3. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons came into this season basically expecting to be a playoff team with a core of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson leading the way. Detroit even added superstar power forward Blake Griffin mid-season to make even more of a push for the playoffs. However, Reggie Jackson struggled to stay healthy as he only played 44 games this season and he wasn’t very productive even when he was healthy. Either way, the Pistons ended up 39-43 and they missed out on a playoff spot in a rather weak eastern conference. Detroit had a good defense, but their main issue was that they just couldn’t score points effectively. Detroit has a really good frontocurt going forward with Griffin and Drummond. However, they need more of a supporting cast if they want to improve on what was a very disappointing 2017 season.
2. Sacramento Kings
Sacramento is arguably the most irrelevant franchise in the NBA as they now have the longest playoff drought of any NBA team. The Kings have some talented young players like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Willie Cauley-Stein. However, none of those 3 players had a good 2017 season and they are rather unproven players at the NBA level. The issue is that the Kings are relying so much on those 3 players in particular right now and for the future as well. Sacramento has plenty of young talent, but those young players just haven’t reached their potential and they don’t seem to play very well together. That is the main reason why Sacramento was once again one of the worst teams in the NBA as they had a 27-55 record. The Kings are in line to add some more talent with a high draft pick this offseason, but if the team can’t develop its young players effectively then this team will continue to be mediocre.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
We have been accustomed to seeing the Grizzlies being a playoff team in recent years, but that certainly wasn’t the case this year as the team regressed in a major way. The Grizzlies knew that they would be extremely reliant on veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. However, when Conley got injured early in the season it was very apparent that the team was in major trouble as he only played in 17 games. Marc Gasol still had a decent season, but by his standards he didn’t play very well. Pretty much the lone bright spot was Tyreke Evans who led the team with 19.4 points per game. Evans is unlikely to return to Memphis and now the Grizzlies will have a roster full of inexperienced players. Memphis went 22-60 which is awful especially by their standards, but hopefully they can get an impact player in the draft and come back better next year.
The Memphis Grizzlies traded shooting guard/small forward James Ennis to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for power forward Brice Johnson and a 2022 2nd round pick.
The Detroit Pistons definitely got the better end of this deal as they are getting a useful role player at least for the remainder of this season. James Ennis can provide some offense off of the bench occasionally, but he is more known for his defensive skills. Ennis will provide some Pistons with some much needed depth and versatility especially after they recently traded Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. Also, the Pistons are only giving up G-League power forward Brice Johnson and a 2022 2nd round pick that probably won’t amount to much. Detroit is all-in on competing for a playoff spot this season and this trade will certainly be beneficial in the short-term.
This trade makes some sense for the Grizzlies as they are getting at least something in return for a player that likely would have departed this offseason anyway. Brice Johnson is a player with some decent upside as he is still only 23 years old, but he will likely need a lot of development in the G-league before he is ready to make an impact in the NBA. Also, the Grizzlies are receiving a 2022 2nd round pick in this deal which probably will be a low-end 2nd round pick and it likely won’t help them out much. This isn’t a very good return for a solid role player, but give the Grizzlies credit for at least getting something in return for a player that probably would have left after this season.
The Orlando Magic are moving on from young point guard Elfrid Payton as the team dealt him to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a 2018 2nd round pick.
I really like this trade for the Suns because they are receiving a player with very high potential, but at a very low cost. Elfrid Payton is a very good role player already and he has the potential to be a good starting point guard as well. The Suns were looking for help at the point guard position and this will certainly help in the short-term even though the Suns aren’t competing for a playoff spot this year. However, it also helps Phoenix long-term as they continue their rebuilding efforts since Payton provides the team at least with a very quality role player for the future. The Suns are getting a player that they can use for years to come basically in exchange for a mid-end 2nd round pick that might not amount to anything.
Elfrid Payton was a draft pick of the old regime in Orlando a few years ago and clearly the new Magic front office didn’t view Payton as having much of a role with the team in the future. Payton played somewhat well as a starting point guard for Orlando, but he never quite turned into the complete prospect that the team hoped he would be. It is disappointing that the Magic only got a 2nd round pick in return for Payton considering that he was a top 10 pick a few years ago. However, it was wise for the Magic to let go of him now rather than letting him go for nothing in free agency.
The Portland Trail Blazers traded power forward Noah Vonleh to the Bulls in exchange for the rights to Milocan Rakovic.
Noah Vonleh has been a major bust in the NBA since he was drafted 9th overall in the 2014 draft. However, Vonleh is still only 22 years old and there is the possibility that the Bulls could develop him into a decent role player. The Bulls are a perfect fit for Vonleh since they are a team in rebuilding mode and they can afford to give him more playing time than any other NBA team could. Chicago is giving up nothing in return for Vonleh as Milocan Rakovic is a 32-year old player that will likely never play in the NBA. This is a very low-risk trade for Chicago and there is a potential that they could develop Vonleh into a decent contributor for their team.
Trail Blazers grade:
This trade is specifically for financial reasons as this deal helps the Trail Blazers fallow below the luxury tax threshold for this year. Noah Vonleh wasn’t much of a contributor for the team anyway as his minutes had been declining dramatically recently. The Trail Blazers are receiving nothing besides financial relief in this deal as Milocan Rakovic is just a player that was drafted in 2007 who has no intention of ever playing in the NBA. Overall, this was a decent trade for Portland as it clears up some salary and a roster spot for a cheaper bench player.
The Chicago Bulls found a suitor for veteran point guard Jameer Nelson as the team traded him and a 2022 2nd round pick to the Detroit Pistons for center Willie Reed and a 2022 2nd round pick.
Jameer Nelson is a good veteran leader at 36 years old, but besides that he won’t provide much value to the Pistons. Nelson is a washed out point guard and he likely won’t have much of a role on the Pistons as they are already relatively deep at the position. However, Detroit gave away backup center Willie Reed in this deal which doesn’t help the team much since they already were thin at the center position. Also, swapping 2nd round picks in 2022 isn’t ideal since the Pistons will likely be rebuilding at that point in time. This just seems like a waste of a trade for Detroit as it really doesn’t benefit them immediately or in the future and it could actually make the team worse.
This trade makes sense for the Bulls as they are getting a minimal return for a 36-year old point guard that doesn’t provide much anymore. Nelson was taking away minutes from some of the younger guards on the Bulls roster so it didn’t make sense to keep him around since he doesn’t provide any short-term or long-term value. The Bulls are receiving Willie Reed in this trade, but he will be waived by the team as he was just an add-in for this trade. The real value in this trade is that the Bulls are swapping 2022 2nd round picks with the Pistons. Basically the Bulls are hoping that they will be rebuilt by that point in time and the Pistons will then be in decline which would probably give the Bulls a better pick in the 2nd round of that draft. Chicago was likely to release Nelson soon anyway so possibly getting something in return makes this a good trade for the team.
The Atlanta Hawks made an interesting move at the trade deadline as they traded small forward Luke Babbitt to the Miami Heat in exchange for power forward Okaro White.
I really like this move for the Miami Heat because they are acquiring some much needed depth at the small forward position. Luke Babbitt provides the Heat with a very good 3-point shooter as he is 44% on 3-point shots this season. Babbitt doesn’t do much else besides that, yet he will still provide some valuable depth for the Heat as they look to make a playoff push. Also, Miami basically gave up nothing in this deal as Okaro White has been injured since November and he wasn’t a productive player when healthy anyways. This is a terrific trade for the Heat since they are receiving a contributing role player in exchange for an injured player.
This move makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for the Hawks since they are basically giving up a player for nothing. Atlanta is barely saving any money by trading away Luke Babbitt and they could have just kept him for the rest of the season and let him go in free agency. The Hawks are literally receiving nothing in this trade as the only player that they are getting back is the injured forward Okaro White who the team will waive immediately. Atlanta should have gotten a draft pick or something that would benefit them, but instead they just gave up Babbitt for nothing. It would have been more beneficial for the Hawks just to keep Babbitt on the roster for the rest of the season rather than giving him up for nothing.
The New York Knicks sent center Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for power forward Johnny O’Bryant, a 2020 2nd round pick, and a 2021 2nd round pick.
This move makes some sense for the Charlotte Hornets as they are getting young center Willy Hernangomez who is still a raw prospect, but he has quite a bit of potential. The only issue is that Charlotte might struggle to find him playing time since they already have Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller at center. However, Hernangomez is under team control through the 2019 season at a very cheap cost so this is a move for the future rather than anything else. The issue that I have with this deal for the Hornets is that they are giving up two future 2nd round picks which is quite a bit for a player who hasn’t done much so far in his NBA career. The Hornets will hopefully be able to develop Hernangomez some more, but if not then he still should be a quality backup center.
The Knicks have a crowded frontcourt with Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn as the top two centers on the roster. There just wasn’t enough playing time for Hernangomez with the Knicks as he was only averaging 9 minutes per game. The Knicks did well to receive two 2nd round picks for a player that they really didn’t have a role for. However, it still isn’t great for the Knicks to get rid of a player that had some good potential. New York’s goal right now is to rebuild their roster and I’m not sure that getting rid of a good young prospect is the way to accomplish that.