say that both sides ‘won’ the trade, but given the circumstances surrounding the teams (and surrounding Simmons and Harden), both Philadelphia and Brooklyn can walk away after this deal satisfied with what they acquired.
Dallas trades Kristaps Porzingis and a second-round pick to Washington in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans
Imagine if you had told Dallas three years ago that the Doncic-Porzingis era would come to end before Luka had reached his extension years and with a grand total of zero playoff series wins. It’s funny to look back in hindsight at that deal and think that Tim Hardaway Jr. would be the more valuable piece coming back to the Mavs, but I guess a 7’3” unicorn having surgeries on both knees isn’t a recipe for success.
That being said, Porzingis does have a decent amount of value as a stretch big who could be an effective defender too. In giving up Porzingis, the Mavericks got back Spencer Dinwiddie, who on paper fit well with Bradley Beal in Washington; however, they apparently butted heads in the locker room. The addition of Dinwiddie as another primary ballhandler is an odd fit in Dallas, who already have one of Luka Doncic or Jalen Brunson handling the ball for basically all 48 minutes, but Dinwiddie is a decent spot-up shooter in his own right and can fit alongside either Doncic or Brunson. I would imagine that Jason Kidd would stagger the minutes of Brunson, Doncic, and Dinwiddie so that two of the three are always on the floor.
Perhaps Dallas is thinking towards the future with Brunson’s impending restricted free agency and therefore acquired Dinwiddie as insurance for if/when they lose Brunson. However, if the plan was to add another ball-handler to replace Brunson when he leaves, why not try to recoup some value on Brunson at the deadline instead of losing him in free agency for nothing?
Looking at the other piece joining the Mavs, Bertans replaces Porzingis as Dallas’ trademark overpaid European stretch four. Bertans will hopefully slot in as solely a floor spacer who’ll stand in the corner knocking down the occasional catch-and-shoot three. Bertans and Dinwiddie are a solid combo in a vacuum, but given Dallas’ current roster construction, it’s a little befuddling to see them trade away Porzingis for a worse fit.
Speaking of Porzingis, Washington was able to add the Latvian big man without giving up much of value. Yes, Dinwiddie was a good player on a decent contract, but with the Wizards’ commitment to building around Bradley Beal, it was clear that Dinwiddie wasn’t a part of that future. Porzingis could be a part of that future, but with Beal’s season-ending injury and the trade of Montrezl Harrell (see below), this seems like a lost year for Washington. So it’s a little odd to see the Wiz add a player in his prime rather than a developing player or draft pick and decide to tank the rest of the year.
All in all, both sides had pieces that weren’t working together so they both decided to shake things up, but I’m not sure I see the direction either team is going in with this move.
Toronto trades Goran Dragic and a 2022 first-round pick (protected 1-14) to San Antonio in exchange for Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks, and a 2022 second-round pick (via Detroit)
As soon as it was revealed that Young was heading to San Antonio in Chicago’s offseason sign-and-trade of DeMar DeRozan, it seemed pretty clear the Spurs would eventually trade away Young to a contender. Toronto might not be in the true ‘contender’ tier, but they are a solid, above-average playoff team whose young players will greatly benefit from Thad Young’s veteran leadership. Toronto was also able to get off of Goran Dragic’s money and get back a semi-valuable piece with Detroit’s second-round pick this year. The Raptors have decided to waive Drew Eubanks (who has since signed a ten-day contract with Portland).
On the flip side, San Antonio maximized the value of Young, getting a first-rounder that should probably fall in the high teens or low twenties. They also got back Dragic, but it seems like the Spurs are going to buy out the remainder of Dragic’s contract allowing him to become a free agent. San Antonio didn’t completely clean house and embrace the tank, but with this and their trade of Derrick White (see below), the Spurs have done a very good job getting back some valuable assets to build around their young core.
Four Team Trade:
Sacramento receives Donte DiVincenzo (MIL), Trey Lyles (DET), and Josh Jackson (DET)
Milwaukee receives Serge Ibaka (LAC), two future second-round picks, and cash
Los Angeles Clippers receive Rodney Hood (MIL), Semi Ojele (MIL)
Detroit receives Marvin Bagley III (SAC)
Aren’t four-team trades just super fun? I think the best way to break this one down is to go team by team and see what each team gave up and what they got.
First up, the Kings. Fresh off of trading their budding franchise cornerstone Tyrese Halliburton for Domantas Sabonis – much to the chagrin of Kings fans (but hey, they won their first game in the Fox-Sabonis era!) – the Kings traded away their black sheep in Marvin Bagley III. A highly touted high school and college product, Bagley is famous for being not Luka Doncic, whom Sacramento passed on in 2018 for… reasons. As is well known among NBA fans, Sacramento’s front office operates on a plane separate from everyone else. But I actually like this trade for the Kings. Bagley was starting to emerge as a potentially solid rotation piece under interim coach Alvin Gentry, but they were able to trade him before having to deal with any extensions or restricted free agency and got back some intriguing pieces. Donte “The Big Ragu” DiVincenzo is having a bit of a down year since coming back from an ankle injury sustained in last year’s playoffs, but he’s a young player who has potential as a 3-and-D wing who can thrive as a complementary piece to the De’Aaron Fox – Domantas Sabonis pairing they’ve created.
Next, Milwaukee. With Brook Lopez on the shelf for perhaps the remainder of the regular season, the Bucks needed another body to bang down low in the meantime. Serge Ibaka doesn’t have to perfectly replicate Lopez’s rim protection and spacing, but he’s got enough skill to do a good enough job in the interim. If Lopez can get healthy in time for the playoffs, then Milwaukee will have a Giannis-Lopez-Ibaka frontcourt rotation that should be able to match up against any bigs they might encounter. Giving up DiVincenzo hurts their wing depth, but he was heading towards restricted free agency this offseason, and it’s unclear whether Milwaukee’s ownership wanted to pay him on top of the other large contracts the Bucks already have.
Onto Los Angeles. Man, it seems like no matter what happens to the Clips, they seem to rebound and keep things afloat. Only a day after adding Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Clippers added yet another wing in Rodney Hood (and Semi Ojeleye too!). Hood hasn’t been the same player he was a couple of years ago, but he’s a career 36.4% three-point shooter who’s got some ball-handling ability too. With this trade on top of their previous trade with Portland, LA is now that much closer to filling out its entire roster of 6’8” dudes who can shoot and defend.
Finally, Detroit. Detroit gets arguably the biggest prize in this four-team deal with the acquisition of Marvin Bagley III. How well you think the Pistons did in this trade largely depends on your opinion of Bagley as a player. He’ll obviously never live up to Luka Doncic, but bigs historically have longer development curves (plus Bagley was stuck in basketball hell where souls go to get crushed). Personally, I’m not sure Bagley will ever be a positive player or will be worth the money he might get paid in restricted free agency, but for a young team like Detroit, why not see what Bagley can be with star rookie Cade Cunningham?
Boston trades PJ Dozier, Bol Bol, a future second-round pick, and cash to Orlando in exchange for a future second-round pick
This trade was a pure salary dump for Boston. Both PJ Dozier and Bol Bol are interesting long-term pieces, but they’re both out with injuries and won’t be contributing this season. Not much to talk about with this trade.
Boston trades Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and a 2022 first-round pick (protected 1-4) to San Antonio in exchange for Derrick White
Now here’s the interesting Celtics trade. Derrick White, a favorite of NBA hipster Twitter, is a legitimate all-defense caliber guard with some solid offensive game who just maybe can develop a reliable three-point shot to turn him into a bonafide star role player. The C’s, now without Dennis Schroder (see below), will be able to trot out a starting five of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jalen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Robert Williams – a scary defensive team with two offensive hubs in Brown and Tatum. The East is pretty top-heavy right now, but Boston has been on a roll since the start of the new year. Derrick White should give them another ancillary piece to bring them closer to truly competing for a title.
San Antonio had such a great deadline. Getting first-round picks for both Thad Young and Derrick White now give three firsts to play within the draft, and with the Spurs’ development system, it’s not hard to imagine a retooled competitive Spurs team around Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell. On top of the first, getting back Josh Richardson isn’t a bad addition either. Richardson has carved out a role being known as a prototypical 3-and-D wing, and this year he’s put together the second-highest efficiency three-point shooting of his career at a shade under 40% from deep. Giving up a nice young piece like White isn’t usually the right move, but the Spurs capitalized on his value and got back the cherry on top of their productive deadline.
Washington trades Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte in exchange for Ish Smith, Vernon Carey, and a future second-round pick
Oh my goodness, I cannot wait to watch Lamelo Ball and Montrezl Harrell P&Rs. Charlotte didn’t really do much to address the defensive issues they have at the five, but you could not ask for a better offensive fit for Ball than Harrell. The Hornets didn’t have to give up much value to get Harrell either, and while I’m not sure how much better this makes them as a team (probably marginally better), I know for sure this trade keeps Charlotte at the top of everyone’s favorite teams to watch on League Pass.
As for Washington, they did fine with this trade. No one was likely to give up anything of significant value for Harrell on an expiring deal, but they got back some bench pieces and a future second. While Harrell is by no means a locker room cancer or anything, it was clear he didn’t like the vibe in DC, so the Wizards did well by him to trade him while also not losing a solid bench player for nothing.
Indiana trades Torrey Craig to Phoenix in exchange for Jalen Smith and a future second-round pick
Indiana continues their roster upheaval that apparently includes everyone but Myles Turner. The Pacers traded Torrey Craig, a solid depth piece that probably will benefit from a change of scenery to a contender like Phoenix. Craig only bolsters the Suns’ bench, a bench that is already among the deepest in the league. It’s unfortunate for Phoenix that they had to give away second-year power forward Jalen Smith, but he’s been buried in their depth chart with no room on a juggernaut to blossom into a contributing player. He’ll have more freedom to do that in Indiana, who’ll be more than happy to give the former top-ten pick the space to develop and work on his game. Both sides in this deal will go home happy with what they added.
Houston trades Daniel Theis to Boston in exchange for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando
Vanilla Theis returns to Boston! Daniel Theis has always been a solid defense-first backup center, a role he played well in his last stint in Boston and will likely do again this time around. Theis is a solid rotational big man for the C’s and they only had to give up Dennis Schroder (who’s been shaky at best for Boston) and change to get him. For the Rockets, they get out of Theis’ long-term deal in exchange for a couple of expiring contracts as they try to keep their books as open as possible going forward.
Phoenix trades cash considerations to Washington in exchange for Aaron Holiday
This is purely a depth move by Phoenix. Aaron Holiday is only averaging 16 minutes a game on the struggling Wizards, and likely won’t see his role increase on the Suns, but it never hurts to have a third-string point guard who can reliably hit shots and make the right passes. The Wizards get minor cap relief offloading Holiday’s contract and some extra cash thrown on top.
Ok, that was a lot. And that was not even including previous days’ trades like the CJ McCollum to New Orleans deal or the Caris LeVert to Cleveland deal or Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the LA Clippers deal or the Sabonis for Halliburton deal. The NBA deadline is always a wild time, even when there are no blockbusters, and this year is no different. It’s pretty clear that the trades that broke February 10th are most definitely going to impact the playoffs and perhaps the eventual NBA Champion. It’s tempting to declare winners and losers of both the deadline and of each trade, but the real winner won’t be decided till June 19, 2022. Until then, I bid all you staunch NBA fans adieu. Here’s to a fantastic rest of the season, let’s hope it’s even more exciting than the deadline.