In the week before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline there were 20 trades made with all but seven teams involved. That’s a lot of activity, a lot of players on the move. Despite that, the overall vibe of the 2024 NBA trade deadline was…
Mid. Meh. Bland.
We saw some contenders and playoff teams trying to plug holes — some more successfully than others — and some sellers trying to pivot. What we didn’t see was the kind of blockbuster, league-changing deal we expect from the NBA trade deadline. Last year it was Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the move, this season the best player to change teams this week was…
Bojan Bogdanovic? Buddy Hield? The best, players we thought might be moved stayed put — Dejounte Murray is still a Hawk, Bruce Brown is still a Raptor.
Still, there were winners and losers, let’s break them down.
Winner: New York Knicks
Media members can (and should) be frustrated with Knicks’ president Leon Rose never taking questions from the press (no, MSG network sit-downs don’t count). But everyone has to give the man his due:
Rose is the best Knicks executive in a generation. Or two. And he nailed this trade deadline. Like he has pretty much everything in the past couple of years.
The Knicks added Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, two quality rotation players who can walk in the door and help tomorrow, and they didn’t give up a key piece of their rotation or a first-round pick to do it. Bogdanovic can step in and start at the four until Julius Randle heals from his dislocated shoulder, then can slide over and start at the three, or come off the bench if that’s the better fit. Bogdanovic adds shooting and shot creation that the Knicks need. So does Burks, long a Tom Thibodeau favorite, and he can play alongside Jalen Brunson or spell him with the second unit and go get some buckets.
The Knicks got deeper, a little more versatile, and are poised to make a deep playoff run.
To do that, New York didn’t give up any trade assets – first-round picks, quality players with salaries in the $12-$20 million range — they might use this offseason or whenever the next superstar decides to change teams. New York is still at the front of the line.
That’s what winning looks like.
“Don’t confuse activity for achievement.”
That classic John Woodenism applies to this trade deadline – there was a lot of activity but what was really accomplished? For an NBA fan base that has come to expect surprises, drama, and big-splash trades, this trade deadline was like floating down a lazy river in an inner tube. Plenty of trades were conducted, but nothing that pushed the Super Bowl headlines down the page a little.
There was also nothing that moved the championship needle. When we survey the NBA on Thursday night, it doesn’t
feel any different than it did a week ago. Philadelphia added some shooting with Buddy Hield and other teams plugged some holes — Boston did it well, keep on reading — but nothing feels different. This was a lot of moving the deck chairs around.
That makes the fans losers.
What are we doing here? Lakers, Warriors
Lakers and Warriors backers can make a case for why their teams stood pat at the trade deadline — what move was out there that was transformative for either of these flawed rosters? These teams are not one move away, why trade away a quality pick or player now for a lateral move? Keep your powder dry, regroup this offseason and make a bold move then. Answer the hard questions then.
Except LeBron James is 39. Stephen Curry is 35. How many more windows do these guys have?
The Lakers have two All-NBA level players this season in LeBron and Anthony Davis, and they will have to fight to hang onto a play-in spot. LeBron was frustrated last May when the Nuggets swept the Lakers out of the Western Conference, saying playing less for anything than a title is a waste. Well, what is he playing for this season? LeBron is going to remember this feeling when it comes time to decide about picking up his option for next season.
Mike Dunleavy Jr., the Warriors’ first-year general manager, chose not to move off Andrew Wiggins or any other underperforming veteran. He didn’t take any steps to retool this team while Curry is still capable of carrying a team to the highest of heights. He stood pat.
What are we doing here?
Loser: P.J. Tucker — and he’s letting everyone know
P.J. Tucker is out of the Clippers rotation and wanted to be traded to a team where he could get minutes on the court. He wasn’t angry, he was asking to be treated with the respect of a veteran and get traded somewhere he could help.
That trade never happened, and Tucker took to social media to say “All this s*** is a f****** joke.”
He reportedly will not seek a buyout and will continue to be on Tyronn Lue’s bench for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.
Winner: Boston Celtics
This is how a contending team with a roster it likes should move at the deadline — find a place where the team could use a little boost, a little depth, and make a move.
Boston sent two second-round picks to Memphis for Xavier Tillman – a defensive big who is physical and versatile. He can plug into the Celtics second unit behind Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford. Celtics president Brad Stevens looked at his team, the injury history of Porzingis and the age of Horford (37), then looked at an East where his team will face multiple of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo and Julius Randle in the playoffs, and went and got some insurance.
That’s how you do it.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
What is the plan? To strive for average? For the third straight consecutive trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls stood pat — the last trade they made was in August of 2021 (and that was moving some picks around). Do they think this team is too good to touch?
Chicago can be forgiven for not trading Zach LaVine at the deadline, there was no market for him. That’s an offseason move, and maybe it will take longer than that. But holding onto DeMar DeRozan then talking extension with the 34-year-old guard? Not dealing with Nikola Vucevic when multiple teams are looking for front-court help? Not trading Alex Caruso (although they did listen to offers)? Not doing anything to reshape a 24-27 roster that was 40-42 a season ago? This mediocrity is who they are.
This is all about the decision maker, Arturas Karnisovas, said he didn’t think it was time to pivot away from a roster that could be competitive — can’t blame this on ownership, they signed off on the rebuild, reports KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
Artūras Karnišovas confirms what already has been reported—ownership would sign off on a rebuild if he wanted to choose that route. Karnišovas has made it clear he doesn’t and wants to stay competitive.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 8, 2024
The Bulls are on the treadmill of mediocrity. Chicago deserves better.