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What to make of the player-swapping madness in the association.
For sports fans who feen for a good old-fashioned blockbuster swap mid-season, the NBA Trade deadline is and has always been our savior. February rolls around and LIKE CLOCKWORK the rumor mill gets swirled to seemingly unbelievable levels with each passing year. In my younger NBA fandom days of the 90s and 00s, the deadline was about the Celtics adding Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers for an eastern conference – nice cute little pieces to add to your already-baked pie of a team. Nowadays at the trade deadline, teams are ready to throw away the entire dessert table and start from scratch with little to no warning.
It makes for a chaotic Twitter feed this time of year but creates a hell of a lot more drama midseason than any other sport. In case you skipped some of the Woj and Shams Bombs, here’s who came out as winners and losers at the deadline, and what we should watch for with these new partnerships around the league:
WINNER: BROOKLYN NETS
It’s official: we have the biggest bust of the NBA Super Team Era, and there’s no close second place as of now. The Brooklyn-based conglomerate of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving crafted during a back tunnel All-Star weekend conversation had James Harden and Ben Simmons cameos and officially completely combusted. Kyrie shot himself out of another town, this time it’s New York and he got his wish, being shipped off to Dallas to pair with Luka Doncic, which should go great for all of 3-4 weeks. Brooklyn then quickly moved on from Kevin Durant in the days following and wiped their hand clean of this mess. The experiment was a loss for Brooklyn, but their ability to blow it all up in record time is commendable and that is a win for them moving on and doing it fast. Plus, they have a gazillion draft picks in years to come.
LOSER: LOS ANGELES LAKERS
As Lebron passed Kareem for the All-time scoring record in the NBA, his teammate Anthony Davis lay sitting on the bench uninterested in history before his eyes. It later came out that GM Lebron was pulling strings in every direction to try and bolster up his Laker roster, and that included shopping AD somewhat publicly in NBA circles. What LBJ and the Lakers did get at the deadline was Mo Bamba, Rui Hachimura, and a slew of players from Utah (including D’Angelo Russell) in their exit strategy from the Russell Westbrook saga. In short, the Lakers just scrambled everything up in hopes the new group gels…and fast. While Lebron is receiving all the worthy accolades for his new individual record, it would be a record in my eyes if he can get this squad beyond the play-in tournament for the postseason – what good is making a bunch of trades if it gets you from being the 13th seed in the west to the 10th?
WINNER: RUSSELL WESTBROOK
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do think there is one last gasp of greatness for Russell Westbrook, albeit in a supporting role for a contender. The Jazz were active, to say the least, and they finessed the trades they were in for some future draft assets, but it seems to look like Westbrook won’t stay in Utah very long. He’s headed imminently for the buyout market and it seems like the Clippers and Bulls are primary targets, both postseason contenders that should have a lot more to play for than the Lakers will come April. Watch out for Westbrook if he lands in a good fit where 15-20 minutes a night of his energy is the last piece of a team’s puzzle.
LOSER: JAE CROWDER
What’s worse than being traded at the deadline and having your life flipped upside down? Getting traded twice at the deadline. It’s clear that there are some people that don’t like former Suns forward, and the disdain isn’t limited to Phoenix. Crowder had already been sidelined this season in Phoenix, and without even playing a game this season he was dealt in the KD blockbuster deal to the Nets. Well, the Nets didn’t want any part of him either, as about 12 hours they repurposed his value in another three-team blockbuster of their own, sending him to the Bucks. It makes you wonder how far he got into the Zillow listings for a place in Brooklyn before he switched his location to Milwaukee – eek. What a whirlwind deadline for Crowder: it appears the Bucks will keep him around for a bit.
WINNER: NEW YORK KNICKS AND VILLANOVA
The moment of the deadline that tugged at our heartstrings was seeing Josh Hart get traded to the Knicks, through the lens of his former college teammate and friend Jaylen Brunson. In a recent viral video, you see Brunson finding out live that his BFF is now his NBA teammate in NYC, and the emotion was overwhelming. If nothing else, there are some great vibes resonating through the Knicks locker room in the days and weeks to come. I like the Wildcat duo to gel quickly and keep them relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
LOSER: SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICKS
Seriously? In my Jerry Seinfeld voice “What’s the deal with the second-round picks being given out like peanuts on an airplane?” It seems the new move in the Association is: when in doubt, send the other team FIVE second-round draft picks for a random player. I don’t know how we collectively settled on FIVE second-round draft picks being the new $20 bill for transactions, but here we are. Second-round picks are fully stocked on the shelves and headed to the clearance rack.