NBA Trade Deadline’s Definitive List of Winners & Losers
The NBA trade deadline is finally behind us, and while there were no major blockbusters that changed the power dynamic among the NBA’s elite, like always, a lot of teams are much better off and a lot of teams find themselves in even worse positions prior to the 3pm EST deadline.
Here is the definitive list of the 2021 NBA trade deadline’s winners and losers.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: Nikola Vucevic, Daniel Theis
Bulls basketball is back. Well, in theory that is. The Bulls made a couple moves at the deadline that declared their intentions to compete now, as they went out and acquired a second all-star to pair alongside their franchise cornerstone Zach LaVine. Nikola Vucevic gives the Bulls a proven scorer on the block and in range, as Vucevic is currently amidst a career season.
Putting up averages of 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, the Bulls add some much needed production at the five as the outgoing Wendell Carter Jr. has been largely disappointing for a team that’s looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Daniel Theis is a sneaky pickup as he can provide Chicago with spacing and defensive mobility as an undersized centre. With the Bulls currently in 10th place, they will look to move up the standings in the final stretch of the season and potentially see themselves avoid the play-in tournament between seeds seven through ten.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
Key Addition: Aaron Gordon
Denver has sorely lacked an athletic presence at the forward spot since the departure of Jerami Grant in the offseason via free agency, as veterans Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green have been fairly inconsistent throughout the season. The Nuggets were able to acquire Gordon due to Orlando’s fire sale, and he’s just the type of player Denver was looking for.
With the acquisition, Gordon will slot into more of a role-player’s position for the first time in his career. This will allow Gordon to become a more defensive-oriented player, which should bode well for the uber-athletic forward. Playing alongside one of the best playmaking centres the league has ever seen will also benefit Gordon’s offensive game. Expect the big-to-big lob to be one of the frequent plays out of Denver’s playbook moving forward.
Denver finds themselves in an in-between position within the Western conference, as they’re three games away from being both the eighth-seed and third-seed. Adding Gordon should give them much needed consistency at the power forward spot, while also aiding their march to the top of the West.
Winner: Orlando Magic
Key Addition: Choosing a definitive direction for the franchise
Orlando’s fire sale on Thursday officially marked the end of the team’s run at the seventh seed in the playoffs, and now the Magic have a clear direction to take their franchise.
The front office finally decided that it was no longer worth it being a first-round team, and now have their eyes on the NBA Draft. Acquiring young big man Wendell Carter Jr., who wasn’t even close to reaching his full potential in Chicago is a nice add. R.J. Hampton was a first-round draft pick in the 2020 draft, and should be a part of the Magic’s developmental plan for at least the next couple seasons.
Acquiring top-four protected draft picks from the Bulls in 2021 and 2023 is an added bonus for moving off of their 30-year-old all-star. It’s clear that the Magic weren’t going to be serious contenders any time soon, so they made the obvious decision to tear it down instead of floating around in the purgatory that is a middle-of-the-pack NBA team. Orlando fans, time to print those “Fade for Cade” t-shirts.
Loser: The Contender that stood pat, A.K.A. – L.A. Lakers
Teams that decide to stand pat at the trade deadline always do so more a number of reasons. While those reasons are circumstantial and unique to every individual team’s situations both financially and statistically, contenders should feel a certain urgency to make some sort of move to get better at the trade deadline.
For teams like the Lakers, the opportunity to get better was certainly present. Talks surrounding the Lakers potentially acquiring Kyle Lowry were rampant throughout the week, and it was reported by Shams Charania that Talen Horton-Tucker was ultimately the piece the Lakers refused to part with, and eventually halted the progress of a potential Lowry trade.
This decision may come back to bite the Lakers come playoff-time, as while the rest of the league may not value Lowry as highly as the Raptors do (Masai Ujiri’s words), he is a proven difference maker on both ends of the ball despite turning 35 this past Thursday.
In my eyes (as a long-time Raptors watcher), Lowry would put a healthy Lakers team over the top, as while Lowry can light up opponents with his scoring, his true value comes as a high-end role player who’s locked in on the defensive end while also being one of the league’s best playmakers. Lowry can still provide a postseason run similar to what he brought the 2019 Raptors, and alongside two stars in Anthony Davis and LeBron James, you can only imagine what Lowry’s impact could’ve been with the defending champs.
Loser: Portland Trail Blazers
A bit of a nitpick, but the Blazers’ decision to trade for Norman Powell won’t move the needle as much as they need it to. They find themselves in a similar position to the Nuggets, as they’re a slide away from being a play-in team, as well as a hot-stretch away from a top-four seed.
Powell has been electric this season after a disappointing start, and he’s really come into his own as a scorer as of late. He’ll certainly provide a greater scoring punch that both Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood can’t provide on certain nights, but is Powell’s scoring what the Blazers truly need?
Between CJ McCollum (who has been out for a majority of the season) and Damian Lillard, enough offence was already present prior to Powell’s arrival in Portland. The Blazers are missing an elite defender at the forward position, and their offseason signing of Robert Covington hasn’t exactly panned out as hoped.
A guy like Aaron Gordon would’ve been perfect here. An athletic presence that can solely focus on the defensive end of the game as CJ and Dame dominate on the other end. Powell is still a decent add, but not necessarily an addition that addresses the flaws the Blazers needed to address. Add in the fact that Powell has a player option for next season, and is likely to decline that player option, the Blazers gave up a future restricted free agent in Gary Trent Jr. for a potential rental in Powell.