With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror and All-Star weekend right around the corner, the second half of the NBA season is coming clearly into view. With that, and the multiple players that were moved before the deadline, there is no shortage of winners and losers from this past week in the Association.
Let’s take a look at the final winners and losers before the All-Star break, and see which players and teams ended up on the right and wrong sides of the trade deadline.
Winner: Andre Iguodala
What a win for Iggy. After being sent from Golden State to Memphis last summer following the semi-disbanding of the Warriors‘ dynasty roster, Iguodala essentially refused to show up to work. The Grizzlies‘ and the three-time NBA champion agreed that he didn’t have to report to the team while they searched out a trade.
While many across the league thought that would happen prior to the season, that clearly was not the case. Both Los Angeles teams expressed heavy interest in Iguodala immediately but didn’t appear willing to match Memphis’ selling price.
Again, what a win for Iguodala.
On his terms, at 36 years old and three championships later, Iguodala refused to spend a season on a team that had no title aspirations and didn’t back down from his request. In the end, it landed him on a team in prime position to make a run to the Finals this season.
Despite the segment of NBA fans (and Grizzlies players) who thought Iguodala should’ve played for Memphis and joined in on the exciting, young core the team boasts, the well-established veteran recognized his value and what this season meant to him at this stage of his career. To some degree, you have to respect that.
One final caveat to the deal as well, for both Iguodala and Miami: getting a championship vet who has fresh legs coming into the second of the season makes this an even bigger win than usual. At 36 years old, Iguodala might’ve saved himself some crucial miles on the tires by sitting out the first half of the season.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder fans
It’s hard not to feel happy for the fans down in OKC. This season was supposed to be a rebuild. It represented a new era for Thunder basketball. The last pillar of the team’s core – its brightest star, Russell Westbrook – was gone. Westbrook was traded for Chris Paul, whom everyone assumed would surely be traded at some point this season.
Then the magic started happening.
The Thunder are good. Led by Paul and assisted by the emergence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was the centerpiece of the Paul George trade, OKC is most certainly a playoff team. At 32-21 the Thunder are currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
The reason all of this equates to a win this week for Thunder fans is due to passing the trade deadline with this season’s core intact. Sam Presti and the front office could’ve decided that while the team is good this year, the future of the franchise is the most important. With multiple players that would’ve been attractive on the trade market (Paul, Danilo Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder to name a few) the Thunder could’ve stockpiled some assets and focused on rebuilding around Gilgeous-Alexander.
The feel-good story from the first half of the season would be no more, and the Thunder most certainly would have dropped out of playoff contention.
Instead, Presti passed on future plans and kept riding the wave of this team’s competitive spirit.
With the second half of the season remaining, the Thunder are just two and a half games behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. To go from losing the face of your franchise to making the playoffs is awesome in its own right, but to top it off by actually hosting a playoff series? That would be incredible.
Props to the OKC fans for sticking through the roller coaster ride up until the deadline. Now just sit back and enjoy what may come to you in the second half of the season with a playoff core intact.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
Somehow the Philadelphia 76ers have taken a season that boasted so much promise and instead morphed into the media’s favorite punching bag.
Every week the Sixers find a way to lose on the road, regardless of opponent. For a team that has the best home record in the NBA (24-2) being 9-19 on away from the Wells Fargo Center is mind-boggling. The conversation for national talk shows was once again made easy by Philadelphia when they capped off a four-game losing streak against the Bucks in Milwaukee.
Once again, the narrative shifted towards the Sixers’ inability to win on the road and the continually clunky fit the team has since swapping the likes of Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick for Josh Richardson and Al Horford.
Technically, the Sixers split their games last week at finished 2-2. But their losses included Milwaukee and a 31-point road shellacking to the Miami Heat on Monday. Two teams ahead of Philadelphia in the standings put them in the grinder while the Sixers are in the midst of a midseason identity crisis. Not great.
With a pair of layup home games in the latter part of the week against Memphis and Chicago, Philadelphia had its opportunity to get back on track.
They did. For the most part.
The Sixers won both games, though things got rocky against the Bulls.
What eventually wound up as a 118-111 victory was tied at 83 after three quarters. The league’s best home team was struggling against 19-34 Chicago after a week of turmoil. Joel Embiid, the team’s franchise center and often lightning rod for the fan base’s joy and hope, turned heel and delivered a shush to the booing crowd.
Not exactly something that takes place from a star player to a home crowd that’s had his back through various ups and downs in his short, yet impressive, career.
This Sixers did manage to add two pieces of bench depth at the trade deadline in Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, but it remains to be seen how much help they will provide to a team that is operating with a championship or bust mentality.
With the All-Star break on the horizon, the Sixers need some time to re-group more than any team in the league. The fans in Philadelphia are growing restless, and now it appears so are the star players.
Winner: D’Angelo Russell
Make this four teams in five years for D’Angelo Russell. From Los Angeles, to Brooklyn, then Golden State, and finally Minnesota. The 23-year-old All-Star point guard now finally appears to be on a team that values him as a focal point for the long-term future.
The Timberwolves finally ended their Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins experiment, opting to ship Wiggins to the Bay Area for Russell and in the process creating a better fit for both players and both teams.
Now, Russell has yet to make his debut for Minnesota, but a point guard with the ball-handling and scoring skills that Russell possesses in the pick-and-roll is the perfect complement to a big man of Towns’ ability.
Not to mention the fact that Russell and Towns are notably very close friends. Towns made sure he was the first person to greet his buddy when he landed in Minnesota from the Bay Area for the first time.
That is wholesome content.
Nearly all of the comments made from Russell since becoming a member of the Timberwolves have revolved around comfortability and feeling like home. This comes from a kid who was initially drafted second overall in 2015. Traded to Brooklyn after two seasons amid a narrative that he was difficult to deal with. Rejuvenated his career under the likes of Kenny Atkinson’s system with the Nets, where he made an All-Star team and the playoffs in Brooklyn. All to be moved on from once again when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant decided the Nets would be the franchise to house their superteam dreams. All to land on a team that already had two All-NBA guards in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, making it feel like he was operating on borrowed time with Golden State the moment he arrived.
That’s a lot for a 23-year-old player to take in at the start of his career.
Minnesota is embracing Russell the way no other team has in his career, and given the fact they moved on from former No. 1 overall pick, Wiggins, for him is yet another vote of confidence.
So here’s to D’Lo finally finding a long-term home.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
It’s hard to classify the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference as a loser in a week when it went 2-1. But the big picture implications that happened this week for the Los Angeles Lakers made it hard to omit them from this category.
First, after keeping tabs on Andre Iguodala all offseason and right up until the trade deadline, the Lakers were unable to land the added wing depth to LeBron James‘ arsenal. Instead, he wound up on another contender in Miami.
Next up was Marcus Morris. The forward enjoyed an incredibly successful first half of the season in New York, shooting a career-best 43.9 percent from beyond the arc on a career-high 6.1 3-point attempts per game, according to basketball reference. Unfortunately, again for the LakeShow, they fell short in acquiring their guy as Morris instead landed with the Clippers – intensifying the sting of losing out on the bidding war.
Two strikes for the Lakers.
At least their fallback option was Darren Collison, right? The point guard who surprised the league by retiring at age 32 this past offseason was considering a comeback after the All-Star break and had his sights set on the Lakers or the Clippers. In desperate need of another ball-handling guard to give LeBron a breather, Collison would’ve been a big-time get for the Lakers. Alas, another miss for the Purple and Gold. Collison ultimately decided a comeback wasn’t in his best interest, so he would instead stay retired.
Three players targeted; no players acquired. Not the best outcome that the Lakers could’ve hoped for.
Now, Los Angeles is still the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They still have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and they still are very likely to be in a position to make it to the NBA Finals. But the players they missed out on adding very well could be deciding factors in hoisting the Larry O’Brien or going home empty handed.