Moves made across the League with championship aspirations
The 2020-21 trade deadline is behind us and it was a day that saw history made.
Odds are that your team got involved in the action, as 23 teams made trades, involving 46 players changing teams – both an NBA record.
The frenzy didn’t end there, however, as the buyout market was crystalized after the deadline passed. Some contending teams chose this route to bolster their title odds.
Now that some time has passed and the new acquisitions have made their debuts, let’s assess how things shook out.
Orlando resets on rebuilding
The only All-Star moved on deadline day was former-USC big man Nikola Vucevic, who is now a member of the Chicago Bulls.
Packaged with forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the Orlando Magic received forward Otto Porter Jr., center Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks in return.
This was the first domino to fall Thursday morning.
With their cornerstone player leaving town, all signs indicated the Magic would be moving their other marquee players. In the next few hours, forward Aaron Gordon and guard Evan Fournier were dealt to potential contenders as well.
The Magic’s roster changed essentially overnight, but they now have a promising young core looking towards the future.
With injury-derailed seasons for forward Jonathan Isaac and guards Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony, the new players acquired can showcase why they should be a part of the Magic’s long-term plans.
Guys like Carter Jr., guard RJ Hampton, forward Chuma Okeke and even center Mo Bamba have the rest of the season to improve and receive ample playing time.
That young core of seven first-rounders, has a combined average age of 21.5-years-old. Impressive stuff by Orlando’s front office, especially with a lottery pick is set to join that core again this summer. Maybe Cade???
Denver, Boston and Chicago add win-now pieces
On the receiving end of Orlando’s liquidation are three teams in similar-yet-different scenarios.
So far, Denver’s return appears the most impactful. The Nuggets acquired dunk specialist Aaron Gordon who immediately joined their starting five. Gordon had a frustrating development in a direction-less Orlando, but his skill set fits ideally in Denver.
He fills the void forward Jerami Grant’s free agency departure created, as an athletic stretch-four who can accept responsibility on both ends.
Denver is looking to build on last year’s Conference Finals appearance and possibly land center Nikola Jokic an MVP in the process.
The addition of Gordon helps in both areas.
Boston has a comparable outside shot at winning their conference, but help was definitely needed. Hopefully, shooting guard Evan Fournier can supply just that.
Averaging a career-best 19.5 points this year, Fournier is a veteran who adds a dynamic offensive player to their artillery. The results in his first two showings, six points total, have been very lackluster. However, as he gets more ingratiated to their system, he should be a factor come playoff time.
The Bulls, unlike the Nuggets and Celtics, are on the outside looking in at the playoffs currently. They rolled the dice big time though, pairing the All-Star big man Vucevic with guard Zach LaVine who’s emerged this season as a franchise player.
The early returns on their new duo have been mild at best, but credit to their front office for creating a tandem that can lead them in the future.
Chicago is 10th in the East as of today, occupying the last play-in spot. They’re also just four games out of the six-seed which would guarantee them a playoff berth so the opportunity to cash-in this season is theirs for the taking.
Houston officially fumbled the James Harden bag
The headline of this move should highlight Miami’s heist for Victor Oladipo, two parties with mutual interest for some time.
However, the lasting impact of this move will revolve around Houston’s depressing return for guard James Harden. After swapping guard Caris LeVert for him, Oladipo was the centerpiece of the Harden deal. Now that he’s gone, let’s see what that package has amount to:
Guards Avery Bradley and Dante Exum, forwards Rodions Kurucs and Kelly Olynyk three first-round draft picks belonging to Brooklyn, and one from Milwaukee, plus pick swaps…
Just to compare, in exchange for an expiring forward Anthony Davis, New Orleans received forward Brandon Ingram, guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, along with picks that became center Jaxson Hayes and forward Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
You’re always gambling when dealing a superstar, but unless they hit the jackpot with their draft picks (likely late first-rounders), Houston botched this trade badly.
Then there’s Miami, who flirted with guard Kyle Lowry, but opted not to break-up their young core and instead got Oladipo for cents on the dollar. Great job by them.
We’ll see Oladipo make his Heat debut Thursday. It’s worth noting Miami is building an apparent dark horse challenger to the Nets.
They’re Brooklyn’s antithesis. A defensive oriented team built on toughness with great coaching and the most important element of all: a taste of playoff success.
Oladipo’s fit in Miami could propel them to back-to-back conference championships.
The rich get richer with trade deadline leftovers
In the aftermath of the massive trade deadline shuffling, a few key names were still waiting to find new homes.
Brooklyn struck first, what else is new, by adding seven-time all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
This may feel redundant after they signed forward Blake Griffin just two weeks prior, but at worst, Brooklyn has several lineup permutations for whatever arises in the postseason which is great insurance.
Then, eerily absent from the headlines, the Lakers joined the party and signed rebounding extraordinaire center Andre Drummond.
A two-time All-Star in his own right, Drummond, alongside center Marc Gasol, can provide a high-end version of Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee of last year.
Milwaukee recently signed guard Austin Rivers while center Gorgui Dieng is headed to the ever-present San Antonio Spurs.
As rosters are reflecting their final forms, the playoffs are shaping up to be a true slugfest between many teams who will be giving it their best shot.