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Brandon Dill/Associated Press
Anthony Davis did not get traded—to Los Angeles or anywhere else—ahead of Thursday’s deadline. He was the biggest story of trade season, following his request last week, and that saga will now drag out until the summer.
However, there were no shortage of other moves, both big and small, in the hours and days leading up to the deadline.
Several contenders went all-in on contending. A few luxury-tax teams made moves to cut salary. Rebuilding franchises picked up draft picks. With no Davis trade, most of the fireworks happened before Thursday.
Now that the dust has settled, there’s plenty to sort through, and some teams came out looking better than others.
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Three of the four presumptive Eastern Conference contenders added significant players for their respective postseason runs. On Tuesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott for Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet and four picks. On Thursday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors countered. Milwaukee acquired forward Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans for Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson and two second-rounders; Toronto landed Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a future second-round pick.
The Bucks added Mirotic, picking up another shooter to play alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. He should be a terrific fit in Mike Budenholzer’s system and make Milwaukee even more formidable come playoff time. The Bucks traded Johnson a day after acquiring him from Detroit for Thon Maker, who had been unhappy with his role in Milwaukee and was not a part of their future plans. Effectively, they turned Maker along with Smith’s dead salary into Mirotic, who had a big playoff showing for New Orleans last season and should be poised to do the same as the Bucks compete for a spot in the Finals.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri is going all-in on this season ahead of Kawhi Leonard’s impending free agency. He didn’t exactly give up nothing for Gasol—Wright is a nice young guard with some upside who will be worth a look in Memphis. But this is exactly the kind of win-now move Toronto should be making. At 34, Gasol isn’t the player he was in 2013, when he won Defensive Player of the Year, but he makes the Raptors better and gives them another proven playmaker in the frontcourt. That they didn’t have to sacrifice any of their top young prospects (Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby) to land him makes it even better.
Sixers GM Elton Brand is likewise pushing in all his chips for a run this year. A closing lineup of Harris, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick looks to be among the most dangerous in the league. A few other minor moves also give Philadelphia added depth, which was one of their chief concerns. Brand traded former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz for guard Jonathon Simmons and added Marjanovic, Scott and former Rockets wing James Ennis in other deals. In addition to getting better at the top of the roster, Philadelphia now has more capable bodies on the bench.
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The only east contender who stood pat was Boston. Their reasoning is obvious and sound: They’ll have a shot at making New Orleans an offer for Anthony Davis come July 1, and burning any of their possible trade chips right now would have been shortsighted. If Danny Ainge can ultimately swing a deal for Davis and re-sign Kyrie Irving this summer, it will be worth it.
But for the upcoming playoff race, Boston is now at clear disadvantage as their three chief competitors all got meaningfully better. The Celtics have looked better at times this season than they did earlier in the year, but they are far from the juggernaut they were expected to be at the beginning of the season. Gordon Hayward in particular has struggled to regain form after missing all of last year with a leg injury.
Boston has won their last five games and nine of their last 10. There’s a chance they have turned things around and will be the team to beat in the playoffs. In leaving the roster as-is, Ainge stuck to his long-term plan, which was the right decision. But it’s hard to feel great about their position for this season after seeing the moves the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers made.
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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
The Clippers got a lot for Harris, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent and command a max or near-max deal. The unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-round pick, in particular, is as good a trade chip as any team has short of the upcoming draft’s No. 1.
In a smaller deal with Memphis, the Clippers traded guard Avery Bradley for forwards Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, who could help keep them somewhat competitive in this year’s playoff race ahead of a summer where they will have a massive amount of cap space and are well known to be preparing for runs at Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant.
With a cadre of future picks and rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers have the ammo to make a competitive offer for Anthony Davis if they’re so inclined. They could also keep their powder dry for the next time a star asks for be traded. They have plenty of options.
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Brandon Dill/Associated Press
In trading Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies took one step toward an inevitable rebuild. They got a nice return for Gasol, even though they’ll have to pay Delon Wright this summer. The trade with the Clippers doesn’t do much for them in the short term—Green and Temple were expiring anyway, and Bradley is guaranteed for $2 million for next season.
However, the Grizzlies ultimately opted not to deal longtime point guard Mike Conley. Unless they shut him down for the season, they’ll probably still be slightly too good to drop into the top five of the lottery while not being nearly good enough to make the playoffs. Maybe there will be better offers for Conley this summer, but they would have been wise to sell high on him now.
In Jaren Jackson, Jr., Memphis has a terrific cornerstone for their rebuild. But they didn’t do as much as they could have in the short term to commit to a new direction.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Good players on bad teams get bought out every year, but this year’s pool is especially deep.
Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez, Enes Kanter, Wesley Matthews, Wayne Ellington, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lin and Milos Teodosic are all names that could hit the market before the March 1 deadline for playoff eligibility, in addition to Carmelo Anthony, who was waived by the Bulls last week.
Matthews already appears set to join the Indiana Pacers, per The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, but there will be no shortage of players available as playoff teams look to bolster their rosters. The Lakers, Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, Raptors and Trail Blazers all would make plenty of logical sense as destinations for this group of proven veterans.
The buyout market almost functions as a second trade deadline, so expect a lot of teams’ rosters to look different by April even if they didn’t do anything Thursday. The Lakers added Tyson Chandler in November after Phoenix bought him out, and he’s played meaningful minutes for them. Last season, Philadelphia got significant contributions in the playoffs from buyout signees Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.
Players like Matthews, Lopez and Gortat are productive enough that they could have similar impacts in the postseason this year.
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Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
The biggest domino is still standing, and Davis’ future will be the biggest story of the offseason. The Lakers and Pelicans never seriously reconvened negotiations before the deadline, and now the circus will continue in July. Despite Davis’ protestations that he doesn’t want to go to Boston, the Celtics have a real shot at landing him if Ainge puts Jayson Tatum on the table. If the Knicks win the draft lottery and can offer Zion Williamson to the Pelicans, they may be able to trump all other offers.
The Lakers may still end up with Davis, but with the bidding opening up again after the lottery, they won’t be in a position to come with anything other than their absolute best offer. If they miss out on him after letting Paul George and Kawhi Leonard pass them by in the previous two offseasons, it will be a major black mark against president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, both of whom have talked a big game about going superstar shopping after landing LeBron James last summer.
The Pelicans will almost definitely trade Davis after the season is over, but in the meantime, this drama will hang over their heads for at least the next five months. Davis wants to play again this season, and the Pelicans are left with the choice of further alienating him to protect their asset or acquiescing and risking injury.
In the long term, it may prove the best decision for New Orleans to hold onto Davis and expand the pool of bidders in the offseason. But the rest of this season is going to be uncomfortable.
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Deadline day was relatively quiet, but there was a slew of major deals in the week leading up to Thursday. The biggest, by far, was last week’s trade between the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. New York sent would-be franchise player Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas along with Tim Hardaway, Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke in return for Dennis Smith, Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks.
That wasn’t the only move Dallas made—on Wednesday night, they cleared some salary by sending veteran forward Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson. Barnes is a solid pickup for Sacramento, a starting-caliber wing who will help them in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and is only under contract for one season beyond this one.
In a similar vein, the Chicago Bulls acquired the remaining two years and $55 million remaining on Otto Porter’s contract from the Washington Wizards in exchange for the disgruntled Jabari Parker and restricted free agent-to-be Bobby Portis. Porter is expensive, but he gives Chicago a solid wing to plug in alongside their young core of Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen.
The Wizards sold off Porter and Markieff Morris (to New Orleans) to get under the luxury tax after Tuesday’s news that John Wall will undergo surgery to repair a torn Achilles, sidelining him for the foreseeable future. The Miami Heat also made a cost-cutting move, sending Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to the Phoenix Suns for Ryan Anderson.
With nothing happening on the Anthony Davis front, the Porzingis trade is the headlining move of this deadline season. If the Knicks are able to land Kevin Durant this summer, as has been widely rumored, it will look like genius. But that won’t be known until July.