We just watched yet another exciting path towards the NBA trade deadline. The trades weren’t as explosive as we thought it would be, but it’s good enough.
The Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics bolstered their squads with new blood – all through low-risk, high-reward moves – while the Orlando Magic tore things down again before they finished rebuilding.
Each trade has its own storylines, but we might be overlooking one that is basically hiding in plain sight. The Brooklyn Nets, who weren’t involved in any of the trades, might have actually come out as the biggest winners now that the dust has settled.
How so? Let’s just say the Nets may need to send a gift basket or two to Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri. He stood pat and didn’t ship Kyle Lowry away just for the sake of it, and as a result, no major title contender had a big boost.
Let’s rundown how all of Brooklyn’s main championship rivals did:
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers weren’t able to pull off any trades. They had a chance to get Lowry, but they just couldn’t let promising sophomore Talen Horton-Tucker go.
The defending champs are still stuck waiting for LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (knee) to finally return from their injuries. Both are expected to be out for a couple of more weeks and the Lakers are running on fumes.
The Sixers tried their best to bring Lowry home to his home city, and like all of the other suitors, they came out empty-handed. We can’t blame them, though. Toronto was asking for a ton: Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle, plus two first-round picks.
Philly settled for veteran point guard George Hill. He’s a decent addition, but he won’t move the needle significantly.
The Clippers were all over the rumor mill for weeks. In the end, though, the only notable move they completed was shipping Lou Williams for veteran floor general Rajon Rondo, who’s deemed to raise the Clipps’ play in the postseason.
Rondo will bring valuable intangibles to the team, but it’s tough to say that it’s enough to counter the Nets’ firepower.
The Bucks decided to stay put after trading for big-bodied ‘3 and D’ wing PJ Tucker days prior to the deadline. It’s not like they have a lot to offer, though. They’re running low on tradeable assets after they basically sold the farm for Jrue Holiday in the recent off-season.
This Bucks team will remain as one of the elites, but for now, they’re behind the juggernaut Nets in talent and firepower.
The Nuggets, Heat, and Celtics got better with their additions of Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, and Evan Fournier, respectively, but they aren’t exactly in the title talk like the same way the aforementioned teams are.
This is with all due respect to all three contenders, especially the Nuggets, who are very capable of making a return trip to the Western Conference Finals.
The Buyout Market
The player movements aren’t done since claiming buyouts are still in play. Unlike trades, though, the Nets are very much in the running with anyone they please, and they may not be required to give up anyone. This time, they won’t be left on the side to anxiously watch if their rivals will suddenly get key reinforcements.
Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge are among the top names in the buyout market, and it’s a list that may soon include solid role players Otto Porter Jr. and Avery Bradley. As of know, there are no clear favorites to land any of the them.
Brooklyn doesn’t exactly need to sign anyone as long as the other title contenders don’t too, which is quite possible since the Heat, Celtics, and even the New York Knicks are part of the chase.