The player who could’ve helped a contender the most stayed put at the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday.
The Toronto Raptors didn’t find an offer they liked – and no team liked the king’s ransom Toronto wanted – for veteran guard Kyle Lowry who will remain with Toronto for the remainder of the season.
But there were other moves that could have an impact on the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. Could is the key word. Looking at last year’s trade deadline, there weren’t many moves that ended up making a huge difference.
Denver acquired Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee, the Chicago Bulls landed Nikola Vucevic, the Boston Celtics traded for Evan Fournier in the Orlando Magic’s roster overhaul, and the Miami Heat got Victor Oladipo from Houston.
USA TODAY takes a look at the NBA’s winner and losers at the trade deadline.
After struggling all season with inconsistent performances and injuries, the Nuggets have moved back into the championship-contending conversation. By acquiring Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee in separate deals, the Nuggets have bolstered their athleticism and defense. While McGee will help All-Star forward Nikola Jokic with rim protection, Gordon will offer perimeter defense and some outside shooting. These additions will help offset free-agent losses to Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee and give the team additional depth to complement Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
It’s not every day you can add a current All-Star to the roster, but that’s what the Bulls did with Vucevic. The Bulls had to give up Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two first-round picks, but this makes the Bulls a better team and indicates that first-year head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas wants to win sooner rather than later under Coach Billy Donovan. It was a bold move for a team on the playoff fringe. Chicago gets an inside-outside big who can rebound and distribute and make offense even easier for All-Star Zach LaVine. Expect the Bulls to continue their aggressive approach.
He goes from the Orlando Magic to Boston Celtics, and that’s a win for Fournier. The Celtics receive a solid scorer (19.7 points) and 3-point shooter (38.8%), and they need that kind of help. Fournier is the final year of his contract so this could be rental for Boston, but it gives him an opportunity to show what he can do for a better team.
The Heat didn’t get Lowry, but they also didn’t have to give up a talented young player such as Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson. And they still get a quality player in Oladipo who should be a more efficient player surrounded by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Lowry and Oladipo are both free agents after the season, but Toronto’s asking price was too high for a player Miami wasn’t sure it could re-sign after the season. If Oladipo leaves in free agency, the Heat didn’t have to give up too much.
Los Angeles Clippers/Rajon Rondo
The Clippers may have given up a dependable secondary scorer by dealing Lou Williams, two second-round picks and cash to the Atlanta Hawks for Rajon Rondo. But with the Clippers facing a tight championship window, they needed a play-making point guard that could also give additional locker room leadership. The Clippers fulfilled that by acquiring Rondo who has consistently fulfilled those roles, particularly in the playoffs. Rondo has the basketball smarts to ensure efficient looks for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Rondo also has the credibility to hold both star and young teammates accountable.
The Trail Blazers increased their odds substantially in separating themselves from a crowded Western Conference. Norman Powell has been on pace for posting career-highs in points (19.6) and 3-point shooting (43.9%) and fills a specific need as a reliable wing defender and outside shooter. That can make life easier for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and complements the frontcourt depth they have in Jusuf Nurkic and Carmelo Anthony. Though he loved playing for the Raptors, Powell also has a chance at being part of a legitimate playoff threat as opposed to a rebuilding team.
TRACKING TRADES:NBA trade deadline tracker: Bulls get help for playoffs, Magic headed for rebuild
GEARING UP:Nuggets gear up for postseason by landing Aaron Gordon in deadline trade with Magic
It seemed inevitable the Rockets would face a rebuilding project after trading Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But the Rockets have little to show for it since then. Beyond John Wall, the Rockets have random spare parts. They dealt Oladipo – a key piece as part of the Harden deal – to Miami after he declined to a two-year extension offer. The Rockets received two role players (Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk) and a draft pick (2022 first-round swap rights). The Rockets have four first-round picks and five pick swaps. But this hardly matches what the Rockets could have received after originally trading a generational talent in Harden. In related news, the Rockets (12-31) have lost 21 of their past 22 games and also experienced a 20-game losing streak.
The Magic accumulated first-round picks and the reset button was necessary. Those picks could very well turn into players who make the Magic a contender. But that’s not where they are today. It was a calculated decision, but the Magic – 15-29 and in 14th place ahead of Detroit in the Eastern Conference – are in for even more losing on the court the remainder of this season and into next season unless they turn those draft picks in good, established NBA players soon. Orlando gets some credit for creating a trade exception worth $17 million and salary cap flexibility. They could end up winners in the long term. But short term, it will be painful.
The Raptors traded Norman Powell, didn’t trade Lowry and otherwise didn’t do much to improve now. Toronto is 18-26 and in 11th place in the East – just outside of the play-in game. This might just be a short-term loss for the Raptors. Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster have proven themselves more than capable of making deals that can get the Raptors right back in contention. But we will have to wait for the offseason to see if that happens.