What just happened?
At one point, it seemed like your run of the mill trade deadline. There were a few important trades; Aaron Afflalo went to Portland early in the day, Andre Miller was on the way to Sacramento, Javale McGee was dumped by the Nuggets with a first round pick … and then all hell broke loose.
In an hour span, eight trades went down, including major mix-ups for integral teams in both conferences. To salute the day that was, we’re going to go over the winners and losers, mostly because we’re still trying to figure out where each player is.
Winner- Pat Riley
Well, he did it again. The man that convinced LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade made another blockbuster move. Top-tier point guard Goran Dragic has been under the radar this season, especially after an All-NBA caliber year. However, that has less to do with Dragic’s talent as it does with the squad assembled around him. The guard situation was never figured out in Phoenix with Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Dragic splitting the minutes, the loss of Channing Frye ruined the floor spacing, and the enthusiasm that was so apparent last year was nonexistent for the first half of this season. Instead of waiting for free agency, Dragic is now on a Heat squad that can be a difficult out in this year’s playoffs and has plenty of talented players. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still on the squad and Hassan Whiteside has become a serviceable big-man in a conference where having one is not a norm. Dragic will get to run pick and rolls with Bosh and NBA viewers will realize the steal the Heat made getting Dragic for some washed up talent and two late first round picks.
Loser- Thad Young
What did Young do to deserve this punishment? Last year, Young was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, not only the worst team but also a team actively trying to tank. Then, lo and behold, Young got traded to … Minnesota, another putrid team whose point guard of the future, Ricky Rubio, immediately got injured right after they traded away their superstar in Kevin Love. Then, Young got traded again, this time to the Brooklyn Nets where he will waste away with the rest of the subpar, overpaid, declining squad until they get the ninth seed and just miss the playoffs. A new rule should be enacted that if you find yourself on this many putrid teams, you should be allowed to play for Gregg Popovich for at least one season. Let him live. #FreeThadYoung
Winner- Danny Granger
As part of the trade for Goran Dragic, the Miami Heat had to give up Granger. Now Granger has been injured for years, ever since his stint with the Pacers, and there’s no better place for a wounded player to end up than Phoenix. Perhaps the best training staff in NBA history, the Suns have been able to revive careers and keep players healthy in a way that paints them in the light of Dr. Frankenstein. The second Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire left, they were reinjured and on a downward spiral. Phoenix is a team that rejuvenated the careers of Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill. If any team could return Granger to his former glory, it’s the Suns.
Loser- Anyone who has to root for the 76ers
This has to be a prank, right? There’s no tanking end in sight for Philadelphia. This was supposed to be the start of something for the franchise. They have been tanking for multiple seasons now, finally had some talent and BOOM, Sam Hinkie traded it away for even more draft picks. Michael Carter Williams and KJ McDaniels are both good to great players in this league and the 76ers just gave them away for picks. Also, they added Javale McGee, who has become Dennis Rodman without the talent. You just have to feel bad for anyone who has to root for this pitiful squad, which has become just a pile of picks with no players attached. Also, why does anyone think they are going to nail these picks? Hinkie and the 76ers leadership have no real track record in building a cohesive squad. Why would they start now?
Isaiah Thomas wasn’t even on the trading block, and then all of a sudden he’s a Celtic. Capitalizing on Phoenix’s distaste for Thomas, Boston made a move and got the skilled point guard who has proven that he can be at least a double-digit scorer in the NBA. The Celtics didn’t really give up that much, just Marcus Thornton and a first round pick, which they already have mountains of. The Celtics have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs and Thomas paired with improving rookie Marcus Smart is a compelling backcourt. Also, Brad Stevens has already shown that he’s a brilliant coach in the league and may be the guiding force to Thomas making another leap.
Loser- Everyone who will have to hear “Coming Home” for the next week
I really thought after LeBron’s return to Cleveland, we wouldn’t have to endure another time where we would have to hear the same haunting tune about a comeback. However, now that Kevin Garnett is returning to Minnesota, Diddy and Skylar Grey are back. The Wolves are not making the playoffs anytime soon, but the KG trade is a phenomenal one. KG gets to end his career in the place where he started it all, and the Timberwolves fans get to cheer for their franchise’s best player one more time. It’s going to be fun to see Garnett back in the Minnesota uniform. Now, let’s get Stephon Marbury back on the Wolves and see what happens.
Winner: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
One of the big winners of free agency was the Oklahoma City Thunder, who not only acquired a few important pieces but also added by subtraction. It’s not that Perkins is a bad NBA player; it’s just that he’s not an NBA player. The addition of Enes Kanter in his place is, at worst, a dramatic upgrade at the center position and could take a little of the pressure off of the Thunder’s dynamic duo. Also, the additions of Kyle Singler and DJ Augustin will help deepen the Thunder’s bench, which has been lacking at times. Furthermore, the Thunder’s best move might have been the removal of Reggie Jackson. There’s no doubt Jackson is a tremendously talented guard, but he seemed to grow stale with the Thunder. Waiters basically replaced him and Jackson’s ball dominance was no longer needed on a team with Westbrook and Durant. Anytime a player tweets out that they’re “crying tears of joy” when they get traded, you know it was time for them to go. Jackson will flourish under Van Gundy’s coaching in Detroit, but the Thunder are better off without him for this season and the foreseeable future.
Loser- Greg Gottfried
Before the season started, I said the Portland Trail Blazers would miss the playoffs. I believed that Damian Lillard would cool off from last season, an injury was bound to hit this healthy team and their bench just wasn’t deep enough. It’s time to eat crow. The Blazers have been stellar this year and, even though it was the first, might have made the best move of the season trading for Aaron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee. Afflalo, who just two years ago was heralded as a top shooting guard in the league, was in a disaster zone with the Denver Nuggets, whose coach threw his players under the bus and had so many chemistry issues they could have their own reality show. Afflalo is now in the perfect spot as a backup guard who can play off the ball, move around and be one of the dominant defenders on the squad. It really is a match made in heaven for Portland. Golden State is still my favorite to make it out of the West, but Portland has caught up to Memphis as the runner-up.
Follow Greg on Twitter @gott31 and listen to him on “The Roundtable” on Thursdays 6-8 p.m.