Everyone can carefully take a step back and inhale a deep belly breath — the NBA trade deadline has officially come and gone. As tends to happen in this league, the deadline was originally projected to be relatively quiet, but turned into quite a frenzy with good players and difference-makers being sent to and from title contenders.
Not all deals are created equal, however, as we know. The Trail Blazers trading Skal Labissiere and cash to the Hawks for, well, nothing, certainly doesn’t move the needle. But there were multiple trades, starting with Tuesday’s four-team, 12-player mega-deal, that could change the landscape of both the Eastern and Western Conference.
With that in mind, we decided to rank the most significant 2020 NBA trade deadline deals, in terms of both this season and future impact. Enjoy, and get ready for the buyout market!
1. Heat take step forward with Iguodala, Crowder
The Andre Iguodala sweepstakes was one of the biggest storylines heading into the deadline, and the Heat came away as big winners. They traded away a promising, if oft-injured, young player in Winslow, but they ended up with Iguodala, a veteran wing who not only helps in the locker room on a young team (Warriors coach Steve Kerr used to call Iguodala “the babysitter” in Golden State) but also provides wing depth and an elite defender to throw at Eastern Conference perimeter threats like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum and Victor Oladipo. If that weren’t enough, the Heat also add Crowder, a useful 3-and-D wing (though his shooting has waned in recent years) with valuable playoff experience.
This trade takes on added significance because it also sets the Heat up for future transactions. They shed the bloated contracts of Johnson and Waiters, which frees up cap space, and the second year of Iguodala’s $30 million extension has a team option in case the Heat can court one of the coveted 2021 free agents. This trade allows the Heat to not only contend this season, but also to become even more powerful over the next two seasons. For that, it’s the most significant trade of the deadline. And for what it’s worth, Winslow is a nice piece to add to a young, up-and-coming Grizzlies team that’s way ahead of schedule.
2. Wolves finally get Russell, give up Wiggins
This deal is significant for a number of reasons, but let’s start with the immediate impacts. The Timberwolves have coveted Russell since at least last summer, and finally acquired him to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns as the future of the organization. On the other side, the Warriors take a chance on Wiggins, who has been disappointing as a former No. 1 overall pick but certainly fits onto the roster, at least on paper, much better than Russell once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson return healthy.
Now for the future. Russell and Towns are close friends, so this will possibly keep Towns content as the clock is already ticking on his 2024 free agency. If this makes him happy, the ripple effects are far-reaching, since some speculated Towns would be the next disgruntled star to demand a trade. As for the Warriors, they acquire what should be an excellent pick in the 2021 draft, which is widely considered to be a much deeper class than 2020. Golden State could also potentially package that pick and their own 2020 first-round pick for another piece to add to what should be a championship-contending core next season and beyond.
This trade has the most immediate ramifications, perhaps just behind Miami’s additions, but the lack of future significance knocks it down a peg. Make no mistake, however — this deal could have more impact on this year’s NBA title race than any other deadline move. Not only did the Clippers replace Harkless with Morris, who averaged a career-high 19.6 points per game with the Knicks on 44 percent 3-point shooting this season, but they also kept Morris away from the Lakers, who were reportedly also in discussions with New York on the veteran forward.
Morris is a major upgrade over Harkless, and he has the reputation of being the type of tough defensive player the Clippers will need to make a deep playoff run. He’s also an excellent shooter, scoring 1.234 points per possession in spot-up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, which puts him among the league leaders. The fact that the Clippers got Morris instead of the Lakers could end up swinging what seems like an inevitable Western Conference finals matchup between the two Los Angeles teams.
4. Four-team, 12-player deal involving Covington, Capela
This deal kicked off the trade deadline frenzy on Tuesday, and involved more players than any NBA trade in 20 years. The most immediate impact is for the Rockets, who had fixed their eye on Covington, a prototypical 3-and-D wing. They got rid of Capela, but clearly valued Covington’s versatility and shooting over a big man who may not be as valuable to them as he is to other teams (the Rockets have gone 11-1 with Capela out of the lineup this season). The move solidifies a commitment to small-ball from Houston, and should provide an interesting look for opponents in the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Hawks’ addition of Capela is more of a long-term play since Atlanta is probably still at least a couple of years away from true contention, but it gives them a defensive presence in the middle which they’ve sorely lacked, as well as a lob partner for Trae Young. The move also could help keep Young happy after he reportedly expressed frustration with the Hawks’ situation earlier this season.
5. 76ers pick up wing shooting
The most glaring offensive problem for the 76ers is shooting — they’re 21st in the league in 3-point percentage and 23rd in 3-pointers made per game — and they addressed that with Burks and Robinson, who are both shooting over 37 percent from deep this season and averaging career-highs in points per game. The Sixers would have loved to get a bigger name, but they had limited trade assets to work with unless they were willing to part with Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, which was never on the table. Robinson and Burks likely won’t take Philadelphia over the top, but they’re useful enough to make an impact as they fight for Eastern Conference playoff positioning.
6. Drummond trade underwhelms
Well, this is not the Andre Drummond trade we thought we’d see. The two-time All-Star was linked to the Hawks earlier this season, but those talks reportedly fell through and Atlanta set its sights on Clint Capela. That apparently left the Pistons without many options, as they were clearly ready to move on from Drummond and decided to take what they could get. The result is the Cavs swooping in to grab Drummond for practically nothing — salary filler and a second-round pick — on a low-risk, high-reward maneuver. This trade doesn’t have much significance because the two teams involved are among the league’s worst, but many were wondering where Drummond would eventually end up, and at 26 years old he could potentially grow with the young core Cleveland is putting together. Or he could walk this summer in free agency, and it’ll be like this never happened. We’ll have to wait and see.