5 NBA Trades That Should Have Happened at the Deadline
Remember when this was going to be a quiet NBA trade deadline?
Little did we know at the time, but the out-of-nowhere Blake Griffin blockbuster was a sign of the fervent action yet to come. Then came the Isaiah Thomas trade on the day of the deadline itself. And after that, the deals revealed themselves at a relentless pace.
When the dust settled, 22 of the league's 30 franchises had made moves, dating back to Griffin's Hollywood departure (and Bleacher Report's Dan Favale has expertly graded each and every transaction for your viewing pleasure).
Thirty-eight players changed hands, while Brice Johnson, Jameer Nelson, Willie Reed and Rashad Vaughn pulled a Luke Ridnour and found themselves dealt more than once. Including pick swaps, 18 draft-day selections made their way from one organization to another.
Despite all the action, not every move we desired took place.
Tyreke Evans, though held out of the lineup for precautionary measures in recent outings, remained with the Memphis Grizzlies. DeAndre Jordan is still wearing a Los Angeles Clippers uniform. The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics are continuing their searches for scoring punches who can help complement their dynamite defenses.
Let's fix everything with five trades that should've taken place and added to the above figures.
Tyreke Evans to the Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics Get: Tyreke Evans
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Guerschon Yabusele, 2018 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
The Boston Celtics stood pat at the deadline (aside from signing Greg Monroe after he left the Phoenix Suns), but that doesn't mean they're suddenly some superteam that had no noticeable weaknesses. Despite the early-season winning streak, their underlying metrics leave them short of the class of true elites (see: 4.4 net rating, which trails the Toronto Raptors' 7.3, the Houston Rockets' 8.1 and the Golden State Warriors' 9.1 by significant margins).
The culprit? In a word: offense.
Not only do the Celtics score just 104.6 points per 100 possessions, which sandwiches them between the No. 19 Orlando Magic (104.7) and No. 21 Dallas Mavericks (104.1), but they fall apart without Kyrie Irving on the floor.
Sans the All-Star point guard, their offensive rating dips to a lousy 99.2, which would trail the league-worst Sacramento Kings (100.6) with some room to spare. No one else is comfortable creating shots off the bounce on a regular basis.
Tyreke Evans, however, is.
The Memphis Grizzlies guard has enjoyed quite the breakout season, parlaying his newfound three-point prowess into production all over the court. He can hit pull-up jumpers, attack the basket and use his 6'6'" size advantageously. He can work in spot-up situations or fill a cutting role.
Those skills would've been perfect under head coach Brad Stevens, especially if he staggered Evans and Irving to ensure Boston's offense would have one primary creator on the floor at all times.
Boston was close to a deal. As HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy reported: "During the Celtics-Grizzlies talks, I'm told Boston offered two second-round picks and Guerschon Yabusele for Tyreke Evans. It doesn't appear they agreed to terms before the deadline."
Given the enduring need for offense, let's up the ante. A top-20-protected first-round pick isn't that large an upgrade over a pair of second-round picks, and that's particularly true when Boston already has a deep roster with multiple first-rounders incoming.
Even though Evans can hit the free-agent market this summer—apparently a death knell to Memphis' hopes of landing a top-30 selection for his services—he'd be valuable enough as a half-season rental to this team on the cusp of title contention.
DeAndre Jordan to the Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks Get: Jawun Evans, DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Clippers Get: Matthew Dellavedova, Thon Maker, Jabari Parker, 2020 second-round pick
Parting with Jabari Parker would've been painful, if for no other reason than timing. The Milwaukee Bucks patiently waited for him to complete his ACL rehabilitation and then watched as he justified the hype surrounding his 2017-18 debut by going for 12 points on seven shots during a victory over the New York Knicks in which he played just under 15 minutes.
But moving him would still be a sound decision if the right player comes back in return. And DeAndre Jordan is the right player (especially with rookie point guard Jawun Evans thrown in as a backup for Eric Bledsoe who'd help counteract the backcourt's injury woes).
Thon Maker's season has been disastrous for Milwaukee. He began the year in the starting lineup but quickly lost his job, and he's now averaging just 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 39.8 percent from the field, 31.5 percent from downtown and 67.6 percent at the stripe.
An upgrade at the 5 is sorely needed, and it wasn't coming from John Henson or Marshall Plumlee. Similarly, shipping Rashad Vaughn to the Brooklyn Nets for Tyler Zeller was throwing a Band-Aid on the issue, as the newly acquired center is better suited for a low-minute role off the bench.
Jordan's athleticism would look phenomenal in pick-and-roll sets alongside Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo. His ability to anchor the interior of defensive schemes would make the length of Milwaukee's wings all the more potent, freeing them up to gamble and trap more frequently. They are schemes former head coach Jason Kidd tried to make work...just without a safety net operating behind the risk-taking players.
So while giving up the unrealized potential laying dormant in Parker and Maker's frames would be a painful process, it still would've been the right call for a team trying to ascend to that next tier of contention. Considering Parker is an upcoming free agent with a lengthy injury history who's nonetheless certain to command a hefty payday, the impact of that lost upside would be mitigated further.
Evan Fournier to the Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Get: Evan Fournier
Orlando Magic Get: Jerryd Bayless, Trevor Booker, 2018 second-round pick, 2018 second-round pick (more favorable of Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers' selections), 2018 second-round pick (via Houston Rockets)
According to the New York Times' Marc Stein during his Jan. 15 power rankings, "Rival executives expect Jeff Weltman, Orlando's new team president, to aggressively hunt for new homes for the likes of Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja, given that Nikola Vucevic's broken finger is likely to preclude dealing the center."
Then, more recently, we had this from Michael Scotto of The Athletic: "The new regime of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond has left no stone unturned with the deadline approaching, including quietly gauging the trade market on Aaron Gordon. Gordon is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, so Orlando could simply be doing due diligence."
Couple those reports with the Orlando Magic's willingness to ship Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for nothing more than a second-round pick, and it's abundantly clear no one should be off the trading block.
While Evan Fournier's name didn't frequent trade rumors, Orlando should've been more than willing to absorb Jerryd Bayless' shorter salary ($8,575,916 in 2018-19 before he hits free agency) and Trevor Booker's expiring deal in order to clear up long-term room and get its hands on a bevy of second-round picks.
The Philadelphia 76ers aren't starving for late selections. Even after giving up their own second-rounder and another two in this postulated deal, they'd have the more favorable of the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks' back-end picks in 2018—plus more incoming first- and second-rounders in future seasons. They are hungry for more shot-creating talent, though.
With Joel Embiid protecting the interior and Ben Simmons terrorizing perimeter players, the Sixers have built a stifling defensive unit that can cover up for the French swingman's porosity. That makes his well-rounded scoring acumen all the more valuable on a roster that doesn't have enough pieces who can space the floor and create jumpers for themselves.
In 2017-18, Fournier is averaging 17.8 points per game with a 57.5 true shooting percentage—numbers matched or exceeded by only 17 qualified scorers throughout the Association, only one of whom (Embiid) resides in the city of the Super Bowl champions.
Kyle O'Quinn and Michael Beasley to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Michael Beasley, Kyle O'Quinn
New York Knicks Get: Terrance Ferguson, Dakari Johnson, Kyle Singler, 2018 second-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
In an ideal world, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be able to land a point-preventing wing capable of making up for some of what was lost when Andre Roberson went down for the season. But not many of those defensive stalwarts are available, and those who are might prove either too detrimental in other areas (Tony Allen) or too expensive to acquire in a trade (Courtney Lee).
So we're going with the next best option and allowing OKC to add another scoring threat to its bench while shoring up the rotation behind Steven Adams.
With Terrance Ferguson or Josh Huestis moving into the starting lineup and replacing Roberson, the Thunder's leading scorers for the second unit are as follows: Jerami Grant (7.6 points per game), Raymond Felton (6.7), Alex Abrines (4.7) and Patrick Patterson (3.3). Couple that with untrustworthy bigs (Dakari Johnson and Nick Collison) spelling Adams when the team doesn't go small, and you need upgrades.
The numbers also reinforce this line of thinking.
Only five teams have devoted fewer minutes to their non-starters, and yet the Thunder's ratings are still middling. The bench ranks No. 9 in defensive rating, but it's scoring more points per 100 possessions than only the bottom half of the hierarchy.
Insert Michael Beasley for a scoring punch. The New York Knicks shouldn't be too hesitant to part with him while he's operating on an expiring contract. Nor should they be too attached to Kyle O'Quinn, who can opt out of his pact this summer, turning down a $4.3 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent.
Both players would address needs for the Thunder, and the Knicks could turn them into multiple second-rounders, salary filler and upside plays in the forms of Terrance Ferguson (most exciting) and Johnson (far less exciting). It's the classic win-win, even if it didn't come to pass at the deadline.
Kemba Walker to the San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Get: Michael Carter-Williams, Kemba Walker
Charlotte Hornets Get: Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, 2018 first-round pick (top-20 protected), 2019 second-round pick
Let's get weird.
The San Antonio Spurs almost never make deadline deals. The Charlotte Hornets were making unreasonable demands for Kemba Walker, asking for an All-Star back in return and trying to package along Nicolas Batum's undesirable salary, per Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz.
But we're living in a hypothetical world here, so we have the power to make both sides back away from their preferred courses of action.
It makes sense for the Hornets to deal their best player/face of the franchise, both to escape luxury-tax implications and to jumpstart a rebuild that needs to be embarked upon. It makes sense for the Spurs to complete a midseason transaction during a campaign in which Kawhi Leonard has rarely appeared and the team isn't a lock to reach the 50-win plateau it has seemingly hit throughout league history.
With this deal, head coach Gregg Popovich would be able to revamp his backcourt and inject some star power into the lineup alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, thereby easing the big man's responsibilities and keeping him fresher for the inevitable playoff run. He'd also get some useful depth in the form of Michael Carter-Williams, who hasn't done much in Charlotte but has the physical tools necessary to thrive under the NBA's resident talent-milking wizard.
Meanwhile, the Hornets would receive another first-round pick almost guaranteed to convey in a loaded 2018 class, a sharpshooting guard on a reasonable contract (the remaining three seasons of a four-year, $50 million pact are hardly crippling) and a high-upside floor general who has looked like a defensive game-changer during his sophomore go-round in San Antonio.
Go ahead. Allow your mind to unveil the possibilities. While Charlotte dreams about the future, the Spurs—once everyone is healthy—would have a chance to run out Walker, Danny Green, Leonard, Aldridge and Pau Gasol while maintaining plenty of depth.