NBA trade deadline winners and losers (Can you guess which ones go where?)

NBA trade deadline winners and losers (Can you guess which ones go where?)

Where does Aaron Gordon’s trade land?
Where does Aaron Gordon’s trade land?
Image: Getty Images

There were 16 trades involving 23 organizations and 46 players yesterday, making it the most active trade deadline ever.

Many of the moves, as usual, will likely be inconsequential in relation to victories in the interest of rebuilding, draft pick accumulation, salary filler, and low-risk prospect swings. But there were a few significant deals that could shape this season, which playoff picture appears as unpredictable as any pursuit in recent memory, even more than last season in the bubble.

Of the top deals from yesterday, could any significantly impact a team in the form of an unforeseen championship chase? Last year, it was Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala who did, not D’Angelo Russell, not Andre Drummond, and not Marcus Morris. Crowder and Iguodala did, Crowder especially.

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Winner: Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets

Winner: Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets

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Image: Getty Images

Aaron Gordon’s finally been traded. After years of rumors, trade machine inclusions, and more recently, a request, Gordon will be receiving alley-oops from Nikola Jokic as the Nuggets’ third or fourth option in their championship chase.

The tweener forward hasn’t quite become the All-Star some have expected, but he’s played well in Orlando this season, averaging 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. His shooting splits are 43.7 / 37.5 / 62.9. He’s also signed through 2022, making $16.4 million next season.

Bonus for the Nuggets: They rid themselves of Gary Harris’ contract, and Gordon is an immediate overnight upgrade who could play alongside any combination the Nuggets trot out there at either forward spot.

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Loser: Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics

Loser: Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics

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Really, Boston? All the talk of having a $28 million trade exception, and you trade for a guard? So this means the Celtics will run a lineup of Kemba Walker-Evan Fournier-Marcus Smart-Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum to end games, still leaving them with no center to speak of, unless they sign Andre Drummond, which they’re rumored to do.

And their trade of Daniel Theis for Mo Wagner means more minutes for the struggling Tristian Thompson. The Celtics not acquiring a big is a failure they might not be able to address in the buyout market, and it’s even possible that they’re primed for an unceremonial playoff exit without a considerable turnaround.

But, hey, Fournier is having a career-year of 19.7 points per game and has splits of 46 / 39 / 80. But they haven’t addressed their primary need.

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Winner: Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers

Winner: Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers

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Powell could’ve benefitted from Gordon, but instead of ending the trade deadline with added size, they add a third guard who is averaging around 20 points per game, betting on having an unstoppable 1-3 en route to the playoffs.

The pre-season Sixth Man of the Year favorite is averaging 19.6 points per game on shooting splits of 49.8 / 43.9 / 86.5. Over the last two months, a 28-game stretch, he’s averaging 23.5 points on 52.7 / 45.0 / 86.2 splits. He’ll been paired with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and if Jusuf Nurkic could come back healthy and something closer to what he displayed last season as opposed to early this season, the Blazers might have something in a year where LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both injured.

They should land a big on the buyout market, though.

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Loser: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Loser: The Cleveland Cavaliers

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The inability to find a deal for Andre Drummond’s expiring near $29 million salary wasn’t expected but is a missed opportunity for the Cavaliers no less. Drummond was acquired last trade deadline for John Henson, Brandon Knight, and a future second-round pick, and Drummond dropped his usual 17 points and 13 rebounds per game since, but Cleveland wasn’t able to yield anything in return.

He’s now bought out and has interest in the Lakers, Clippers, and Knicks, among other teams.

But at least, for the Cavs, they’re clear to extend Jarrett Allen this summer and moving forward with their young core, led by Collin Sexton, and Darius Garland.

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Winner: Rajon Rondo to the Los Angeles Clippers

Winner: Rajon Rondo to the Los Angeles Clippers

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Rajon Rondo is done wasting his time in Atlanta, where Lou Williams will now go, which provoked a lot of corny Twitter jokes. But in any event, the Clippers have a point guard you could trust in the playoffs, which matters.

Rondo sucked in Atlanta, but it didn’t make sense for him to be there, to begin with. Last season with the championship-winning Lakers, he posted 8.9 points and 6.6 assists per game in the playoffs, shooting over 45-percent from the field and 40-percent from three. Kawhi Leonard has wanted a true point guard, which wasn’t either Lou Williams, an off-the-bench and over-the-hill undersized scoring guard or Patrick Beverley, who is an undersized three-and-d shooting guard in a point guards body.

Rondo, even at this stage, is a good fit beside Leonard and Paul George and allows someone else to initiate the offense as they try to convince us all they’re championship ready. (We’ll believe it when we see it.)

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Too early to tell: The Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic

Too early to tell: The Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic

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The Magic are in full rebuild mode, and on paper, both they and the Bulls accounted for themselves well in this exchange centered around Nikola Vucevic, Wendell Carter Jr., and picks.

For the Bulls, Vucevic gives LaVine a legitimate tag team partner, and at his peak, Vucevic has never played with another All-Star. The Bulls are 10th in the Eastern Conference and 19-24, but LaVine is signed through 2022, with the likelihood of him earning an extension this summer. Vucevic is signed through 2023, making only a combined $46 million through the next two years after this season. They didn’t move Lauri Markkanen but could sign-and-trade the restricted free agent for draft capital this summer.

For the Magic, who are still without the injured Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac this season, they add more to their young core, leaving them legitimate prospects and picks moving forward. Carter’s averaged 10.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game throughout his career and never was a seamless fit in Chicago since being made the seventh overall pick in 2018. In the Gordon trade, Orlando also added R.J. Hampton, an extremely talented guard who was a top-five high school prospect before his stock dropped after spending a season in the NBL of Australia, the same league LaMelo Ball played in.

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Winner: Victor Oladipo to the Heat / Loser: The Rockets

Winner: Victor Oladipo to the Heat / Loser: The Rockets

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The Rockets piece of this is frustrating if you’re a fan of the team, who only have draft picks and pick swaps to show for the departure of James Harden. For Oladipo, who was received in the deal as opposed to current Indiana Pacer Caris LeVert, Houston got back Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 pick swap from Miami. That’s it. They recently ended a 20-game losing streak, and are now considerably worse without a lot of promise to show going forward.

Having just touched on this earlier, here’s what I wrote regarding why Oladipo could have an immense impact while in Miami.

“And, in all likelihood, they’ll probably get the best version of Oladipo. They damn near have to. Oladipo will be a free agent this summer, and he’ll turn 29 years old in May, making this his last opportunity at a huge contract. He’s also on his fifth team in six seasons, so it would behoove him to start busting people’s asses. The Heat are just 22-23 amid their current five-game losing streak, and if Oladipo could impact winning in a meaningful way, it’ll bode well for his financial ambitions.

Moreover, Miami is where he wanted to be the whole time. He’s lived and trained there. Miami’s done more with less, so why would they think this isn’t going to work out? It basically has to.”

Additionally, Oladipo scored over 20 points per game in Houston but shot inefficiently on a tanking team. But the Heat aren’t that, they’ve kept nearly their entire rotation in-tact, and Oladipo provides the consistent scoring punch from the guard spot, along with an on-ball defender, they’ve needed. It’s the move that could perhaps shake up the title picture the most because of the outlined reasons above and the uncertainty atop the Eastern Conference.

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