Highlights from the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline
As expected, Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline came and went with a flurry of transactions coming forward in the waning hours.
Kyle Lowry stayed put in Toronto and the Knicks balked on a deal for Lonzo Ball, but several impact players were dealt.
Here’s a look at seven of the deals that could lead to significant playoff implications.
Bulls Land Big Fish in Nikola Vucevic
- Chicago Receives: Nikola Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu
- Orlando Receives: Wendell Carter Jr, Otto Porter Jr., two first-round picks (2021, 2023)
Currently on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Bulls initiated a move that should get them over the hump. Zach Lavine is playing at an MVP-caliber level and Coby White is emerging; the backcourt is in good hands.
In need of a proven big, Marc Eversley relinquished a fairly moderate haul when you consider what Vucevic brings to the table. Just four NBA players are averaging more than 24 points and 11 rebounds this season, and here’s who’s in that group.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Joel Embiid
- Nikola Jokic
- Nikola Vucevic
Wendell Carter Jr. has been trending in the wrong direction in year three and gets a much-needed fresh start in Orlando. Otto Porter Jr. had evolved into somewhat of an afterthought in Billy Donovan’s rotation (Porter has logged 25+ minutes in a game just once since mid-January).
Chicago can set their sights on a playoff berth and possibly win a series when they get there. The Magic stockpile a couple of first-round picks and salvage two talented players.
This deal made sense for both parties involved.
Victor Oladipo Is Heading to Miami
- Miami Receives: Victor Oladipo
- Houston Receives: Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, right to 2022 first-round swaps
Victor Oladipo clearly had no interest in being part of a 12-31 team that’s in the midst of a rebuild. Miami is looking ahead toward another postseason run and knew they needed to add another piece in order to become a genuine contender.
I love this move for the Heat; I’m a bit puzzled that the Rockets front office couldn’t attract a better offer for such a proven commodity. Oladipo might not be as explosive as he once was in his age-28 season, but he’s still a reliable combo guard who can take over a game in crunch time.
Contributing 21/5/5 on the year, Victor’s taken off in March averaging north of 25 ppg while playing 37.3 minutes per contest. Moving into more of a complementary role with the Heat, Oladipo won’t see near as many double-teams and should in theory become a more efficient scorer.
It’s too late to catapult into one of the top three slots, but this trade should ensure that Miami winds up with homecourt advantage in their first-round matchup.
Celtics Bolster Backcourt by Acquiring Evan Fournier
- Boston Receives: Evan Fournier
- Orlando Receives: Two future second-round picks
In a vacuum, Evan Fournier is a nice player. He’s averaging 25 points per game over his last 11 contests and makes good decisions with the basketball. It just seems that it would have made more sense had Danny Ainge traded for a big.
The Celtics disappointing 21-23 record this season isn’t a reflection of not having enough firepower in the backcourt. It’s connected to not having depth in either frontcourt spot. Even if Boston goes small and plays Jayson Tatum at the 4, Brad Stevens likes to close out games with Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart on the floor. Payton Pritchard is being mixed in.
It remains to be seen how Fournier fits into the puzzle.
Given the unlikelihood of the Magic extending Evan beyond 2021 (UFA after this season), the bright side is that they were able to recoup a couple of future draft picks as compensation.
Orlando Sends Aaron Gordon to Denver
- Denver Receives: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
- Orlando Receives: Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, 2025 protected first-round pick
Orlando’s fire sale was in full effect on Thursday. After dealing Vucevic to Chicago and Fournier to Boston, the Magic sent Aaron Gordon packing to Denver.
Gordon was desperate to get out of his situation, and the Nuggets are gearing up to make some noise in the playoffs. With potential matchups against Kawhi and LeBron looming, swooping in on Gordon gives Denver an athletic hybrid forward who can physically match up. They’ve been missing this element since Jerami Grant bolted in free agency.
Following this transaction, Mike Malone’s starting five gets a bump. Gordon joins the Joker and MPJ frontcourt, eliminating the need to entrust 36-year-old Paul Millsap to finish off fourth quarters. This doesn’t guarantee that the Nuggets can get back to the Western Conference Finals, however, I like their chances better going to bed on Thursday than I did when I woke up.
For the Magic, they’ll have a chance to develop R.J. Hampton alongside Cole Anthony and see how that combo meshes. If things go well, Markelle Fultz could be on the move once again.
Raptors Unload Norman Powell to Portland
- Portland Receives: Norman Powell
- Toronto Receives: Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr.
Credit to Portland for being able to leverage the “upside” of Gary Trent Jr. to help them unload Rodney Hood and his $10+ million salary. To say Hood has declined since returning from his Achilles injury is a severe understatement. The lefty from Duke is shooting a horrific 36.3% from the floor (29.8% from deep) and sits dead last in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus.
Portland believes they contend in the West, while the Raptors are fading fast in the East. Striking a deal to secure Powell signals an upgrade for the Blazers bench – a unit that’ll now feature two bonafide scorers. We know what Carmelo Anthony can do, and check out the meteoric rise Powell has experienced since the start of 2017.
|Norman Powell By the Numbers|
The 27-year-old shooting guard is shooting a career-high 43.9% from beyond the arc and will quickly turn into one of the most valuable reserves in all of the NBA.
Hawks Land Lou Williams in Exchange for Rajon Rondo
- Atlanta Receives: Lou Williams, two future second-round picks
- Los Angeles Receives: Rajon Rondo
Not only do Ty Lue and Rajon Rondo go way back to their days together in Boston, but it was evident that the Clippers first-year coach wasn’t nearly as committed to “Sweet Lou” as Doc Rivers had been in the past.
After averaging 29.4 minutes and 20.4 points across his three years in LA (under Rivers’ watch), Lou’s productivity has plummeted in 2020-21. Williams’ 21.9 mpg is his lowest since 2008; his 12.1 ppg is the lowest it’s been since 2014.
Rajon Rondo never panned out as the secondary point guard that was needed in Atlanta; a void that Lou will be able to fill with ease. Rondo was tied to the Clippers throughout the offseason before ultimately inking a deal with the Hawks, but it’s clear his heart was in LA all along. Rondo suited up in just 27 games for Atlanta and is averaging a career-low 3.5 assists/game.
With Patrick Beverly battling knee soreness, expect Rondo and Reggie Jackson to form a two-man committee at the floor general position. I’m reluctant to call this anything other than a lateral move for the Clips, but it’s a sincere enhancement for the Hawks bench.
First it was handing the reins to Nate McMillan, then it was snagging a 3x 6th Man of the Year award winner. Atlanta’s organization is finally headed in a positive direction.
Kings and Pistons Swap Delon Wright and Cory Joseph
- Sacramento Receives: Delon Wright
- Detroit Receives: Cory Joseph, two future second-round picks (2021, 2024)
This one’s a bit more under the radar, but the Kings are mixing things up in hopes of squeaking into the playoffs. Completing this deal for Delon Wright increases their chances of getting there.
Wright’s arrival should boost the second unit dramatically, something that was necessary after elevating Tyrese Haliburton to the starting lineup. Not only was Luke Walton’s bench lacking depth, but they were deprived of a second-unit playmaker in the worst way.
Delon strolls into Sacramento as someone who can stuff the stat sheet and be “that guy” for Walton. In 36 games this season, Wright’s contributing 10.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. His PER (player efficiency rating) is higher than the likes of Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, and John Wall, just to name a few.
Cory Joseph had some success in Toronto playing for Dwane Casey, perhaps his usage increases upon reuniting with his former head coach in Detroit.
Recapping the Big Moves at the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline
These weren’t the only moves that went down on the final day of the NBA Trade Deadline. Philly picked up George Hill in a three-team deal that sent Austin Rivers to Oklahoma City and Terrance Ferguson to New York. JJ Redick wound up in Dallas at the eleventh hour in exchange for James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, and a 2021 second-round pick.
Of all of the Thursday trades, two stick out as the most consequential – at least as far as this season’s playoff picture is concerned.
- Bulls getting Vucevic
- Heat getting Oladipo
By virtue of trading for Nikola Vucevic, Chicago goes from a bubble team to a sneaky good squad that should start climbing the Eastern Conference standings in a hurry. Miami needed to add another trusted scorer to the mix, and they did so without parting ways withing anything meaningful.
Another NBA Trade Deadline passes, another hectic afternoon is in the books.
Did you ever expect anything different?