Minor trades at deadline can make major difference in playoffs but teams will regret moves that didn’t happen
The NBA trade deadline on Friday turned into a fizzer compared to the frenzy of late deals that lit up the NBA in the past couple of years.
No big names were shipped out like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last year and on face value, the overall playoff equation hasn’t changed a great deal.
Teams like the Lakers and Miami could have and probably should have been more active in getting trades done to beef up their underperforming rosters.
Philadelphia showed they are not throwing in the towel despite Joel Embiid’s knee injury by acquiring Pacers sharpshooter Buddy Hield and keeping Tobias Harris, which suggests the 76ers are confident of their MVP centre returning in time to lead the team to a deep playoff run.
However it was odd that they let Patrick Beverley go. Not so much that they deemed the veteran defensive menace surplus to requirements but that they struck a deal with Milwaukee, who got a younger but less effective guard in Cameron Payne in return plus a 2027 second-rounder.
Beverley’s arrival at the Bucks will help solve the glaring weakness of perimeter defence at one of Philadelphia’s biggest rivals for the championship in the Eastern Conference.
While he will only likely move the needle slightly more northward for his new team, it would have been much better for the Sixers to send Beverley to the West or to a team lower in the standings.
Boston didn’t do anything splashy but bringing in Xavier Tillman from Memphis while giving up not much in return is the kind of deal that could pay off in the playoffs.
Tillman has the size and strength to bang bodies with Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Evan Mobley depending on who the Celtics match up against in the Eastern Conference playoffs, which complements the oftensive-minded Kristaps Porzingis and reduces the workload on Al Horford’s ageing frame.
The Heat made their move a couple of weeks ago to bring in Terry Rozier from Charlotte to replace fading star Kyle Lowry.
As is usually the case it’s hard to get a gauge on Miami due to Jimmy Butler missing plenty of time and the team’s general indifference to the regular season but with the Cavs and Knicks rising in the East, they can’t fall too much further behind in the standings otherwise they will be in a situation where they’ll have to defy history from the lower half of the bracket yet again.
New York continued their recent habit of not making bone-headed roster moves which is still an unusual feeling for Knicks fans as they adjust to this long-awaited era of their franchise not being a basket case.
Bojan Bogdanovich from Detroit will give them added scoring punch, Trey Burks will be a solid back-up to All-Star guard Jalen Brunson and they only gave up Quentin Grimes, some fill-in players and two second-round picks.
In the West, it was the moves that were not made that will have the lasting impact.
Despite the LeBron James hourglass emoji on social media, the Lakers did not bow to pressure to make moves despite being 27-26 and ninth in the West.
Their main draft asset, D’Angelo Russell, is coming off a two-week purple patch but his inconsistency was a red flag for potential trade suitors. The Lakers also had a future first-rounder they could have thrown in a potential deal but they are clearly keeping their powder dry in case LeBron leaves in the off-season to play elsewhere alongside his son, wherever he is drafted.
Their loss to the Nuggets on Friday was their seventh straight on the back of their Conference Finals sweep last year and if all roads to the title go through Denver in the post-season, the Lakers may as well stay at home.
Phoenix stayed pat apart from what could be a sneaky good move to prise three-and-D wing Royce O’Neale from Brooklyn, New Orleans tried to lowball Atlanta for Dejounte Murray but got nowhere and Dallas made more incremental moves to get better while continuing to punt away future picks.
They’ve brought in PJ Washington from Charlotte and Washington centre Daniel Gafford, fine role players but not difference-makers, to help keep franchise cornerstone Luka Doncic happy.
Even though they have a 28-23 record, in the loaded West that’s only just keeping them in the playoff picture at eighth spot.
The clock is ticking on the Mavs in Texas – they are likely to be playoff cannon fodder even if they make it back into the post-season this year and with little wriggle room in terms of draft capital, that will only intensify talk of Doncic wanting out.
Oklahoma City’s trade for Hornets veteran Gordon Hayward is good news for the Thunder but it could mean a reduced role for Australian rising star Josh Giddey.
Hayward, if healthy and that’s always a big if, could usurp Giddey as a better shooting option with playmaking abilities in playoff games when push comes to shove down the stretch.
Giddey still lacks a proven outside shot and the Thunder could opt to give their go-to guy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander more of the playmaking duties and throw a veteran like Hayward on the floor to give this young team a much-needed injection of experience.