Friday, March 1

NBA trade deadline 2022: Grading every move as they happen

The NBA trade deadline means different things to different teams. Winning organizations use the deadline as their final chance to add a meaningful piece before the playoffs. Bad teams often decide to be sellers, trading their proven players for future assets and the hope of improving their own draft position. Some teams just want to clear salary to get out of the luxury tax, while others make moves now that will have a bigger impact in future years.

In years past the trade deadline has been defined by the flurry of last minute deals before the 3 pm ET, but this year the fireworks started early. The Portland Trail Blazers broke up their foundation to free up salary cap space around Damian Lillard. The Cleveland Cavaliers filled their biggest need ahead of a surprise playoff run. The Kings and Pacers also agreed to a franchise-altering deal for both organizations that swapped Domantas Sabonis and Tyrese Haliburton.

We will be grading every NBA trade at the deadline as the deals roll in. Let’s go.

James Harden traded to 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry

full deal: 76ers acquire James Harden. Nets acquire Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, unprotected 2022 first round pick, protected 2027 first round pick.

76ers grade: TO

Nets grade:B

The big deal the entire league was waiting on finally happened. Harden has had a down year by his standards, but he’s still been one of the best guards in the East this season. He paired with the leading MVP candidate Joel Embiid to make the Sixers an immediate championship threat. The Nets’ title hopes to take a hit here, but Simmons and Curry are both nice fits next to Durant and Irving long-term. The Nets’ bold trade for Harden did not pay off, but they come out of it with a younger star who profiles as one of the league’s best defenders in Simmons.

The question is now how Harden and Embiid fit in Philly. Their playing styles don’t feel like a perfect match, but there’s no denying their talent. This is the best 1-2 punch in the NBA right now. Harden will eventually sign a massive extension, and the big question is whether his game will age well enough to live up to it. This is a big win for Harden (who wanted out of Brooklyn), Simmons (who wanted out of Philly), and Daryl Morey, who played hardball. The Nets are less likely to win the title this year after this trade, but they could be set up nicely for the future depending on Irving’s playing status.

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Bucks get Serge Ibaka, Pistons get Mavin Bagley III in 4-team trade

full deal: Bucks acquire: Serge Ibaka, two future second round picks. Pistons acquire: Marvin Bagley III. Kings acquire: Donte DiVincenzo, Trey Lyles, Josh Jackson. Clippers acquire: Semi Ojeleye, Rodney Hood.

bucks grade: B-

Piston grade: B+

kings grade: TO

clippers grade: C

We’ll start with Milwaukee: Brook Lopez has been out most of the season with a back injury, and acquiring Ibaka provides front court insurance in case he can’t return. Ibaka can stretch the floor and block shots even at 32 years old, but it does seem like he’s not moving as well this season. In return, Milwaukee sends out its best trade chip in DiVincenzo. You wonder if the Bucks will regret forgoing the extra depth on the wing come playoff time. Meanwhile, the Pistons get a bouncy big man in Marvin Bagley III, who gets a chance to revive his career after being labeled as a draft bust in Sacramento. He should be a nice lob target for Cade Cunningham. The Kings pick up more wing depth with DiVincenzo in the deal, and also get depth in the front court with Lyles. Meanwhile, the Clippers are saving $30 million on the luxury tax after acquiring Norman Powell a few days ago.

The Bucks still need Lopez to get healthy come playoff time. If he’s not, Ibaka and Bobby Portis will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.

Raptors Acquire Thad Young

full deal: Raptors get Thad Young, Drew Eubanks, 2022 Pistons second rounder. Spurs get Goran Dragic (who they plan to release) and Toronto’s lottery protected first round pick. Details.

raptors grade: TO-

spurs-grade: TO-

Thad Young had a great season with the Bulls last year before being banned to the bench following a trade to a rebuilding Spurs team. He’ll provide front court scoring, rebounding, and playmaking for the Raptors as they look to push their way into the playoffs without needing to go through the play-in tournament. The Raptors give up a first round pick, but get back Detroit’s second rounder, which will be very early in the 30s. This is a nice draft trade up for the Spurs, who had no use for Young anyway. Dragic will be bought out, with Dallas and Chicago among the interested teams.

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Celtics make a money saving deal

Grades: N/A

Kings, Pacers swap Domantas Sabonis, Tyrese Haliburton

full deal: The Pacers trade Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday and a 2023 second-round pick to Kings for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson.

Kings grade: A

Pacers grade: C

The Pacers finally broke up the Sabonis-Myles Turner pairing, and chose to deal Sabonis for a nice package from the Kings. Sabonis is a 25-year-old, two-time All-Star big man on a friendly team contract for the next two years. He’s an excellent inside scorer, an elite rebounder, and a good passer. He’s also a poor defender and shaky outside shooter, which makes his pairing of him with Kings guard De’Aaron Fox questionable. In return, the Pacers get the soon-to-be 22-year-old Haliburton, a wiry 6’5 guard who struggles to get to the basket but is a great passer, a 41 percent three-point shooter, and an opportunistic off -ball defending Haliburton should be a great piece in the Indiana backcourt for a long time. Sabonis is a serious talent, but the jury is still out on how much better he makes the Kings.

Pelicans acquire CJ McCollum from Trail Blazers

full deal: Pelicans trade Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Didi Louzada, a protected first-round pick (No. 5 to 14 protected for 2022), and two second-round picks to Portland for CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. , and Tony Snell.

Pelicans grade: B+

Trail Blazers grade: C-

The Pelicans have put themselves in play-in tournament position after a 1-12 start, and now they’re adding the type of scoring guard they desperately needed to increase the offense. The 30-year-old McCollum will give New Orleans a 6’3 guard who can rip three-pointers and provide some added juice off the dribble. It hurts to lose a solid role player like Josh Hart, but the Pelicans offense suddenly has a lot of weapons after this deal. This trade signals the end of an era for Portland, but it feels like this move was made a couple years too late. Portland would be wise to retain Hart, because the rest of this package isn’t that intriguing.

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Clippers acquire Norman Powell from Trail Blazers

full deal: The LA Clippers trade Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Portland for Norman Powell and Robert Covington.

Clippers grade: A

Trail Blazers grade: D

Powell has now been dealt at the trade deadline two years in a row despite the 6’3 guard putting up another season of efficient scoring and outside shooting. Powell has some juice off the dribble, and is a major threat attacking the defense off a closeout. He’s hit 40 percent of his threes in each of the last four seasons. The Clippers’ chances feel DOA this year with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both possibly out for the season with injuries, but Powell will make the team more potentially offensive next year. Adding Robert Covington as a rangey front court defender could be a nice addition to the rotation, as well. Portland mostly did this trade to clear money. Keon Johnson represents the only player with upside in the deal.

Cavaliers acquire Caris LeVert from Pacers

full deal: Cavaliers trade Ricky Rubio (injured), a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick, Houston’s 2022 second-round pick, and two second-round picks for LeVert

cavas grade: B+

Pacers-grade: B+

The Cavs are the most pleasant surprise of the season, emerging as an Eastern Conference contender behind the young trio of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. Season-ending injuries left Cleveland without much additional ball handling, so LeVert was acquired to change that. LeVert is an excellent driver off the bounce and has microwave scoring ability, which will be a big boost for a below-average offense. The Pacers come away with one first round pick likely in the early-to-mid 20s, and an early second round pick projected to be in the early 30s. That’s not a bad haul for a somewhat inefficient yet talented scorer.

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