Nothing gets the NBA fan community going quite like transaction talk. Rumors rule the timeline and the airwaves; actual moves dictate the conversation unlike anything outside of high-level playoff basketball.
There was plenty of reason for excitement this year. Not only we did we get a ton of movement — we got a couple of blockbuster deals. Big names, medium name, and lesser-known names all went hotel or apartment hunting this week.
Last year, I graded every trade from Deadline Day. This year, I’m giving my thoughts on every move of the week. That means the deals between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, miss the cut, but you can hear those thoughts on Tuesday’s episode of The Dunker Spot.
Feel free to yell at me about your favorite team’s grade. You can find me at @NekiasNBA on Twitter.
Let’s dig in.
- New Orleans Pelicans receive: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Tony Snell
- Portland Trail Blazers receive: Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Didi Louzada, protected 2022 first rounder (conveys if it lands between 5-14), two future second round picks
Blazers Grade: C-
It’s clear that finances drove this move more than anything else for the Blazers. The best player they received (Hart) has $12.9 million of non-guaranteed money next season if waived by June 25. Alexander-Walker is on his rookie contract still. Satoransky’s deal expires after the season. Louzada makes next to nothing, and is cost-controlled through 2025 if the Blazers want to keep him.
If you don’t care about the money, the return seems a bit underwhelming.
Hart is legit good, and should fill the gaps as a slasher, ball-mover, rebounder, and multi-positional defender. If the Blazers do decide to keep him, he’ll be a steady part of their rotation.
Alexander-Walker has been pretty bad this year, to be frank. He is young, though, and his brand of shot creation isn’t easily taught. I absolutely see the intrigue if he’s able to put it together.
I won’t pretend to be an authority on Louzada, but he’s wing-sized with these kind of skips on his film.
Worth taking a flier at least.
Pelicans Grade: B-
Devonte’ Graham’s jumper hasn’t fallen the way many hoped or expected it would (34.8% on 8.3 attempts), and the defense has #not #been #great.
McCollum won’t help with the latter, but his shot creation should give the Pelicans a much-needed boost in backcourt production.
Seven straight seasons averaging over 20 points per game is nothing to sneeze at; knocking down roughly 40% of your threes during that stretch is pretty good in my humble opinion. He’ll be able to take some of the half-court burden off of Brandon Ingram — he should help Zion Williamson too, provided he’s a basketball player who exists at this point.
I worry less about the money with McCollum — owed $69 million over the next two seasons — and more about the defensive fit. Having McCollum, Ingram (improved effort this year) and Jonas Valanciunas on the floor together leaves a bit to be desired. Add Zion into the picture, and that foursome 1) isn’t scheme-versatile at all, and 2) puts a lot of strain on rookie Herb Jones to piece that grouping together.
Larry Nance Jr. could help with some of those defensive issues eventually, but he’s slated to miss six weeks with knee surgery. When upright, he is a versatile defender — one that can defend multiple positions in a pinch, and can wreck havoc as a weakside helper.
- Indiana Pacers receive: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson
- Sacramento Kings receive: Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, 2027 second round pick
You can hear my extended thoughts from Tuesday night’s Dunker Spot Twitter Space.
Kings Grade: B-
Sabonis is really freakin’ good. His post scoring ability, in addition to his passing chops as a hub, should help the Kings pressure the rim in new and exciting ways. Holiday has long been one of the NBA’s best role players, a tireless defender and off-ball mover. Lamb has lost some of his movement skills, but remains a keep-an-eye-on-him shooter with slashing chops.
Pacers Grade: B+
If you’re going to trade an All-Star big that isn’t in the elite tier, it’s hard to get a better return than Haliburton. The second-year guard has grown leaps and bounds as self-creator since his last season of college, a welcome development in light of the shooting and playmaking ability he already has. If there’s a worry, it’s the fit with Rick Carlisle. Will he fully give the offense to Haliburton, or will he call set plays every other trip down the floor?
Even if it’s short-term, Hield gives the Pacers a nutty shooter to work with. He seems like an easy plug into the movement sets Carlisle likes to call. If Doug McDermott could shake loose under him, surely Hield can.
(Indiana might be better for Thompson than Thompson will be for Indiana.)
- Utah Jazz receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Juancho Hernangomez
- San Antonio Spurs receive: Tomas Satoransky, 2027 second round pick (UTA)
- Portland Trail Blazers receive: Joe Ingles, Elijah Hughes, 2022 second round pick (MEM, via UTA)
Blazers Grade: D
Well, so much for the NAW flier, huh?
The Blazers shave a little more off their cap sheet by going from Alexander-Walker to Hughes, and pick up what’s expected to be a late second-round pick from this year in the process.
There should be some playing time for Hughes available, so there’s a possibility this grade looks foolish in a month. As of now, I can’t say I love it.
Spurs Grade: C-
Satoransky has been a disaster this season, but at least has a track record of competency if you’re a glass-half-full fan. It seems more likely, based on San Antonio’s depth chart, that he’ll wind up being a buyout candidate.
Jazz Grade: C+
If you’re getting nothing out of the Ingles roster spot (get well soon!), flipping him for a young asset is a move you smile at in a vacuum. Alexander-Walker is intriguing enough, but 1) his ideal role is already filled by Jordan Clarkson, and I’d be worried about playing those two together on both ends, and 2) he does nothing to address the Jazz’s wing-defender problem.
Oh, and Hernangomez just isn’t doing it for me as a stretch-adjacent big. He doesn’t solve the defense problem either.
- Oklahoma City Thunder receive: KZ Okpala
- Miami Heat receive: 2026 second-round pick
Heat Grade: B
Pretty simple stuff for the Heat, here. At worst, they clear a roster spot and save themselves a little bit of money. At best — and this is where the pick amendment allowing them to move their 2022 or 2023 first-round pick comes into play — the Heat have given themselves the opportunity to be players in the trade and buyout market.
Thunder Grade: B
Pretty simple stuff for OKC, here. They take a flier on a rangy forward without any sort of long-term commitment. More importantly, they kick the pick protections on a Miami first-rounder down the road a bit. The gamble here is that they land Miami’s unprotected 2026 pick, the same year that Jimmy Butler likely opts into his [checks notes] $52.4 million deal at age-36.
- Sacramento Kings receive: Donte DiVincenzo, Trey Lyles, Josh Jackson
- Milwaukee Bucks receive: Serge Ibaka, two future second round picks
- Detroit Pistons receive: Marvin Bagley III
- Los Angeles Clippers receive: Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye
Clippers Grade: C+
This is really all you need to know.
The Los Angeles Clippers reduce their luxury tax payment by $30M by trading Serge Ibaka for Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood.
They will also generate a $9.72M trade exception. https://t.co/3UpcJ1M7PL
— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) February 10, 2022
On the player side, I’d at least keep an eye on Hood for the potential of providing bench scoring.
Pistons Grade: B-
Cade Cunningham finally has a roll threat! Bagley is an explosive athlete who should juice Detroit’s transition and half-court attack with his rim runs. The big question: What the heck else is he going to provide?
Will it be the jumper? Can he continue showing growth defensively so he can graduate from the liability class? I’m cool with Detroit taking the flier to find out.
Bucks Grade: B
The Bucks acknowledged their perimeter depth — Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton (get well soon!), Khris Middleton, Wes Matthews if you want to count him, Jordan Nwora — and decided to fill a need in the frontcourt.
Getting Ibaka (and picks, and a reduction on their tax bill) is something I can get behind. Ibaka’s having a solid shooting year, and offers theoretical scheme versatility on defense (can drop, switch in a pinch). I was intentional about adding “theoretical” though, because he’s certainly lost some of his movement skills this year.
Luckily for the Bucks, they don’t need him to be a Brook Lopez facsimile; they just need him to 1) offer a competent alternative to Bobby Portis and 2) be a better player than Greg Monroe.
Kings Grade: B
Following the Sabonis move, the Kings looked to add some depth.
DiVincenzo is a strong off-ball mover that should feast as a cutter alongside Sabonis. As he regains his footing, hopefully he’ll regain the screen navigation that made him one of the NBA’s most underrated defenders.
Josh Jackson also fits as a “feast off of Sabonis” option, and Lyles provides some frontcourt depth as a spacey 5.
- San Antonio Spurs receive: Goran Dragic (expected to be bought out), 2022 protected first-round pick (1-14 protected, 1-13 protected in 2023, two second-rounders after)
- Toronto Raptors receive: Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks (waived), 2022 second round pick (via DET)
Raptors Grade: B
Young hasn’t played much this season, but the hope is that Young continues to be a solid connector on both ends of the floor. He has legit short-roll playmaking chops with intermediate finishing to boot. Young is a natural fit in Toronto’s aggressive defensive scheme, and should slot in nicely as a backline rotator/communicator.
It’s fair to quibble about turning a mid-first-round pick into an early second (honestly, you could call it a late first since it’s likely going to be in the 31-33 range) for someone who probably won’t close games. He’s more of a bridge to the closing unit than a member; considering Toronto’s short rotation, that may be worth it.
Spurs Grade: B+
The Raptors are going to be a playoff team barring a drastic slide, so the Spurs essentially turned a veteran they weren’t playing and an early second-round pick (late first*) into a mid-first.
- Brooklyn Nets receive: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, 2022 first round pick (can be deferred to 2023), 2027 protected first round pick (1-8 protected in 2027 & 2028, turns into two seconds and $2 million in 2029 if not conveyed)
- Philadelphia 76ers receive: James Harden, Paul Millsap
Daryl Morey Grade: A+
That man dug his heels in and got his guy. Gotta give props where props are due.
Sixers Grade: B
For the actual deal, it’s pretty, pretty good.
Harden has not looked like himself for most of the season. Part of that is injury management; part of that is Brooklyn’s injury-riddled personnel shrinking the floor around him. A part of that is his own mileage and age catching up to him; honestly, part of that is him putting up piss-poor effort at times, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
But it’s important not to lose sight of who Harden is. Still. He remains one of the NBA’s most feared pick-and-roll artists — a do-it-all passer with the downhill chops to live in the paint or at the free-throw line. He should firmly answer the “who self-creates other than Joel Embiid” question.
The fit with Embiid is a tricky one. Harden prefers violent rim rollers in pick-and-roll — your Dwight Howards, Clint Capelas, Nic Claxtons if you’re looking for examples. Embiid isn’t that. He’s more of a pick-and-pop, pick-and-short-roll guy.
That’s not to say it won’t work — the closest analogue Harden has had to Embiid is LaMarcus Aldridge, and the pairing generated 1.11 points per possession on direct hookups in their time together, per Second Spectrum. Embiid, if you haven’t heard, is a little bit better than Aldridge. There will an adjustment period between the two, though.
More than that: What is Harden going to look like playing off of Embiid? Between a film dive on InStat and Second Spectrum, Harden finished two (2) possessions as a cutter in half-court situations this season. You can argue for a third if you count this possession against Detroit.
Defensively, having Harden on your team means you’re going to be a switch-heavy team. Period. That’s what he does. What’s Philly’s best version of that? A lineup with Harden, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris and Embiid? We’re about to see how scheme-versatile the Sixers can be on defense.
An underrated portion of this deal: losing Drummond is going to hurt. The Sixers have been trying to solve the “Embiid’s backup” issue for his entire tenure, and Drummond seemed to fit the bill. His size, rebounding, high-post playmaking and defense — he held firm in the drop and in more aggressive schemes — will be missed. Is Millsap ready to soak up those minutes? We shall see.
Nets Grade: B+
Let’s take the 10,000 feet view. The Nets had an aging, disgruntled superstar on the roster with the ability to leave this offseason. They traded that guy for a 25-year-old All-Star forward with four more years of team control. That’s a win in and of itself.
It just so happens that Simmons checks a lot of (unchecked) boxes for the Nets.
High level, versatile defender? Check.
Solid defensive rebounder with the ability to generate offense after misses? Check.
Instinctual ball-mover with the ability to generate triples at an obscene clip? Check.
Then you add in Curry, bombing away from three (40.0% on 5.6 attempts) and making defenses sweat as a pick-and-roll and handoff creator. You add in Drummond, a much-needed interior upgrade. You’re welcome to disagree since Harden is the best player in this deal, but the Nets seem to have won the trade at first glance.
There are still questions, of course.
We still have no idea when Simmons will be physically or mentally ready to play. When he does, he’ll need to be integrated into a unit that is without Kevin Durant, and without Kyrie Irving half the time.
When they do play together, it’s worth thinking about the cost-benefit analysis of Simmons in half-court situations.
Kyrie-Simmons pick-and-roll sounds great, until you (and many, many, many Sixer fans) note how inconsistent Simmons is as a screener.
Durant-Simmons actions sound great, but they are like-sized guys; what stops a defense from switching those actions? And if Simmons still can’t (and/or won’t) shoot, why wouldn’t you shade off of him to send help on Durant if a mismatch is created?
And even with Simmons in the building, the Nets are still expected to switch a ton. What if teams are able to switch Simmons away from the main action, and pick on an even smaller backcourt in Kyrie-Curry? Can you afford to play your best rim-protectors (Drummond, Claxton) alongside Simmons to beef up the interior without shrinking the floor for the other stars?
There’s plenty to be sorted out, even if the move was a good one on balance.
- Boston Celtics receive: Derrick White
- San Antonio Spurs receive: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first round pick (protected 1-4), 2028 first round pick swap
Spurs Grade: B
White clearly wasn’t part of their long-term plans; Dejounte Murray has become an All-Star, and the Spurs have invested pretty heavily in their guard room (Devin Vassell, Josh Primo, Lonnie Walker IV*) as of late.
Turning him into an extra first-round pick and a pick swap is a win. Getting Richardson as a 3-ish-and-D stopgap, and getting a look at Langford, is solid work too.
Celtics Grade: A-
The Celtics have the NBA’s third-best defense. They just added a guy that can do this:
In addition to that, White is a heady pick-and-roll creator that should further juice their budding half-court attack. The only real hindrance for me is White’s jumper; after being a league-average shooter from deep in 2019-20 (36.6% on 3.2 attempts), he’s converted just 32.9% of his triples (5.9 attempts) since then.
Opposing defenses have had some success shrinking the floor against Boston and daring them to win from outside. White may not alleviate those concerns. He may just be good enough at everything else to where it won’t matter too much.
- Phoenix Suns receive: Torrey Craig
- Indiana Pacers receive: Jalen Smith, 2022 second round pick
Pacers Grade: B-
Turning a veteran who isn’t in your future plans into a young piece is generally my cup of tea; it just stinks that there isn’t a surefire way for the Pacers to keep Smith if he hits.
In the short-term, he’s an interesting roll-or-pop option in ball-screens. With Myles Turner out, I’m interested to see him and Isaiah Jackson soaking up the frontcourt minutes and making magic with Haliburton.
Suns Grade: C+
Craig is a familiar face, a strong big-wing defender that has some utility against certain matchups. The playoff upside is limited because of how teams defend him off the ball (read: they really don’t), so it’s hard to be too high on the move.
- Charlotte Hornets receive: Montrezl Harrell
- Washington Wizards receive: Ish Smith, Vernon Carey Jr.
Wizards Grade: C-
It’s clear that Harrell didn’t have a robust market, but it would’ve been nice to snag a second-rounder if possible.
Smith is a familiar face that can provide a scoring spark off the bench. Carey Jr. is interesting flier in theory, but the big-man room is pretty crowded.
Hornets Grade: C+
Mason Plumlee has been LaMelo Ball’s most frequent screener this season; the pairing has only generated 0.92 points per possession on direct hookups, a bottom-five mark among high-volume duos, per Second Spectrum.
Let’s just say Montrezl Harrell should be much more effective.
That threat, in addition to the chaos he provides on the offensive glass, should be a welcome addition to Charlotte’s half-court attack.
On the other hand, the Hornets desperately need a boost in rim-protection. Harrell … is not the answer to that problem.
Still, if packaging Smith and Carey is the price to add a former Sixth Man of the Year, you swing that deal.
- Phoenix Suns receive: Aaron Holiday
- Washington Wizards receive: Cash considerations
Wizards Grade: C
Hooray, roster spot! Hooray, money!
Suns Grade: C+
Did anyone know the Suns had a Disabled Player Exception at their disposal? They just sprung that on everyone at the last minute?
At any rate, I kinda dig the flier on Holiday. He’s a solid shooter, has a nice first step and can be pesky at the point of attack. You can do a lot worse for a third guard.
- Dallas Mavericks receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans
- Washington Wizards receive: Kristaps Porzingis, second round pick
Wizards Grade: C+
The Spencer Dinwiddie Experiment was a wonky one, and we’re now two years into Davis Bertans being a disappointment after getting his five-year, $80 million extension. Replacing those guys with Porzingis is a talent upgrade, one that should fit a little better with the downhill pressure that Bradley Beal provides.
It’s easy to imagine a successful pick-and-pop partnership between the two; Beal has grown as a playmaker, and I think he’s different enough — and will be defended by different-enough players — to where switching that action will be tougher for defenses to navigate.
The Wizards run plenty of drop coverage, a style that Porzingis is most comfortable with. He’s been a solid rim-protector this year, and you can argue that the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-Kyle Kuzma duo on the wing is more talented than what the Mavericks are running out there this year.
There’s upside here, but health concerns will always persist with Porzingis. That kind of financial commitment, combined with Beal’s uncertain future, makes it difficult to feel much better about the trade.
Mavericks Grade: C
The bet for the Mavericks: Dinwiddie and Bertans will benefit more from Luka Doncic’s playmaking chops than they were able to from Beal. Beyond that, their deals will be easier to move if they need to spruce things up a bit. And beyond that, if Dinwiddie hits, they have a bit of a buffer against Jalen Brunson’s impending free agency.
As underwhelming as Dinwiddie has been this season, it’s worth noting he looked better in his minutes without Beal. If he’s able to recapture his downhill juice, he’ll be able to take pressure off Luka Doncic or help carry bench units with him off the floor.
Bertans is off to yet another slow start from deep (31.9% on 4.2 attempts), but in theory he gives Doncic a lethal pick-and-pop or transition threat.
- Houston Rockets receive: Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom (waived), Bruno Fernando
- Boston Celtics receive: Daniel Theis
Celtics Grade: C+
Brad Stevens just can’t quit Theis, can he?
We’ve seen him in Boston’s switch-heavy system before, and know the value he adds as a screen-and-seal guy for The Jays. Clearing roster spots, making them buyout players in theory, is a bonus.
Rockets Grade: C
I’d be surprised if Schroder is long for Houston. This feels buyout-y to me.
In the event that he does stay, Schroder gives the Rockets a backup guard with more downhill juice than the waived DJ Augustin. You could talk yourself into more drive-and-kick flow in an otherwise bland half-court attack.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism