Another year and another NBA trade deadline is in the books.
This season’s holiday didn’t include as many blockbuster deals as last year’s, but it was filled with impactful moves nonetheless.
Some of those included the New York Knicks adding a pair of veteran shooters in Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, the Phoenix Suns acquiring Royce O’Neal in a three-team trade and the Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks getting some size by adding P.J. Washington from the Charlotte Hornets and Daniel Gafford from the Washington Wizards.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t necessarily get a replacement for the injured Joel Embiid, but they did pick up 3-point shooter Buddy Hield. And how about the Milwaukee Bucks adding Patrick Beverley to their backcourt mix, or LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers standing pat?
Here are our biggest winners and losers (with a twist) by the numbers.
1. Toronto Raptors
What They Gave: OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn, Precious Achiuwa, Pascal Siakam, Kira Lewis Jr., Otto Porter Jr., a 2024 first round pick
What They Got: Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, a 2024 first round picks (via Indiana Pacers), 2024 second round pick (via Detroit Pistons), a conditional 2026 first round pick (via Pacers)
Explanation: For the rest of this exercise, we are limiting our analysis to transactions that took place this week. But we are making an exception for the Raptors because Masai Ujiri and the rest of the front office deserve our eternal respect for how they kickstarted this rebuild.
The Raptors came into this year with a bunch of redundant talent, no floor spacing, and absolutely no real direction. So, what did they do? They executed a sound three-step plan.
First, they traded away OG Anunoby in a move that, as we’ve discussed, could likely go down as a win-now deal for both teams. In that deal, they got a player (Immanuel Quickley) who is more compatible with their franchise cornerstone (Scottie Barnes) and RJ Barrett – another young player who has experienced a resurgence since returning to his place of origin.
Second, they traded away Pascal Siakam (to his ideal destination) for the human swiss army knife of the 2023 NBA Finals (Bruce Brown) and some much-needed draft capital. Brown is young enough to be a part of Toronto’s new core. But he’s also desirable enough to be used as a trade chip if the team chooses to go down that road instead.
And lastly, for the third step, the Raptors traded away some salary filler and a late first round pick to get Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji. Early Thursday morning, it was reported that the Jazz were looking for a first in return for Olynyk. The Raptors gave that to get him, but they also got Agbaji – a potential “3-and-D” role player who was selected 14th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Toronto also acquired Spencer Dinwiddie from the Brooklyn Nets for Dennis Schroder and Thaddeus Young to reportedly create more cap flexibility for the 2024 offseason. (Schroder is on a multi-year deal and Dinwiddie was waived.)
Now, the Raptors have little to no overlapping skill sets on their roster, more spacing (Quickley, Olynyk), and a young core to build around (Barnes, Quickley, Agbaji, Barrett and Gradey Dick).
The first part of a rebuild is a delicate endeavor, one that can set a franchise back years if handled poorly. With this move, Toronto started off their rebuild on the right note. And for that, they deserve to walk away from this week as winners.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
What They Gave: Vasilije Micic, Tre Mann, Davis Bertans, a 2024 second round draft pick (via Houston Rockets), a 2025 second-round draft pick (via Sixers), and cash considerations
What They Got: Gordon Hayward
Explanation: The Thunder, aka the best-run organization in basketball (maybe even in all of sports), has struck another home run. A tale as old as time.
As we discussed on our Instagram (give us a follow!), Hayward is exactly the type of player the Thunder have been prioritizing since they traded Russell Westbrook to the Rockets in 2019.
He’s a big body (6-foot-7) who can shoot (69th percentile in wide-open 3-point percentage, per NBA.com), score (59th percentile in scoring volume), pass (77th percentile in assists per 100 possessions), and drive (82nd percentile in drives per 36 minutes).
On paper, he’s the perfect scorer/creator to come off the bench for this Oklahoma City team as it gears up for its run in the Western Conference playoffs (fifth in NBA Finals chances, according to our supercomputer).
On top of that, the Thunder gave up hardly anything to get him. Tre Mann is young, but he was so far out of their rotation that you forgot he was sitting healthy on the bench.
Davis Bertans is a salary filler. Vasilije Micic flashed some promise, but he was by no means good enough to be a deal breaker. And the second round picks are mince meat to the asset-rich Thunder.
3. Boston Celtics
What They Gave: Dalano Banton, Lamar Stevens, a 2024 second round pick, a 2027 second-round pick (via Atlanta Hawks), a 2030 second-round pick (via Mavs)
What They Got: Xavier Tillman, Jaden Springer, a protected second round pick
Explanation: Listen, no matter how you slice it, the main goal of team sports is to be the last team standing. And while these names don’t immediately jump off the screen, they bring the Celtics closer to that objective.
By they, we mean Tillman, who is exactly the type of player they needed to add for this postseason run. After losing Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Grant Williams this offseason, the Celtics were sorely lacking in physicality. And in a league where the classical big men are coming back into fashion, you need to have big, strong defenders to counter them.
Tillman gives them that. Plus, he’s not just a large body. He’s also a great defender. His defensive DRIP is currently a 0.9, which ranks in the 95th percentile league wide.
Oh, and they also got Springer, a promising young defensive wing, for a measly old second round pick. The Celtics are clear-cut title contenders.
4. Detroit Pistons
What They Gave: Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Monte Morris (to the Minnesota Timberwolves), a 2024 second round pick (via Wizards)
What They Got: Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, Malachi Flynn, Ryan Arcidiacono, Simone Fontecchio, Troy Brown Jr., Shake Milton, Danuel House Jr., a 2030 second round pick, two future second round picks, and cash considerations
Explanation: We can debate all day about whether or not the most active team at the deadline got enough for Burks or Bogdanovic. I personally think what they got is pretty reflective of their value around the league, especially considering both of them aren’t even in the top 135 in DRIP.
Regardless, the Pistons went from a team with no roster cohesiveness to a team with the potential to have some (a major improvement for a team that is 8-43).
Coming into the deadline, the Pistons knew that they had a solid core in Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey. The problem is their supporting cast was plagued by one-way players (who weren’t elite on the end of the floor they specialized in).
They had offense-first players who killed them on defense (like Bogdanovic, Burks and Danilo Gallinari). And they had defense-first players who killed them on offense (like Killian Hayes).
Now, the Pistons have three guys (Quentin Grimes, Simone Fontecchio and Troy Brown Jr.) who, in theory, should serve as two-way wings/forwards. If at least two of those three guys sticks for Detroit, their future looks a lot brighter.
(Sidebar: We’re doing something a little different in this section. First, we are only doing two losers because teams are generally getting smarter and making more rational decisions. So, don’t think of this so much as a “losers” section as it is a “wait and see” section.)
1. Utah Jazz
What They Gave: Simone Fontecchio, Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji
What They Got: Kevin Knox, Rights to Gabriele Procida, Otto Porter Jr., Kira Lewis Jr., a 2024 first round pick, a 2024 second round pick (via Wizards)
Explanation: As I mentioned in the sidebar above, we need to tame my criticism of these teams because, at the end of the day, we are not privy to the full thought process behind these decisions. With that said, man, did the Jazz front office upset me this trade deadline cycle.
I can understand trading Fontecchio for what will undoubtedly be a very high second round pick (if you haven’t noticed, the Wizards are #notgood). I also understand trading Olynyk on an expiring contract.
What I don’t get is saying that you’re looking for a first in return for just Olynyk, and then turning around and trading Olynyk AND Ochai Agbaji – your 2022 lottery pick who ostensibly was the reason that Fontecchio was expendable – for what will ultimately end up being a very late first round pick in a draft class that is rumored to be relatively shallow.
Why trade a recent lottery pick and a valuable expiring contract for one late first round pick? I get wanting to give other young guys (like Brice Sensabaugh and Taylor Hendricks) more minutes, but it’s my opinion that they should have gotten more in return.
Also, I think it’s a huge slap in the face to a team that has worked so hard to turn their season around (19-11 after starting the year 7-16) to trade three of their 10 rotation pieces for basically no tangible assets in return. I digress.
2. Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks
What They Gave: Nothing
What They Got: Nothing
Explanation: There’s a certain poetic justice in the fact that the two teams who are most deeply entrenched in basketball purgatory had the golden opportunity to tear things down and begin anew. But instead, they chose to stand pat and battle it out for a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament. You can’t write it any better than that.
The Hawks holding firm makes a little bit more sense. Dejounte Murray’s suitors will have more available assets to trade for him in the offseason. Still, they could have moved on from some of their other veteran players (Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, etc.).
The player the Bulls were the most desperate about trading (Zach LaVine) was announced to be having season-ending surgery earlier this week. That’s fair. But what about six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan (who is on an expiring contract) and Alex Caruso (who the Golden State Warriors were trying to trade for)?
Fine. You didn’t get the offer you wanted for them, whatever. But why in the world did you not at least move Andre Drummond?
Chicago, what are you doing?