By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The NBA trade deadline frenzy is finally over.
As it is every year, a lot of teams made trades for the greater good of their franchises, others made deals that didn’t make much sense in the moment and others didn’t quite pull the trigger on transactions we’d all like to see for no other reason than to feel how we’d react to them.
Some winners always emerge for the short term in a time like this but its more difficult to gauge who’s positioned themselves for potential long-term success, which should be a priority for most teams involved in the trade deadline mix.
After all, only a handful of franchises can call themselves making a move that could alter the balance of league competition for the remainder of this season.
Not far from our base in Chicago, the Milwaukee Bucks welcomed an old friend from the Bulls and made a key move to boost their offensive potential.
By acquiring known shooter Nikola Mirotic in a 3-team trade with the Pelicans and Pistons the East’s current No. 1 seed, already an excellent three-point shooting team, allows itself to create space on the floor, which will be meaningful especially when Giannis Antetokounmpo utilizes his incomparable skillset to drive to the basket and create opportunities for others.
Mirotic will come in handy down the stretch in games, and more importantly, in Milwaukee’s potential deep playoff run.
The Philadelphia 76ers made a big splash this week by acquiring a 20 point-scorer and all-star worthy talent in Tobias Harris from the LA Clippers. Harris now creates a big four within the Sixers starting lineup and his versatility spurs more match up problems on a team that already features freaky athletes in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons an an elite gritty gamer in Jimmy Butler.
Harris is a scorer who can create his own shot when needed and is not ball-centric, having worked on his capability of spreading the floor and scoring within the flow of the offense. Defensively, he can guard practically any position, giving Philadelphia options for different schemes when neutralizing the pick and roll game.
Another feel-good headline emanating from the Sixers’ came came in them trading away their 2017 first-round pick Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic and getting back not just a quality player in Jonathan Simmons, but a protected first-round pick to hopefully replace the original first-round pick that they traded to Boston (which ended up becoming Jayson Tatum) to eventually pick Fultz. Simmons is a good wing player that can produce solid minutes off the bench as a defensive force along the perimeter and is an improved scorer as well.
For Fultz, he can feel good about his break with the Sixers knowing that he’s being reestablished with the resources he needs for his health both on and off the court.
This is a chance for the troubled prospect to start fresh in a place where there is not a lot of pressure to succeed right now. The Sixers’ contending program went ahead of schedule and thanks to the their recent playoff success, they are now operating in a “win now” mentality that Fultz couldn’t catch up too, leaving numerous amounts of pressure to recover from an injury that takes thorough mental health and rehab to fully recover. Being in Orlando can allow Fultz to focus on himself and his health without any distractions.
Philly also deserves a shout for the addition of James Ennis from the Rockets, a shooter who can spread the floor and contribute defensively along the perimeter as well.
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Toronto is used to having to make the effort to get our attention south of the Canadian border and they did it yet again at the trade deadline by acquiring ex-Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol.
Bringing Gasol to the North provides them the low post offensive arsenal that they have been lacking and has been part of Achillies heal for the Raptors in the playoffs. Besides the figurative playoff disappearances of Kyle Lowry and ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozen and the too-daunting prospect of facing the King of the East in LeBron James in most years, the Raptors’ biggest issue as contenders has been never having a low post presence that be a focal point in a slow-paced half-court offensive.
Gasol fills that void, and his presence allows Serge Ibaka to play his natural position of a stretch-forward, if the Raps choose to move him back there, which is a legit question at the moment. In return, the Grizzlies got a nice foundation to rebuild with including sharp shooter CJ Miles, a young point guard who could improve in Delon Wright and the workhorse center Jonas Valanciunas.
The Sacramento Kings made a surprise deal by acquiring Harrison Barnes from the Mavericks. Making this trade provides this young, still finding-itself team a quality wing player, and puts them in a position to make the playoffs. By trading Barnes, the Mavs cleared the books, creating space for a max-level to come and potentially team up with the duo of Kristaps Porzingas and Luka Doncic.
In Los Angeles, the Clippers have made a number of deals that may not have brought in any spectacular talent, but have positioned them for a bright future. By trading away Tobias Harris and releasing Marcin Gortat and Milos Teodosic, cap space has been freed to the extent where the club can bring in two max-level players, opening opportunities to have a serious seat at the free agent table this off-season.
The Clippers also picked up a quality young big man in Ivica Zubiac from the team they share the Staples Center with and have the ability to trade for a superstar like Anthony Davis due to the eventual expiring contracts of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, and a 2020 lottery protected first-round pick they received from the Sixers in the Harris deal — that would be less likely to please their Staples co-habitants.
Speaking of those Lakers, they had to do a lot of falling back after not being able to land the trade deadline’s big fish, Anthony Davis. Though the Lakers will still be in the hunt for the superstar, many believe that the Celtics can provide a better package for the Pelicans to consider and ultimately bring him to Boston.
Lasting through this deadline with Davis still a possibility in the summer was likely all that Boston wanted, such a belief could be upheld by that franchise not making any moves. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make, especially when you know a chance at something better is coming down the line.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR