With the all-star break behind us and the trade deadline over and done with, it is time to take a look at which teams pulled off the best deals.
Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
Capping off an excellent weekend in which star forward Anthony Davis won all-star game MVP and set a record for the number of points scored in an all-star game, the Pelicans pulled off one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the year when they acquired center DeMarcus Cousins in a trade with the Sacramento Kings. One would expect the Pelicans to have paid a pretty penny for the three-time all-star, who is currently averaging 27.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, but the Pelicans were able to snag him for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and a first round pick — a steal by almost any standard.
However, question marks still remain over this trade. It will take more than the half season remaining for Cousins to work out his chemistry with Davis. Cousins also has a history of temper tantrums and poor attitude and is a free agent after next season, meaning that the Pelicans may have traded for merely a one-and-a-half season rental. However, for the time being, it is difficult to not be excited for the Pelicans moving forward.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
The league’s worst 3-point shooting team decided to cement their position by trading away Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guards Cameron Payne and Anthony Morrow. Both Morrow and Payne shoot around 30 percent from 3-point range — well below league average. The outgoing McDermott, on the other hand, shoots at a 37 percent clip. With him gone, the Bull’s best 3-point shooter is Bobby Portis, who averages less than one 3-point attempt a game. To cap it off, the Bulls also traded one of its few reliable players in veteran center Taj Gibson.
Bulls fans might have been relieved to hear they managed to hang on to star player Jimmy Butler in the face of aggressive pursuit by the Celtics. But in a league that is quickly realizing the importance and benefit of the 3-ball, Chicago is moving backwards in time. Amid these baffling decisions, there have been reports of a rift between Butler and the front office. It might be time for the Bulls to shake up their management.
Winner: Toronto Raptors
Despite a recent slump in form on the court, Toronto has made some shrewd acquisitions in the past month. Serge Ibaka will catch most of the attention, and rightfully so; the 27-year-old provides some much needed rim protection — arguably Toronto’s biggest weakness — and stretches the floor for the likes of Demar DeRozan to work in. Rim protection and 3-point shooting is a prized combination in this league, and so giving up Terrence Ross and a first round pick will look like a more than justified price.
Even after acquiring Ibaka, the Raptors were also busy on deadline day, adding PJ Tucker to the roster for the price of Norman Powell. Tucker provides another defensive upgrade for the team and is another athletic body that Toronto can throw at LeBron James when the playoffs roll around.
Is this enough to stop Cleveland? Possibly. The Cavaliers are dealing with injury issues as of now, but are on track to be healthy by the time the playoffs roll around. And it is difficult to deny the sheer firepower of Cleveland’s all-star trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But as of now, the Raptors have put themselves in the best possible situation for the foreseeable future. All they have to do now is execute.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
Despite a promising resurgence in January and the emergence of TJ McConnell, Philly has found itself pegged back by a series of unfortunate events. On deadline day, the 76ers decided to make a baffling trade with the Mavericks, sending Nerlens Noel to Dallas in exchange for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a 2017 first-round draft pick. A close look reveals how head-scratching this trade was for the the 76ers. First off, the first-round pick is 1-18 protected, meaning the 76ers will only sniff it if it drops to the 19th or below. Given Dallas’ record this season, the prospects of that happening is highly unlikely. Bogut is also set to be bought out, meaning that essentially, Philly traded Noel, the sixth pick in the 2013 draft, for Justin Anderson, who has started a grand total of two games for Dallas this season.
With the all-star game behind us and the trading season officially closed, all that remains is the final stretch of games before the playoffs begin. With Cleveland dealing with injury problems and the Raptors retooling, the race for the top seed in the East is starting to heat up. In the West, the super-team Golden State Warriors must contend with a Rockets team that now boasts the two best bench players in the league in addition to an MVP candidate — James Harden — a Pelicans side that has the two best big men in the game and the always deadly San Antonio Spurs. Many had Golden State and Cleveland pencilled in for a third-straight finals matchup, but with some of the trades that have happened recently, we could be set for a very unpredictable postseason.