The NBA was setting up to have a rather ho-hum trade deadline as the only deal was the Sacramento Kings trading Cory Joseph for the Detroit Pistons Delon Wright. The Cleveland Cavaliers also traded Javale McGee to the Denver Nuggets but that was it,
Then, suddenly, things changed shortly after 11 a.m. on the East coast as the Orlando Magic sent Nikola Vucevic (along with Al-Farouq Aminu) to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr and Otto Porter Jr and a pair of lightly protected first-round picks.
The move not only sent all of See Red Nation into a frenzy but also seemingly set the rest of the league in motion.
2021 NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers
To the Victor…
Chicago Bulls Fans
This is just too good to pass up for a once-proud fan base. After nearly 20 years of mismanagement, a new regime has given the roster a much-needed facelift. Vucevic (24.5/11.8/3.8, .480/.406/.827) is an All-Star but won’t solve the Bulls defensive issues inside but he doesn’t have to.
Chicago flipped Mo Wagner (acquired in a separate deal) to the Celtics for Daniel Theis who’s averaging a block per contest in a platoon role in Boston.
The Bulls also added Troy Brown and Javonte Green in the Wagner deal. They, along with Aminu, give Chicago a trio of capable wing defenders.
That the Bulls got value for Chandler Hutchison is a miracle. Even without landing a point guard Arturas Karnisovas is making a run for Executive of the Year.
Two tales of misery (to varying degrees, of course) finally come to a resolution. We’ll start with Aaron Gordon (14.6/6.6/4.2, .437/.375/.629) who has been toiling away down in Orlando since 2014; making the playoffs just once.
He’s been vocal at times about wanting out as the Magic spun their wheels and his individual development stagnated. Going from all of that to a situation in Denver where he can just be the ultimate “glue guy” with his multifaceted game is a boon.
Victor Oladipo has been going through it since he hurt his quad while a member of the Indiana Pacers. Reports of broken trust soon turned into a blockbuster, four-team mega-deal that saw him land in Houston.
But Oladipo (20.8/5.0/4.7, .411/.333/.767) made it clear he was not long for H-Town. He heads to Miami where they’ve gotten by on grit as embodied by Jimmy Butler. Oladipo gives the Heat a proven scorer and capable closer with a mentality very much like Butler’s in that regard.
Can’t Win Em All
Luck of the Draw
Look, many people will tell you that Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics got better with the deals they made. You will not get that here. Evan Fournier (who was acquired for a song) is a nice player; averaging 19.7 points per game and chipping in 3.7 assists. Mo Wagner has length, is a decent scorer, and brings good energy.
Neither of those guys is doing a thing for the interior defense of the Celtics which has been a major issue. Kudos for stealing Fournier, but Ainge gets docked for not addressing the team’s most troublesome area.
Boston has lost its glow as the talking heads have begun to point out all of the near-deals they’ve been involved in over the last few years. Ainge was holding out for Anthony Davis but once that fell through there weren’t many ways to pivot.
Suspect drafting only exacerbated the situation. Now it seems as though the plan is to try to outscore everyone. But, as is always the case in these situations, there’s only one basketball.
A New York Minute
How did the Knicks decide to proceed while in the midst of a resurgent season? They’re fifth in the East heading into Thursday’s games and have already won more games than they did in either of the last two seasons.
So, in typical Knicks fashion, they obviously had to stand pat, right? Technically, they did move Austin Rivers and get back Terrance Ferguson but, c’mon.
Tom Thibodeau’s squad is facing a second-half schedule that is among the 10 toughest in the NBA. Added to the wear and tear he puts on his players and the Knicks, who are 4-5 in the month of March, could be in for a rough tumble on the other side of their big first half.
They’ve gotten by with the 28th-ranked offense by having the top-ranked defense. That’s a razor-thin margin to live by.
These weren’t all of the good moves, just some personal favorites. For example, the Rajon Rondo for Lou Williams is solid. But for all that Rondo brings to the table, it hasn’t always worked out which is part of why he’s on his eighth team.
Norman Powell for Gary Trent (and other pieces) was good too. But was it enough of an upgrade to make Portland a legitimate threat in the West? This is probably their best-constructed team in quite some time when everyone is healthy.
2021 NBA Trade Deadline Has Come and Gone
This was a surprisingly active trade deadline. Not only because it slow-rolled into the last-minute flurry. But also because this was supposed to be a seller’s market with the expanded playoff field leaving more teams in the mix.
Just think what this summer could be like.
Even with a limited free-agent crop, teams could be more inclined to make deals with renewed revenue. Don’t be surprised to see deals like Lauri Markkanen for Lonzo Ball re-visited.