The NBA Trade Deadline: A Day of Big Moves

The trade deadline is always an action-packed day in the NBA with contenders looking to lad up for a championship run and other teams starting their rebuild.

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By Michael Hu

The trade deadline is always an action-packed day in the NBA, with contenders looking to lad up for a championship run and other teams starting their rebuild. This year’s trade deadline was no exception. Below, we examine four pivotal moves that could shape the NBA in years to come:

Clint Capela

In the days leading up to the trade deadline, arguably the most high-profile move was made. Clint Capela was the centerpiece of a four-team trade that sent the young center to the Atlanta Hawks to team up with rising stars Trae Young and John Collins. The move was somewhat surprising for the Houston Rockets, who gave up their best big men in a season where they are hoping to contend for the title. However, the move showed Houston’s willingness to go all in on the five-out offense by acquiring forward Robert Covington. Houston management felt that Capela was clogging up driving lanes for Russel Westbrook and James Harden and thought that spreading the floor with five shooters would be Houston’s formula for success. Houston’s revolutionary offenses have come with criticism in recent years. It was the first team to rely on the three-point shot as the primary weapon on offense. Houston’s offense in 2019 focused on the isolation of James Harden. Analysts remarked that while the offense had worked during the regular season, come playoff time, teams would be locked in on stopping James Harden, which would force inexperienced players into high-pressure situations. On the Hawks’ side, though they probably will not make the playoffs this year, their big three are in place. To make the deal even sweeter, the big three for the Hawks are all making less than $17 million per year, so there is still cap space available to add important complementary pieces.

Marcus Morris Sr.

Perhaps the most underrated move of the NBA Trade Deadline was the Los Angeles Clippers’ trade for Marcus Morris Sr. The Clippers took advantage of a rebuilding New York Knicks team looking to move large contacts and acquire picks. They were able to acquire Morris Sr. by giving away an unprotected first-round pick. The Clippers, however, are a potential top two seed, so their draft pick will be low and they are looking to go all in to win the championship this year. As perhaps the best shooter on the Knicks this season, Morris Sr. was asked to take on a big scoring role for the first time in his career. He showcased his ability to score from all three levels, which will allow him to fit right in with this year's Clippers team. The Clippers are already loaded after signing Kawhi Leaonard and trading for Paul George this summer while retaining all the players from last year’s team who took the star-studded Golden State Warriors to six games. This team is extremely deep, but Morris has the ability to become the third leading scorer and send the Clippers over the hump in a loaded Western Conference.

D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins

D’Angelo Russell’s short stint as a member of the Warriors has come to an end. With this trade, he gets sent to team up with his long-time friend Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota in exchange for the young forward and former number-one pick Andrew Wiggins. This seems to be a good trade for both parties. Russell didn’t seem to be a great fit in the Warriors, and he now gets to pair up with Towns who possesses a lethal inside and outside game. This should make for a lethal combo, especially in the pick-and-pop game where Russell excels. As for Wiggins, he hasn’t had the start to his career that most people expected. His shot selection seems to be poor, and he isn’t shooting at a high percentage, along with a sub-par playmaking ability. He’ll be given a chance to restart with the Warriors, and playing alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson next season should give him many more open looks to help boost his confidence and shooting percentage. Everyone's a winner here.

Andre Drummond heads to Cleveland

In one of the more puzzling trades of the day, the Detroit Pistons sent Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a 2023 second-round pick. Drummond was one of the players who was bound to be moved by the 3:00 p.m. deadline, but Cleveland wasn’t the expected suitor. The Cavs, who already have big men Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance, who are playing well, acquired yet another big man, instead of possibly going after a young forward to pair up with young guns Colin Sexton and Darius Garland. This leaves Thompson to seemingly rot away on the bench, not to mention the Cavs having to continue to pay Drummond’s massive contract. But on the other hand, the Cavs didn’t seem to give up much for a former all-star like Drummond. Maybe there was something going on behind the scenes in Detroit that we don’t know about, but Drummond wasn’t happy about the trade, as shown by his angry tweets on Twitter, where he called out the Pistons for being unloyal. A puzzling trade all around.