By Justin Thomas
With the NBA trade deadline having come and gone this past Thursday, the landscape of the league is definitely different. There were teams making much needed trades to either put them in contention for a deep playoff run and teams looking to clean house and gain assets for the draft. Here are some of the big winners of the deadline:
One of the Raptors’ big flaws is a lack of wing defense. With the addition of PJ Tucker from the Phoenix Suns, they get the defensive presence they were lacking. Tucker has been a solid defender all season primarily matching up against small forwards, but has recently been facing power forwards in late game situations. The Raptors also acquired Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic, giving up Terrence Ross in the process. Ibaka gives the Raptors the opportunity to go small without losing much on the defensive end, as Ibaka can match up well against more mobile power forwards and centers. It also doesn’t hurt that Ibaka can shoot the three. These moves definitely help in terms of a potential match-up with the Celtics or Cavaliers in the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans
The biggest splash of the trade deadline definitely goes to the New Orleans Pelicans, landing Demarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings. Boogie Cousins was traded the night of the All-Star game after rumors of him being traded had been surfacing for a while. The Pelicans now have the best front court in basketball with two superstars in Boogie and “The Brow”, Anthony Davis. With Boogie expected to resign in the offseason, the Pelicans are now a few pieces away from being a serious contender in the west for the next few years.
The Rockets are having a fantastic season and have added to their offensive arsenal by acquiring Lou Williams from the Los Angeles Lakers. During the season, Williams was one of Los Angeles’ top producers averaging 18.7 points and just over 3 assists per game. The 11-year veteran now adds some more depth at the guard position, which is already pretty good when you factor in the defensive pest in Patrick Beverly and the potential 6th man candidate in Eric Gordon. The Rockets only had to give up an aging Cory Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick, so all in all, the Rockets come out on top.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder may have finally got Russell Westbrook some help in their pursuit of a playoff spot. For most of the season; it has literally been Westbrook doing it all. Although the acquisition of Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson doesn’t mean Westbrook can take nights off, it does mean that he won’t have to do as much. Gibson gives the Thunder more of a defensive presence on the boards as Gibson is great at pulling down rebounds or tipping the ball out for an extra possession on offense. Even though McDermott doesn’t light up the score board, he is still a viable option to score on offense, because of his size and shooting ability.
Even though the best player the Nets acquired at the deadline was K.J. McDaniels from the Rockets, their success lies in what they were able to get back and that was draft picks. Every basketball fan knows of the Ludacris trade of former Nets’ GM, Billy King, made sending the Boston Celtics multiple first round picks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry in 2013. With the trading of Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough to the Wizards for a 2017 first-round pick (lottery protected), the Nets now have multiple draft picks in a draft for the first time in what seems forever. Although the team is at the bottom of the barrel in the league right now, this is a great first step at re-building in a potentially deep draft.