Student writer Zach Short covers all the last-minute wheeling and dealing in men’s pro basketball.
Compared to the drama last summer, this year’s trade deadline week was relatively calm save for a few noteworthy moves. As is in tune with years past, teams moved around role players to assist their superstars as they head into grind time in hopes of either making the Playoffs or securing a top seed. The biggest moment to occur in the face of the looming deadline was the large four-team trade that involved the Houston Rockets, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Atlanta Hawks and the Denver Nuggets. That and the move that brought Andre Iguodala out of an attempt at a forced early retirement.
The big multi-team trade saw the Rockets send Clint Capela and Nenê to the Hawks and receive Robert Covington and Jordan Bell from the Timberwolves, the latter of which was almost immediately sent to Memphis in exchange for Bruno Caboclo. The Rockets may have something cooking, but for now fans should be wary. Capela was a defensive asset for a team with a certain bearded all-star notorious for not playing defense — this may inadvertently push the team the wrong direction.
The Hawks, on the other hand, might just be able to pull something grand out of the big trade as they were the recipients of the Rockets castaways. While Nenê is getting old and has been fighting an injury this season, any return from him would add some height and formidability to the Hawks roster. He could greatly assist the star-in-the-making Trae Young, not to mention the huge boost Clint Capela can provide the struggling team. Supposedly Young was promised by the front office earlier this season that help was coming. If this can give the Hawks a defensive and rebounding boost, it should be no surprise if they rise a few spots in the rankings.
The Nuggets picked up four players, none of which are likely to raise any eyebrows. They picked up Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Keita Bates-Diop and Shabazz Napier, with the last name being quickly sent on to Washington for Jordan McRae. The acquisition from the Wizards is inarguably their biggest change, as he is coming to assist the guard game on a team led by the post play of Nikola Jokić. Mostly, it appears that the Nuggets are trying to get a little bit of depth so that the pressure is off the team’s best players to stay on the court all the time. After all, these guys have to last until June if they make the Finals, although that is arguably not even an option for the Nuggets this year.
As for the Timberwolves, there was an incredible amount of change, too much to enumerate fully without dedicating them an entire article. The biggest acquisitions were DeAngelo Russell and a 2020 first round draft pick, who come in alongside a slew of names new to the team. As for losses, Andrew Wiggins went to the Warriors; Gorgui Dieng ended up with the Grizzlies; and Shabazz Napier, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh and Robert Covington have already been mentioned; and two draft picks went out of their hands. It is anyone’s guess as to what can be expected of the Timberwolves now.
Finally, outside of the teams involved in that giant trade, there were some other teams who made some moves, most notably of which is probably the Miami Heat who decided that they had a spot for Andre Iguodala if the Grizzlies could not find one. The Heat are on their way to being in the top seeds of the Eastern Conference, and a veteran who is dedicated to team basketball and has plenty of Playoffs experience should come as a boost. Jimmy Butler is rocking and rolling in his new town with the assistance of a relatively young supporting cast, and he may be on his way to restoring the Heat to some of their former glory this postseason.
The other big team to limit themselves to one notable move was the Clippers, who are currently nipping at the heels of the Lakers’ number one seed in the Western Conference. They picked up Marcus Morris in a bidding war with their crosstown rival and they might now have the extra help they need to take that top spot, not to mention that they picked up Isaiah Thomas as well in that deal. Of course, the Lakers were the losers in that fight, and they were otherwise quiet amid the antics of the rest of the league. There is the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but the Lakers may find themselves in a tough spot if their biggest competitor is improving while they are stagnant. It seems now that the battle for Los Angeles is far from over, and now with all teams having almost cemented lineups through the end of the season, it is safe to say that that battle will end with one being the NBA champion.