The NBA trade deadline hit the basketball world last Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, and with it the league got a major makeover. The NBA approached Thursday afternoon in the same manner most Vassar students face their own deadlines, waiting until the last possible moment to make any moves. But moves were made and 39 players switched franchises on 12 transactions, giving the league a major facelift and setting Twitter ablaze. Some teams fortified their playoff hopes while others sold their promising teams for scraps. But whether it is for the short or long term, this week many NBA stars are finding new homes in new cities.
As buzzer-beating shots prove, some of the best moves occur in a crunch, and this year’s trade deadline was no different as many of the biggest player transactions were announced with less than 20 minutes left. The biggest trade of the day sent Yugoslavian point guard Goran Dragic and his younger brother Zoran Dragic to the Miami Heat for three role players and two future first-round draft picks. These trade terms are not completely surprising coming from the Heat’s President Pat Riley, who famously values his team’s ability to win in the present over the process of waiting to develop young talent. The trade came during reports that Goran Dragic had been bumping heads with the Sun’s administration and had given the team a short list of teams they should trade him to that included Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks. Riley’s tendencies also include picking up frustrated players who want to win now, raising the question of whether Dragic will join the ranks of LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal as players who left teams in frustration in route to Miami only to win quick championships under Riley’s guidance. Dragic is not in the same talent bracket as Shaq and LeBron, but with the trade, Miami is in a position to win now. With the Dragic brothers, the Heat are still likely to make a splash in the playoffs even with star forward Chris Bosh out for the rest of the season with blood clots in his lungs.
Another team gearing up to make a long playoff run is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who dominated all trade season and struck again on the last day. Kendrick Perkins became the newest knight of LeBron’s roundtable as the Cavaliers bought out the rights to Perkins’ contract from the Utah Jazz who had just acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perkins joins a Cavs team that is vastly different from a year ago but undeniably on the rise. In the last year, the Cavs have been on a player acquisition rampage, starting with LeBron’s homecoming, ascending with the Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love trade and ending with the acquirement of J.R. Smith and Timofey Mosgov. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the NBA version of the “The Six Million Dollar Man” with barely any of their talent, minus Kyrie Irving, manifesting naturally. But I don’t think criticizing the Cavs’ inorganic structure bother’s LeBron much, considering their second best Eastern Conference record and promising playoff prospects.
In contrast, league-leading teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks display how success on the court can be reached through patience and talent development. Neither team has made a major roster move this season or in the entirety of last season, a choice that has allowed both teams to develop strong team chemistry that has led to wins. It should also be considered that developing talent instead of trading for it creates an environment for players where they do not have to fear being traded. Team management acting loyally towards their players allows the players to focus on their craft, instead of managing oneself as an asset to be transferred for money or lack of success.
The Philadelphia 76ers refused to follow the model of steady development towards success. In a puzzling set of decisions, they traded away two of their best players with huge upside potential. First, Philadelphia sent rookie strong forward K.J. McDaniels to the Houston Rockets in exchange for second-string point guard Isaiah Canaan and a 2nd round draft pick. Then, in an action that showed their organization had no concern for winning games this season, the 76ers traded their star point guard and last year’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for a first round pick. Philadelphia’s trades reflect poorly on the organization’s ability to appreciate talent that Carter-Williams and McDaniels obviously had, and goes against the idiom that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the tree.” The 76ers made progress this year and had promising talent, but now their fans can only look forward to the NBA draft, hoping they get lucky.
According to ESPN, Thursday was the most action-packed trade deadline since 1990. Yet it is important to remember that most teams only conduct trades when they are needed. Most contenders avoid interfering with their team’s chemistry as much as possible. Whether or not teams decided to cash their chips or go all in, the deadline displayed that player transactions are one of the best ways to create a solid team in a hurry.