Some years, the trade deadline ends with a whimper and other years, it is super exciting. This year, we didn’t quite get super exciting but it was definitely moderately interesting. Here’s a breakdown of the some of the interesting deals…
In a three-team trade, Bucks obtain Nikola Mirotic, Pistons get Thon Maker, and Pelicans get Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson, and four second-round picks
The Bucks are in the surprising role of front runners in the East and the team with the best SRS in the NBA. Still, there is a sense that they are not quite as good as the recurring title contenderslike Golden State or even Houston. In that regard, it makes sense for the Bucks to try to improve the offense a little by adding another space maker. Mirotic fits that role perfectly. He is a better shooter than Ersan Ilyasova and the departed Maker. Mirotic may not make the ultimate difference for a title run but every little improvement matters when the Bucks are so close to the NBA Finals.
As a side note, Maker has not quite developed as Milwaukee hoped and his recent complaints greased the wheel to get him out of town. New Orleans will have plenty of minutes to see if he can hit another level.
Finally, Stanley Johnson has also not been able to improve enough offensively to merit major minutes. A career .371 FG% from the field and .292% from three, puts him in Michael Carter-Williams territory as defensive role player. Even more surprisingly, the super athletic Johnson has only four dunks this year and struggles to get to the rim. Hopefully, he is young enough to develop an offensive game but the numbers are not promising.
Grizzlies trade Marc Gasol to the Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick
Toronto is all in. They assume that Gasol will give them a better shot at a title this season, even though he is likely to decline sharply in the near future. The question is whether the current Gasol moves the needle over Valanciunas for the Raptors. Here is the tale of the tape:
-Gasol: 33.7 mpg, 15.7 ppg, .444 FG% (.344 3FG%), 8.6 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.2 bpg, 17.2 PER, 4.1 WS (.110 WS/48), 3.0 BPM, 2.3 VORP
-Valanciunas: 18.8 mpg, 12.8 ppg, .575 FG%, 7.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 bpg, 24.8 PER, 2.7 WS (.229 WS/48), 1.5 BPM, 0.5 VORP
Valanciunas has been effective but his minutes have been much sparser because of his offensive limitations. The gamble is that Gasol will give the Raptors even more floor spacing without sacrificing anything defensively. This seems like a nice bet. Gasol may not be better than Valanciunas within a year or so but all that matters is winning now with Kawhi Leonard still in town and this moves the Raptors further in that direction.
For Memphis, however, this seemed like a blah return. Valanciunas and Wright are both useful young(ish) players but Valanciunas, the prime return, has only one year left under his contract (Gasol also has a player option for 2019-20 for $26 million, that he may very well exercise). So, flipping Gasol for a younger (but not quite better) center with the same contract length doesn’t seem to move the rebuild much except to symbolically turn the page on the Gasol Era.
76ers trade Markelle Fultz to Magic for Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick.
I guess sometimes you have to accept it isn’t working and cut bait. We don’t have enough facts to determine if the 76ers made bad decisions that hindered Fultz’s development or whether the bulk of the problem was Fultz’s injuries that could not be controlled or something else we are not privy to. In terms, of return for Fultz, the 76ers need depth badly after trading so much to bring in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris.
But is Simmons really depth to aspire too? In his prime, Simmons was a decent enough role player but has been terrible this year. It seems that similar or better players were readily available on the open market or the free agent bin. Nabbing a first-rounder for Fultz eases the pain of flushing Fultz a bit for Philly but the 76ers are still quite thin after their first four players.
As for Orlando, the hope is that Fultz can somehow become a useful NBA player. This trade also puts Fultz at the top of a weird list, the fewest games played by a number one overall pick with his originally drafted team. Here’s the list of games played by top picks since 1985, when the lottery was first instituted (players still playing with first team are starred):
-2017, Markelle Fultz, 33 games for Philadelphia
-1989, Pervis Ellison, 34 games for Sacramento
-2018, Deandre Ayton, 50 games so far Phoenix*
-2013, Anthony Bennett, 52 games for Cleveland
-1993, Chris Webber, 76 games for Golden State
-2007, Greg Oden, 81 games for Portland
-2016, Ben Simmons, 134 games so for Philadelphia*
-1999, Elton Brand, 155 games for Chicago
-1995, Joe Smith, 211 games for Golden State
-2001, Kwame Brown, 253 games for Washington
-2000, Kenyon Martin, 283 games for New Jersey
-1992, Shaquille O’Neal, 293 games for Orlando
-2015, Karl-Anthony Towns, 299 games so far for Minnesota*
-1998, Michael Olowokandi, 323 games for L.A. Clippers
-1990, Derrick Coleman, 348 games for New Jersey
-1988, Danny Manning, 373 games for L.A. Clippers
-2014, Andrew Wiggins, 376 games so far for Minnesota*
-1991, Larry Johnson, 377 games for Charlotte
-2011, Kyrie Irving, 381 games for Cleveland
-2008, Derrick Rose, 406 games for Chicago
-2005, Andrew Bogut, 408 games for Milwaukee
-2007, Andrea Bargnani, 433 games for Toronto
-2012, Anthony Davis, 451 games so far for New Orleans*
-2002, Yao Ming, 486 games for Houston
-2009, Blake Griffin, 504 games for L.A. Clippers
-1986, Brad Daugherty, 548 games for Cleveland
-1994, Glenn Robinson, 568 games for Milwaukee
-2010, John Wall, 573 games so far for Washington*
-2003, LeBron James 584 games for Cleveland (first tenure only)
-2004, Dwight Howard, 621 games for Orlando
-1996, Allen Iverson, 697 games for Philadelphia (first tenure only)
-1987, David Robinson, 987 games for San Antonio
-1985, Patrick Ewing, 1,039 games for New York
-1997, Tim Duncan, 1,392 games for San Antonio
Amazingly, Fultz just beat out Ellison for shortest tenure for original team. Ellison’s tenure, however, was only one season (as was Bennett’s) so on, some level, their tenures were technically shorter. Ellison was injured most of that season and the Sacramento changed management and dumped him for a mid-first-rounder (ended up being Anthony Bonner) and some trinkets. If Fultz and Orlando are looking for encouragement, Ellison regrouped and was an above-average regular for a few years after the trade.
The other short tenures don’t match up with the Fultz situation. Webber forced a trade in a really weird situation and the Bulls thought that they would be better off trading Brand for a new high pick (ended up being Tyson Chandler). Finally, Joe Smith was traded because the standard rookie contract only lasted three seasons, which forced trades if the team was not confident it could re-sign the pick.