So ends a frenzied 2019 NBA Trade Deadline complete with Woj Bombs, former number one picks being shipped out, and the one trade that didn’t happen that everyone is still talking about. The Lakers made moves (no not that move) in a wild trade deadline day as teams positioned themselves for the Battle Royal that is the 2nd half of the season.
The top of the Eastern Conference, specifically the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers, all made moves to improve their chance’s in a wide-open LeBron-less East. Perhaps the biggest winner of the trade deadline was a team that didn’t do anything at all Thursday, that being the Boston Celtics as they now are officially in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes as the Pelicans decide to hang on to their star, for now.
For the Bucks, Raptors, and Sixers they decided to go all-in in attempt to receive a NBA Finals beat down from the Warriors later this June. The Bucks added Nikola Mirotic from the Pelicans (more on them in a bit) a talented big man scoring nearly 17 points per game. The Sixers added bench depth with James Ennis and Can’t Go Back All-Star Jonathan Simmons, plus Tobias Harris from the Clippers to add their starting lineup. Elton Brand, GM of the 76ers, has positioned this team with arguably the best starting five in the East and it appears that ‘The Process’ is now finally complete. In addition, the 76ers officially ended the Markelle Fultz era just 20 months after drafting him out of Washington bringing an end to a bizarre relationship with the team and now gets a fresh start in Orlando. For the Raptors their quest to reach the Finals for the first time in franchise history began before the season started by adding Kawhi Leonard. Raptors President Masai Ujiri further pushed his chips to the middle of the playoff table by acquiring longtime Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who at 34 years old finds himself now in the best situation in his career to win a championship. The activity by these three teams clearly demonstrate the desperation each have to finally reach a NBA Finals that doesn’t have to go through LeBron James. Thus, making the second half of the season in the Eastern Conference a compelling one to say the least.
The Western Conference remained relatively quiet with only minor moves, save Marc Gasol going to the Raptors & Tobias Harris to the 76ers, and Harrison Barnes being traded to the Sacramento Kings from the Dallas Mavericks mid-game. The loudest move made out of the Western Conference was one that wasn’t actually made. The New Orleans Pelicans kept Anthony Davis and he will play out the rest of the season with the team. After the Lakers had made their Godfather offer which included multiple picks and a significant portion of their young core, the Pelicans double downed asking for even more and the Lakers simply walked away feeling the Pelicans were unreasonable in their demands for the 25 year old superstar. The Pelicans stated that Davis will be on a minutes restriction and will not be utilized in back to backs moving forward for the rest of this season and will take their chances this summer in attempt to move the superstar. The Lakers rather than bid against themselves will attempt to lure Davis either this summer via trade or in free agency after 2020. For now the Pelicans will attempt to move forward, albeit awkwardly, with a player who has already stated that he doesn’t want to be there. How the organization handles Davis and his situation will be a storyline that dominates the second half of the season.
The NBA Trade Day Deadline comes and goes with a flurry of moves and changes that now shapes the final 30+ game sprint to the playoffs. Teams have now positioned themselves going down the stretch which should make for compelling basketball for the rest of this NBA season. With the all-star break around the corner we finally get a breather to regroup and gear up for what should be one heck of a ride (at least in the East) to end the regular season. For now though only time will tell if the moves made Thursday by these teams will translate to playoff success this spring…stay tuned.