Friday, June 21 2024

We’re five weeks removed from the NBA’s trade deadline and five weeks shy of the postseason. What better timing for a progress report card on every playoff team that shopped the trade and buyout markets. Who’s better since our instant reaction to the deadline’s winners and losers? Who’s worse? Pencils down, people.

It took several weeks for Tillman to be cleared from a sore left knee, and his return has been met with inconsistent playing time, if any at all. In theory, he provides some insurance in a frontcourt that features Kristaps Porziņģis and a 37-year-old Al Horford. In practice, he did more harm than good as a third big opposite Nikola Jokić‘s Denver Nuggets last week, raising questions about his role on a healthy Celtics roster. Who could fault Boston, though, for adding depth without upsetting the chemistry of the NBA’s best team.

Grade: C

The Mavericks traded the rights to a pair of first-round draft picks, severely limiting their trade flexibility over the life of Luka Dončić‘s contract, for two players who might not even close games for them in the playoffs.

Gafford has been playing well, making his last 28 field-goal attempts and pushing his record as the Mavs’ starter to 5-0, but Dereck Lively II is their center of the future, and Gafford doesn’t make them more of a contender in the meantime. Likewise, Washington provides little more than Williams could have. To hinder their ability to continue building around Dončić for so marginal an upgrade (at best) could be catastrophic.

Grade: D-

(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports Illustration)(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

  • Players out: Cory Joseph

  • Picks in: 2024 R2 (least favorable CHI, CLE, IND, MIL, NOP, UTA)

  • Picks out: 2025 R2 (CHA, top-55 protected)

When you have an aging championship core and are fighting for relevancy in the play-in tournament, why not … stand pat? It seemed odd not to address their fading title prospects, but increased contributions from Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski must’ve given them pause about pursuing an upgrade. Except, Stephen Curry‘s latest ankle injury lays bare how shallow they’ve become from a shot creation standpoint.

Grade: F

  • Players in: Pascal Siakam, Doug McDermott, Cory Joseph

  • Players out: Buddy Hield, Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora

  • Picks in: 2024 R2 (less favorable CHI or NOP), 2024 R2 (TOR, CLE or UTA), 2025 R2 (CHA, top-55 protected), 2029 R2 (POR)

  • Picks out: 2024 R1, 2024 R1 (OKC), 2026 R1 (top-4 protected), 2024 R2 (IND, CLE, UTA, CHI, NOP or MIL)

The Pacers’ January trade for Siakam led us to believe they could chase a home playoff seed this season, and then they took a step back at the deadline, dealing Hield for a few second-round picks. McDermott does not command as much attention, and a season-ending injury to Bennedict Mathurin has not helped, either. What was a historic offense to start the season has been a middling outfit since the start of February.

The acquisition of Siakam was a longterm investment, assuming he re-signs. His partnership with Tyrese Haliburton has produced a negative net rating to date, but the Pacers have struggled to field a consistent rotation around them. This was always a stepping-stone move, and it does inch them closer to completing the puzzle. It was also a fair price to pay in a league that rarely sees small markets secure All-NBA talent.

Grade: B

The Clippers pushed all their chips into the center of the table for Harden, tying the future of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in Los Angeles to another aging and unreliable superstar. This injection of Harden has (so far) stuck to the script that he performed for fans in Brooklyn and Philadelphia — an injection of optimism, followed by the gradual realization that Harden’s reputation for fading from the rigors of a season is earned.

That said, lineups featuring Harden, Leonard and George are outscoring opponents by 10.6 points per 100 possessions — and more when they remove Russell Westbrook from that equation. Optimism remains, at least until Harden’s penchant for heliocentric offense and absentee defense prevents another playoff run.

Grade: C

There was little difference between signing Dinwiddie off waivers and waving the white flag on this season. The Lakers, clinging to a play-in tournament berth, did nothing to improve themselves at the deadline. They can’t afford to waste a healthy season from Anthony Davis or any season for a 39-year-old LeBron James, and yet they kept their powder dry until the summer, when their latest pursuit of a third star could end in more disappointment. Why trade for Dejounte Murray now when you can fail to land Trae Young later?

Grade: F

In seven games since returning from a sprained right knee, Rozier is averaging 18 points (on 48/39/93 shooting splits) and six assists (against just 1.9 turnovers) as Miami’s starting point guard. He hasn’t won the way the Heat might have liked, but they still have time to ensure his production generates victories. The combination of Rozier, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo can’t yield -0.5 points per 100 possessions forever.

Wright and Mills will also have their playoff moment or two. None of these is the sexiest move anyone has ever made in Miami, but reshaping an entire position for a lottery-protected first-round pick is quite a coup. If it does nothing but ensure a base level of competency on the ball, the Heat’s front office has done its job.

Grade: B

The Bucks had little to work with, since they spent most of their capital on the offseason trade for Damian Lillard. That deal requires its own grade — one they did not like for half the season — but they are showing signs of settling into the kind of contender they should be. The defense is back to a top-10 level since Doc Rivers replaced Adrian Griffin on the bench. Beverley’s 18 minutes a night are only a small part of that improvement, but his attitude is worth emulating if Milwaukee intends to fight for its season on that end.

Grade: B-

Minnesota might have taken a bigger swing if it knew Karl-Anthony Towns would suffer a knee injury, but the news came too late, and signing Warren off the couch was their only option left — and not a good one.

Before they needed to replace Towns’ offensive creation, the Timberwolves needed help behind Mike Conley at point guard, and Monte Morris was gathering rust in Detroit. Part of that was due to a lingering quadriceps injury in the leg opposite his current hamstring injury. There is a world where Morris’ decision-making helps Minnesota in the way it imagined, but that all requires health at the top end of the rotation.

Grade: C-

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 27: OG Anunoby #8 of the New York Knicks dunks the ball past Bam Adebayo #13, Jimmy Butler #22, and Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on January 27, 2024 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 27: OG Anunoby #8 of the New York Knicks dunks the ball past Bam Adebayo #13, Jimmy Butler #22, and Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on January 27, 2024 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
The Knicks’ deal for OG Anunoby has been a slam dunk. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

It’s all gone to hell in a heap of injuries, but the Knicks were a formidable force when they first acquired Anunoby, outscoring opponents by 10.9 points per 100 meaningful possessions in his minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass. The absences of Anunoby and Julius Randle stunted that development and forced Bogdanović and Burks into more important roles than New York’s newest arrivals were supposed to fulfill.

Still, there is a chance everything clicks again, and the former Pistons fall in line behind them. The Knicks could be deep and tough and the kind of team nobody wants to face in any round of the playoffs. If not, Anunoby is expected to re-sign, and the Knicks held onto their most coveted draft capital for the summer.

Grade: A-

  • Players in: Gordon Hayward, Bismack Biyombo, Mike Muscala

  • Players out: Tre Mann, Dāvis Bertāns, Aleksej Pokuševski, Vasilije Micić

  • Picks in: 2027 R1 swap (LAC), 2028 R1 swap (DAL)

  • Picks out: 2024 R1 (second-least favorable HOU, LAC, OKC or UTA), 2026 R1 (least favorable HOU, LAC or OKC), 2024 R2 (HOU), 2025 R2 (PHI)

Hayward is 16-for-41 from the field in 15 minutes a night off the bench since joining the Thunder, so we may have overrated his seamless fit as a veteran wing on a young team that needed one. There’s a chance he supplants Josh Giddey in crunch time, but his risk of injury is just as likely. This is the Hayward experience.

What the Thunder really needed was a backup big, and they had the assets to chase anyone they wanted. Instead, they signed Biyombo and Muscala off the scrap heap, platooning defense and offense behind their rookie center Chet Holmgren. It feels like a missed opportunity in a Western Conference dominated by size.

In the meantime, Oklahoma City executive Sam Presti squeezed a couple more first-round pick swaps from teams tapped out of draft capital. Consider these the processing fees for doing business at Presti’s bank. It would just be nice if the Thunder cashed in every once in awhile, specifically when they are the No. 1 seed.

Grade: C-

  • Players in: Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, Cameron Payne, K.J. Martin

  • Players out: James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Beverley, Jaden Springer, Danuel House Jr., Furkan Korkmaz

  • Picks in: 2026 R1 (least favorable HOU, LAC or OKC), 2028 R1 (LAC), 2029 R1 swap (LAC), 2024 R2 (CLE), 2024 R2 (most favorable CHI or NOP), 2027 R2 (MIL), 2028 R2 (DET, top-55 protected)

  • Picks out: 2024 R2 (NYK), 2024 R2 (most favorable IND or LAC), 2029 R2 (POR)

Harden put the Sixers in an unwinnable situation, and they did their best to survive it, turning him into the expiring contracts of a few veteran wings and one unprotected first-round pick. This was a downgrade they saw coming at season’s start, although it allowed Tyrese Maxey to blossom as an All-Star at the age of 23.

The deal for Hield is one we would applaud were Joel Embiid not rehabbing another torn meniscus. Hield is doing his thing, shooting 42% on eight 3-point attempts per game, but the spacing he provides will not be appreciated until Embiid is there to fill it. It feels increasingly less likely this will occur before the playoffs. Weighing Philadelphia’s desire to improve this season against its ability to create cap space this summer was no easy task, but Hield’s expiring deal walked that tightrope. The Sixers can re-sign him or let him walk, and it cost them no more than the few second-round picks they recouped in moves on the margins.

Grade: C+

Just when you think the well is dry, the Suns manufacture more second-round picks, protected to an even more complicated degree, in order to take another flier on a role player. This time, they landed O’Neale, a 30-year-old 3-and-D wing. So far, so good. Like many of his teammates, O’Neale has rarely seen time with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. When he’s paired with two of them, Phoenix is pounding opponents. Even just Durant and O’Neale are +16.9 points per 100 non-garbage possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. Finding enough draft capital to find someone who ties their lineups together is a win in Phoenix.

Grade: A-

Source: Yahoo Sports


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