One of the “bigger” NBA trades from the snooze-fest of a trade deadline was a three-way deal among Detroit, Houston, and Philadelphia. This is how the trade looked:
- Donatas Motiejunas (from Houston)
- Marcus Thornton (from Houston)
- Top-eight protected first-round pick (from Detroit)
- Draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum (from Philadelphia)
- Joel Anthony (from Detroit)
- Second-round pick (from Houston)
The trade made sense from every angle. Motiejunas has shown flashes of potential while healthy, and Thornton is a nice sparkplug off the bench. The Rockets got a first-round pick that could be at the back of the lottery. The 76ers got a second-rounder for helping facilitate the deal.
Motiejunas, however, hasn’t played since December because of issues with his back. His physical was taking so long that the Pistons asked for (and received) a 24-hour extension of the 72-hour window to complete it. With that new deadline coming up in a few hours, Yahoo’s Shams Charania reports that the Pistons’ doctors won’t clear him, so they’re voiding the deal. As it turns out, this has disastrous consequences for one of the teams involved, and schadenfreude-inducing ones for another.
The Rockets are royally screwed. Assuming they make the playoffs this season, they’ll lose their first-round pick to Denver, and now won’t have the Pistons’ to make up for it. Thornton’s and Motiejunas’s salaries are back on the books, pushing the Rockets over the luxury tax line. Not only do they now have to pay the luxury tax, they also won’t get luxury tax payouts from other teams, and are one season closer to triggering the extremely punitive repeater payments. They have a player whose back is so injured that even a team that coveted him wouldn’t take him. And finally, one of the league’s more unstable locker rooms now has two players who might sulk because they were legitimately traded, and another three (Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson, Patrick Beverley) who were prominently shopped.
The trade also hurts the 76ers, though much less so than the Rockets because they’re too shitty of a basketball team for any one setback to be that harmful. Their entire existence is a setback. Having Anthony’s contract on the books would have been no problem because the 76ers were already under the salary floor; they were going to have to pay that money to somebody. Picking up a second-round pick for their trouble was a smart, incremental move.
Except, to clear a roster slot for Anthony, the 76ers waived JaKarr Sampson, a second-year undrafted wing who has started 18 games this season. They expected Sampson to clear waivers, after which they would have waived Anthony and re-signed Sampson. But after clearing waivers yesterday, Sampson opted not to sign with the 8-47 team that cut him to make room for a dead-weight contract, instead signing a two-year partially guaranteed deal with the Denver Nuggets. With the trade being voided, the 76ers lost Sampson for absolutely nothing. It isn’t a catastrophic loss—Sampson is no Robert Covington, after all—but losing something for nothing isn’t great.
The last time I can remember a failed physical blowing up a completed trade was when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Tyson Chandler in 2009. The toe that so scared the Thunder has basically been fine, and you could make a decent argument that the Thunder would’ve won a title with him. But as far as immediate consequences, the Chandler trade was voided before the deadline, so both teams had the opportunity to do something about it. Not so for the Rockets, 76ers, and Pistons.
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