Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Trade Deadline (2019)

The unofficial holiday of the NBA trade deadline has come and gone.  I got to tell you this was one fun deadline and it surely didn’t disappoint.  I’m going to briefly go over my initial thoughts about some of the moves that were made.  I’m only going over the deals that I think were relevant.  Sorry Skal Labissiere and Caleb Swanigan:

 

The Philadelphia 76ers acquire Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic from the LA Clippers for Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, 2020 1st round pick, 2021 1st round pick (via Miami), 2021 2nd round pick and a 2023 2nd round pick (Story):

~ I like this trade for both teams but I love it more for the Clippers.  The Clippers traded away a player that wasn’t going to be their after this season for expiring deals, a solid young prospect and multiple draft picks including two 1st rounders.  I mean, that’s freaking amazing.  The Clippers are acquiring draft capital, cap flexibility and young prospects.  This rebuild is off to a great start and the Clippers are clearly headed in the right direction.  The Clippers also ended up flipping Muscala to the Lakers for Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley.  Another small deal that nets a solid young prospect for the Clippers.

Now, I like this move for the Sixers but wish they would’ve only gave up one 1st round pick.  I just don’t know how many other competitive offers were putting up two 1st round picks for a guy that could leave in a few months.  Would have it been better to trade for Harris and not trade for Butler to keep more depth with Saric/Covington?  The new starting five the Sixers have is as talented a unit that there is in the league outside of the Warriors.  But what makes the Warriors so special is fit, sacrifice and the fact that Draymond Green is the ultimate “glue guy.”  How will the Sixers new starting unit gel?  That’s why I bring up maybe the Sixers should’ve just traded for Harris and kept Saric/Covington since that might be a better fit.  Either way this is obviously an “all-in” move by the Sixers. To quickly address some of the concerns about depth the Sixers also traded for James Ennis from the Rockets.

The Sixers also traded Markelle Fultz to the Magic for a protected 1st round pick (via OKC), a 2nd round pick and Jonathan Simmons.  So maybe the Sixers were fine giving the extra 1st round pick away for Harris since they were trying to get one for Fultz.  The Sixers also upgraded their bench with Jonathan Simmons.  The Magic get a nice retread reclamation project at a position of need while the Sixers move on from one of the biggest draft blunders in recent memory. It’s going to be interesting to see how the buyout market turns out for the Sixers.  With the added depth of Ennis and Simmons plus another player via the buyout market, the Sixers could have the best 8-man rotation in the East.  Overall I do like the fit with Harris and with the amount of talent the Sixers have they should win the East but can the new starting unit make sacrifices for the greater good to be possibly the East champs?  That’s something I need to see first before I believe.  The Sixers have a world of potential but considering that Butler, Harris and Reddick are all free agents to be this summer, as of now, I’m skeptical.

 

In a three team trade, the Milwaukee Bucks acquire Nikola Mirotic, the Detroit Pistons get Thon Maker and the New Orleans Pelicans get Stanley Johnson, Jason Smith and four second round picks (Story):

~ At the start of the season I wasn’t buying the Bucks as a real contender.  I thought they had improved their depth behind a great starting unit but didn’t think relying on Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton as their core bench was good enough to beat the Celtics or Raptors.  Fast forward to now and the Bucks have made outstanding decision after outstanding decision. Whether it was the decision to start playing Sterling Brown and DJ Wilson more, trading for George Hill or making the deal to acquire Mirotic, I’ve been a huge fan of each move that the Bucks have made.  No shade to Ilyasova, Connaughton or DiVincenzo but I just didn’t think they brought a level of versatility that you need come playoff time.  But now with Brown, Wilson, Hill and Mirotic, the Bucks should be looked at as the favorite in the East.  They might not have as much talent as the Sixers, Raptors or Celtics but I think the fit, everyone being secure with their role and overall versatility of style will give opposing teams trouble during the playoffs.  Also for the Pelicans they get a nice retread reclamation prospect and a bunch of draft picks for a player that probably was leaving this summer.  The Pistons make a lateral move moving on from one draft question mark to the another.  Thon Maker is still only 21 years old so the potential is there.

 

The Toronto Raptors acquire Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second round pick (Story):

~ I honestly don’t know how I feel about this trade for either team.  If you were to tell me that the Raptors were getting the Gasol who during the month of November averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists on 50% from the floor and 39% from three then I’d say overwhelmingly this was a grand win for the Raptors.  But since November it’s been downhill for Gasol, whether it be due to an injury or old age.  During the month of January Gasol averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, on 44% from the floor, 30% from three and not nearly the defender he was at the start of the season.  Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I saying this was a bad trade for the Raptors.  Gasol is a better shooter and defender in comparison to Valanciunas plus Delon Wright is a prospect that hasn’t developed the way the Raptors have hoped he would.  So on face value it was a solid move for the Raptors.  I guess my issue is that I didn’t think making an upgrade at center was what the Raptors needed and instead making an upgrade at secondary ball handler and shot creator was more important since I’m worried about Kyle Lowry’s health.  Maybe they pick someone like that up via the buyout market.  If they do that then I’m probably more enthused about this trade for the Raptors.  For the Grizzlies, I don’t know what the market was for a 34 year old declining center but if this was all that there was then I’m just not that impressed with the return.

 

The Dallas Mavericks trade Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson (Story):

~ I like this deal a little more for the Mavs then the Kings but I like this deal for both teams nonetheless.  The reason why I like this deal a little more for the Mavs is because they realized that Barnes wasn’t the right fit next to Doncic/Porzingis and they wanted to be a player in free agency this summer.  This deal allows them to potentially go after a max salary player that would fit better long term with Doncic/Porzingis.  Also this summer was booming with available talent in comparison to the next available time the Mavs were going to have cap space, the summer of 2020, which looks much weaker.  I love this move by the Mavs.

The Kings obviously make an upgrade at wing but I’m concerned about fit and locker room chemistry.  Barnes is really just a glorified 3-and-D wing who is a solid scorer and an overrated defender.  He’s also not a good playmaker and there’s question about how much impact he has on offense when he doesn’t have the ball.  The trio of the future in Sacramento is clearly Fox, Hield and Bagley.  With a high-usage player like Barnes coming in how does it affect team chemistry?  The Kings have played so well this season in part because of an improved locker room morale, how does the addition of Barnes effect that?  The Kings also traded Iman Shumpert to the Rockets in a three team trade in exchange for Alec Burks from the Cavs.  I mean, in terms of talent the Kings get better with Burks/Barnes over Shumpert.  But Shumpert was acknowledged as having a big influence on the young Kings.  He was considered a good locker room guy.  I just wonder how the loss of Shumpert shakes up the young Kings morale?  The Rockets meanwhile get a 3-and-D wing they desperately needed after the Danuel House contract impasse and the Cavs get a protected first round back.

 

The Washington Wizards trade Otto Porter jr to the Bulls for Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and a 2023 2nd round pick (Story):

~ After the news of John Wall rupturing his Achilles tendon the Wizards went into fire sale mode.  Otto Porter is a good player who is having a down year on a bloated contract.  The Bulls could’ve been somewhat of a player during free agency this summer but with so many teams having cap space they probably figured it was best to make a move now instead of overpaying for contracts they don’t want this summer.  This deal ultimately is up to how Porter plays.  If he snaps out of his funk and starts playing up to his potential then the deal it’s a clear win for Chicago.  Even if Porter doesn’t make improvements the risk was giving up on Portis and trading away a player they weren’t playing that much.  Portis is a solid young prospect but the Bulls wanted a wing to pair with Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen.  Even though Porter is not on the same age timeline as Carter/Markkanen, the upside is still present for a great frontcourt for years to come.  The Wizards just wanted to be out of the tax.  They also traded away Markieff Morris to the Pelicans for Wesley Johnson, another salary cap saving move.  The John Wall contract could overtake the Chandler Parsons contract as the worst in the league.  Getting under the tax penalty is all they can do at this point.

 

The LA Lakers acquire Reggie Bullock from the Detroit Pistons for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2021 second round pick (Story):

~ The only reason why I’m mentioning this trade at all is because I like Bullock.  I think he’s going to be a good fit around Lebron especially for a playoff push.  They did have to give away a second round pick which could’ve been used for Anthony Davis this summer.  They also gave up on Mykhailiuk who wasn’t a contributor for the Lakers.  He holds some upside as a shooter but so far hasn’t displayed that.  Bullock is a free agent this summer so I’m assuming the Pistons weren’t going to re-sign him but again, I really like Bullock so this could be a loss for the Pistons when it’s all said and done.

Kristaps Porzingis, I hardly knew ye

If one of the best young star players in the NBA walks into your office (and apparently his brothers too) and indirectly tells you he wants out, typically you would give it some time to sink in and contemplate your best course of action, right?  Apparently not the New York Knicks who within hours of the Porzingis sort-of-trade-request was on his way to Dallas.  Even if the Knicks were secretly shopping Porzingis for months, they should at least survey the landscape of the league at that point in time.  The type of player Porzingis is deserves at least a full day to mull over options.  The once bright spot of the tumultuous organization played for three seasons and 186 games before his ouster.  The way restricted free agency works makes it likely for a star player to stay 7-8 seasons with the team that drafted them.  In the case of the Knicks drafting Porzingis, it didn’t even last the length of a standard 1st round rookie deal.  The genesis of the deal revolves around the Knicks sending Porzingis and contracts no one wants (Tim Hardaway jr, Trey Burke, Courtney Lee) to the Mavs for Dennis Smith jr, two 1st round picks and expiring deals (Wes Matthews, Deandre Jordan).

I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around about this deal but I personally think if the Knicks would’ve offered Porzingis a max contract this off-season he would’ve taken it.  I understand he has the option of signing a one year, qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent the following season.  The qualifying offer would be about $4.4 million which means he loses about $23 million next season since the max for him would be around $28 million.  For a seven footer coming off an ACL injury getting guaranteed max money for 4-5 years would’ve been tough to turn down, no matter how inept the franchise is.

The next question becomes were the Knicks prepared to offer max money for him?  The answer should be a resounding yes but since they’ve been so cautious about rolling over cap space I’d honestly say it’s 50-50 whether they would’ve offered max money to Porzingis.  The Knicks plan now is to sign two max players this summer and hopefully get a top 2 pick in the 2019 draft.  That’s wishful thinking for a franchise that has struck out on every big name free agent except for the great Amare Stoudemire.  Also the draft odds are changing this year.  Instead of the worst record having the best odds for the number 1 overall pick, it’s now the bottom 3 teams with the same odds of getting the number 1 pick.  So clearly the Knicks master plan of signing 2 star players plus getting a top 2 draft pick this summer sounds doubtful at the moment.  Nothing is impossible of course but obviously the Knicks would need a lot of luck on their side this summer to pull this off.

The Knicks have to know their master plan is far-fetched and unlikely to happen.  That tells me they were more comfortable in their contingency plan compared to re-signing Porzingis to a max contract.  They were more comfortable with signing Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic compared to re-signing Porzingis at the max and signing another all-star caliber player to go along with him.  No offense to Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic who are both great players but if they end up becoming the Knicks free agency plan then their summer was a failure.  Anything less than two star players like Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard would be a failure for the Knicks.  That’s the internal pressure the Knicks put on themselves after trading a player like Porzingis away.   If the Knicks do somehow pull off getting Kyrie and Durant, well then obviously the trade will be looked at as a win.  But one could say an actual smart franchise doesn’t saddle themselves with toxic contracts and looks ahead to the summer of 2019 with Porzingis on his rookie deal and 2 max cap slots.  Now that’s a win-win-win.

I know it’s risky to give a seven footer who’s coming off ACL surgery max money but in this case I would’ve done that without hesitation.  Now maybe the Knicks know something that we don’t about Porzingis’ knee, maybe there’s a long term red flag.  If that were the case then clearly everything changes but as of now I’m going on the believe that nothing is long term serious.  Porzingis has the potential to be a top three player on a title winning team or if everything breaks right for him the best player on a title team.  Players with his skill set don’t come around often and the NBA is trending towards bigmen who can shoot threes, be versatile at pick-and-roll defense and play any type of lineup whether big or small.  Porzingis is 23 years old going on 24 with a new pick-and-roll partner who has an elite feel for the game and a coach who can get the best out of him.  As much as I love the Doncic/Porzingis pairing, the issue becomes filling out the rest of the roster with Tim Hardaway jr on their books until most likely 2021, Courtney Lee plus Harrison Barnes on their books until most likely 2020 and giving Porzingis a max contract.  They also traded away three 1st round picks in the next five drafts.  Finding that third star player to go along with Doncic/Porzingis will determine how much of a title contender they will become.  I don’t assume the Mavs think Harrison Barnes is that third guy either.  Right now the Mavs should be projected to have a max salary slot in 2020.  At this moment in time the 2020 free agent class looks pretty weak.  Understandably the market is fluid with ever changing trade requests by the month.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to package Barnes with draft picks and try to make an upgrade.  Either way, the Mavs are going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league when Porzingis gets healthy and the Knicks are going to need a tinge of luck if they want to make it out of this unscathed.