Earlier this month, a couple of minor deals involving big men got the ball rolling on trade season, and the action will only pick up as Thursday’s 3:00 p.m. ET deadline approaches. Here is where we’ll track all of this week’s player movement, beginning with the Boogie-to-New Orleans blockbuster, which was officially completed Monday.
Monday, Feb. 20:
DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans
Pelicans receive: DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi
Kings receive: Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, 2017 first-round pick (top-3 protected), 2017 second-round pick
Reaction: Even as rumors swirl around Jimmy Butler and Paul George, there probably won’t be a more stunning deal than this one. Throughout Cousins’ tumultuous tenure in Sacramento, the Kings had maintained one message: Cousins was their franchise player, and they were going to do whatever it took to keep him long-term. Until Sunday, all indications were that Cousins would be among the first players to receive the new super-max extension when eligible this summer.
Cut to Sunday night, and the Kings -- or at least majority owner Vivek Ranadive -- had apparently reversed course. The return for Cousins, one of the league’s top 15 players, was disappointing, to say the least. Ranadive appears to be considerably higher on Buddy Hield than the rest of the league, but it’s difficult to imagine Hield -- who’s older than Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andrew Wiggins, and a whole lot of other good young players -- developing into a true, franchise-level player. Hield may very well end up as a really strong rotation player, but that’s still not the level of asset you’d hope to receive in exchange for a player of Cousins’ magnitude.
Tyreke Evans doesn’t really move the needle either, and the expectation is that Langston Galloway was only a throw-in, who will likely be waived in the coming days. Remember, Denver got Cleveland to hand over two first-round picks for Timofey Mozgov in 2015.
The Kings did do well in acquiring a first-round pick in what should be the deepest draft in recent memory, but with Cousins now joining Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are the favorite to capture the eighth seed out West, meaning that pick will likely fall in the 14-16 range. The 15th pick in this draft could land Sacramento a prospect who would typically go 7th or 8th, but it’s still an underwhelming return for Cousins.
Sacramento also holds its own pick in 2017, but, of course, there’s a caveat: The 76ers have the right to swap first-round picks with the Kings. At present, the Kings are 24-33, 2.5 games better than Philadelphia, but without Cousins, Sacramento will likely freefall out of playoff contention and into the bottom-tier of the West alongside the Lakers and Suns. When all is said and done, the Kings and Sixers will probably finish within a few games of each other, but Philly’s right to swap ensures that, even if it wins the lottery, Sacramento cannot get the No. 1 pick. Whichever selection the Kings ultimately end up with -- whether it's their own or the Sixers’ -- is still likely to be in the six or seven range, but the pick swap means Sacramento doesn’t necessarily control its own lottery destiny.
Speaking of the Sixers, GM Bryan Colangelo and Co. truly are the biggest winners in this deal. Pick swap aside, Philadelphia also owns the Kings' 2019 first-round pick unprotected, thanks to the 2015 Nik Stauskas deal, which was dubious at the time and has only continued to look worse.
Obviously, 2019 is a long time from now, but nothing the Kings have done in the last decade-plus would indicate that they’ll be a non-lottery team in two years. Before last weekend, Sacramento was already a bottom-five free agent destination, and the way management botched the Cousins situation -- publicly ensuring him he wouldn’t be traded then very publicly doing the opposite -- only worsened the franchise’s already-sour relationship with agents and power brokers.
For New Orleans, this deal will rightfully go down as one of the most lopsided in history, at least on the surface. There’s no denying that Cousins comes with considerable baggage -- a big part of the reason his price was so low -- but he’s well worth the risk for a middling franchise desperate to prove to Anthony Davis that it’s serious about building a winner around him. Plus, there’s the belief that Cousins’ bullheadedness in Sacramento may have been a product of the organizational dysfunction. Ultimately, it was viewed as a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma, but with Cousins now switching organizations, the onus will be on him to prove the Kings, who cycled through six different coaches in six-and-a-half years, were the ones to blame.
Hield was a good asset but hadn’t flashed the type of potential to convince the Pels that he’d ever turn into a legitimate star -- parting with him as the “crown jewel” in a package for Cousins should have been a no-brainer.
While the addition of Cousins likely puts New Orleans in position to climb up and grab the eighth seed -- the Pelicans currently trail Denver by 2.5 games -- it’s highly improbable that they’d be able to catch Oklahoma City for the seventh spot. That means a likely date with Golden State in Round 1, and though the Davis-Cousins combo would give the Warriors problems, the rest of the roster doesn’t inspire much confidence to pull off what would be arguably the biggest first-round upset in NBA history.
Given Cousins’ contract situation -- he’s locked up through the end of the 2017-18 season -- the Pelicans aren’t under immense pressure to make this work long-term. If Davis and Cousins struggle to coalesce, or if Cousins indicates he won’t re-sign next summer, then the Pelicans could conceivably flip him for a package no worse than the clearance price they paid to acquire him in the first place. Theoretically, that could happen over the summer -- as it did with Kevin Love in 2014 -- but the more intriguing possibility is an expiring Cousins potentially becoming available to contenders as a half-season rental next February. We’re a long way away from that scenario, but it’s a fun one to consider nonetheless.
Tuesday, Feb. 21:
Rockets add Lou Williams
Rockets receive: Lou Williams
Lakers receive: Corey Brewer, 2017 first-round pick (unprotected)
Reaction: Even though this is by far the secondary story of the day in Los Angeles, Magic Johnson and the Lakers got what they wanted for Williams, acquiring a first-round pick in the deep 2017 draft, albeit one that will likely land in the 24-30 range. The Lakers may have been able to bring back a slightly better-projected pick from a team like Utah or Washington, but in a time of such drastic turnover within the organization -- and with the trade deadline fast-approaching -- pulling the trigger on this deal made the most sense.
This new era of Lakers management won’t ultimately be judged on the Williams trade, a relatively simple negotiation as far as these deals go. But the celerity with which it was handled nonetheless sent a message that Johnson, who took over literally hours before the trade, isn’t wasting any time in righting the ship.
The pick is the obvious prize for Los Angeles, which will, for the third straight year, test fate on Draft Lottery night. If the Lakers’ own pick falls outside of the top three, it goes to Philadelphia. How the 76ers ended up with the pick is complicated and involves Michael Carter-Williams, but the Lakers initially gave it up as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix in 2012. If the Lakers, currently holding the third-worst record in the league, end up in the top three for the third consecutive season, they would keep the pick but would send an unprotected first-rounder to Philadelphia in 2018.
Brewer is mostly filler in the deal, though he remains under contract at $7.6 million next season. The soon-to-be-31-year-old obviously isn’t a long-term piece, but he’s the kind of versatile wing who can carve out effective bench minutes on just about any roster.
For the Rockets, Williams represents a significant addition to a bench that already ranks ninth in scoring, thanks in large part to Eric Gordon. While Gordon and Williams, arguably 1-2 in the Sixth Man of the Year race, are somewhat redundant, Gordon is best as a catch-and-shoot threat, while Williams is more comfortable playmaking off the dribble. Williams will help ease the offensive burden on James Harden and will likely be tasked with running the second unit, enabling Patrick Beverley to move into a more-natural off-ball role.
At age 30, Williams is in the midst of perhaps his best season, averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds in only 24.2 minutes per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field and a career-best 39 percent from three.
Given the choice, the Rockets would have preferred to hold onto their first-round pick, but if there’s a silver lining it’s that Williams remains under contract through next season at a very affordable $7 million, less than Houston would have been paying Brewer.
Wednesday, Feb. 22:
Wizards get Bogdanovic
Wizards receive: Bojan Bogdanovic, Chris McCullough
Nets receive: Marcus Thornton, Andrew Nicholson, 2017 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
Reaction: Much like the Lou Williams deal, both teams involved got what they were looking for. Washington was in desperate need of help for a bench that ranks 29th in scoring, and Bogdanovic brings exactly that.
While Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari would have been a splashier move, Bogdanovic is significantly cheaper and remains under team control as a restricted-free-agent-to-be. Gallinari would have been a half-season rental, while Chandler still has two years and more than $24 million left on his current contract. That would have complicated things for the Wizards, who appear intent on signing Otto Porter to a lucrative, long-term deal this summer.
Bogdanovic is somewhat of a one-dimensional player, but he’s a proven three-point threat and represents a significant upgrade over Kelly Oubre in that department.
The inclusion of McCullough is mostly filler, but the 22-year-old’s potential is still untapped, and it’s not like Washington was getting much out of Nicholson, whose contract -- three more years, $19.9 million -- had become a minor burden.
The Nets did well to get a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, especially considering some were surprised the Lakers were able to fetch a first-rounder for Lou Williams, who’s a better player than Bogdanovic and is under contract for just $7 million next season. While the pick is lottery-protected, it would take a major collapse -- and probably a major injury or two -- for the Wizards to fall out of the postseason picture. Washington currently sits third in the East with a healthy, nine-game advantage over ninth-place Milwaukee.
The pick, which will likely land somewhere in the 18-25 range, gives Brooklyn two selections -- Washington’s pick and Boston’s pick, assuming the Celtics exercise their right to swap, which they will -- in the 2017 draft. Odds are, both picks will probably fall in the early-to-mid 20s, but it’s the best GM Sean Marks could do given the series of atrocities the previous regime committed to land the Nets in this position in the first place.
As in the Lou Williams deal, the pick is the clear prize for Brooklyn. While Thornton could be a minor bench contributor, there’s a decent chance he’ll be waived, and it’s difficult to imagine the Nets having any interest in re-signing him after his one-year, $1.3 million contract comes off the books this summer.
Nicholson’s contract is undesirable, but the Nets are one of only a few teams who can absorb that money without much consequence. Given the Wizards’ motivation to get Nicholson off the books, his inclusion was likely what sweetened the deal enough for Washington to give up a first-round pick at the deadline for the second straight year.
Ilyasova on the move again
Hawks receive: Ersan Ilyasova, swap of 2017 second-round pick (Golden State’s pick)
76ers receive: Tiago Splitter, 2017 second-round pick (via Miami), swap of 2017 second-round pick (Atlanta’s pick)
Reaction: The Hawks flipped an injured player who might not see the court this season for Ilyasova, a streaky-yet-effective three-point shooter who rebounds well for his size. With Mike Scott giving the Hawks almost nothing this season, Atlanta was in need of depth in the frontcourt, and Ilyasova, who will join his fifth team since the beginning of last season, is an effective bench piece on an expiring contract.
Splitter’s deal also expires this season, but a series of injuries have kept the 32-year-old on the sideline since January of 2016. The center-heavy 76ers aren’t expecting to get any on-court value from Splitter, but the hope is that he’ll serve as a mentor to the team’s young bigs.
In exchange for surrendering the player with more immediate value, the 76ers will receive Miami’s second-round pick, which was owned by Atlanta by way of the James Ennis deal in 2013. Philadelphia will also swap second-rounders with the Hawks, acquiring the Hawks’ own pick, while sending Golden State’s second-round selection -- which the Sixers own via a very complicated, multi-team trade -- to Atlanta.
So, essentially, the 76ers snagged an extra 2017 second-rounder, while also improving the projected status of another second-round pick, as the Warriors will likely finish several spots ahead of the Hawks, who currently sit in fifth place in the East. Parting ways with Ilyasova also clears the way for emerging rookie Dario Saric to see more time at the four and should also help make room for the impending debut of 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons.
Thursday, Feb. 23:
76ers send Noel to Mavs
76ers receive: Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson, protected draft pick(s)
Mavericks receive: Nerlens Noel
Reaction: Jahlil Okafor seemed like the Sixers’ big most likely to be on the move Thursday -- he still very well could be -- but it’s Noel who will change area codes first.
With the Mavs sending Bogut back to Philadelphia, Noel will immediately step into the rotation and could enter the starting lineup if Dallas veers away from the Dirk-at-center experiment. Noel’s numbers this season aren’t overly impressive, but Philly’s dysfunctional big man situation must be taken into account when evaluating his last several months.
Regardless, Dallas has apparently liked what it’s seen from Noel, and the fact that the Mavs were comfortable parting with a young, cheap asset in Anderson, as well as a potential first-round pick, indicates they view Noel as part of the long-term plan. Noel is in the final year of his rookie-scale contract and is eligible for a $5.8 million qualifying offer this summer. Dallas also created a pair of trade exceptions in the deal, including one worth $6.6 million.
The pick heading to Philadelphia is top-18 protected for 2017, meaning it almost certainly won’t convey in this upcoming draft. The future protections on the pick haven’t been officially revealed, but the 76ers won’t see it until 2018, at the earliest. ESPN's Zach Lowe reports that the pick becomes two second-rounders (2018 and 2019) if it does not convey in 2017. So, the overwhelming likelihood is that the Sixers won't end up getting a first.
Aside from the pick(s), the Sixers did well to snare Anderson, a bouncy wing with two more years of dirt-cheap team control. Anderson has plateaued a bit after looking like a potential draft-night steal last season, but he’s still an intriguing young prospect at just 23 years old.
In Bogut, the 76ers get an expiring contract, which they will reportedly attempt to flip elsewhere before the 3:00 p.m. ET deadline. If Philly is unable to find a suitor, Bogut will probably be bought out. In that scenario, a contending team like the Cavaliers would likely have serious interest.
Nets get K.J. McDaniels
Nets receive: K.J. McDaniels
Rockets receive: future, protected second-round pick (reportedly)
Reaction: For Houston, the motivation is simple: clear $3.3 million worth of cap space to use in scouring the buyout market with a handful of veterans likely to become available. The second-round pick is just a minor throw-in, and if it’s as heavily protected as expected, the Rockets might not see it for several years.
Still angling to reach the salary floor, Brooklyn can happily accept a player like McDaniels, a relatively high-upside prospect who could never quite crack Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. McDaniels should have a much better opportunity to prove himself on a developing Nets roster. The 2014 second-round pick has a cap hit of $3.3 million this season, with a team option at $3.4 million for 2017-18. Essentially, McDaniels is just another low-risk piece to add to Brooklyn’s uniquely challenging rebuilding effort.
Bucks get second-rounder for Hibbert
Nuggets receive: Roy Hibbert
Bucks receive: Protected, future second-round pick
Reaction: Hibbert was never in the Bucks’ long-term plan when they acquired him, along with Spencer Hawes, earlier in the month. The deal simply rid Milwaukee of Miles Plumlee’s contract, and Hibbert never saw the floor in a Bucks uniform.
Denver isn’t a perfect spot for Hibbert, but his acquisition gives the Nuggets an experienced third center as insurance in the event of an injury to Nikola Jokic or Mason Plumlee. Plus, Hibbert helps Denver reach the salary floor before coming off the books as an expiring contract this summer.
The pick heading to Milwaukee is for the 2019 draft, though the unspecified protections on the pick make it difficult to assess when it might actually convey. In dealing Hibbert, the Bucks also open up a roster spot for a potential D-League or buyout addition.
McDermott, Gibson dealt to OKC
Thunder receive: Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, 2018 second-round pick
Bulls receive: Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow
Reaction: In what was ultimately an uneventful deadline, this was probably the deal that generated the most buzz.
On the surface, it’s a win for Oklahoma City, as it adds two rotation-caliber players to a beef up the roster as the postseason approaches. In exchange for Payne and a couple of spare parts, the Thunder get McDermott, who has underachieved but not necessarily disappointed in two-and-a-half seasons for the Bulls. In 24.5 minutes per game this season, McDermott is averaging 10.2 points and 3.0 rebounds while knocking down nearly 38 percent of his three-point attempts. By percentage, Oklahoma City is the second-worst outside shooting team in the NBA -- ahead of only Chicago, ironically -- so McDermott will help in that department.
Prior to the trade, the best shooter on the Thunder’s roster was Victor Oladipo, who’s hitting a career-best 35.4 percent of his attempts this season. At this point it’s unclear how Billy Donovan will shuffle the rotation, but McDermott figures to initially come off the bench behind Andre Roberson, giving the Thunder the option to swap out defense for shooting on the wing.
One of the premier defensive wings in the Western Conference, Roberson should command a significant raise from his rookie-scale deal, despite the fact that he’s regressed on the offensive end this season. The 25-year-old will never be a knockdown shooter, but the hope was that he could develop into a passable perimeter threat after shooting 31.1 percent from deep in 2015-16, an improvement of seven percentage points over his 2015-15 numbers. In 57 games this season, though, Roberson is a horrendous 35-of-145 (24.1%) from beyond the arc, the worst mark in the league among players with at least 100 attempts.
Gibson is another strong addition for the Thunder, bringing veteran toughness and rebounding to a team currently starting a rookie at power forward. There’s a chance Gibson, who’s started 55 games for Chicago this season, could unseat Domantas Sabonis in the starting five, though it seems more likely that Oklahoma City would use him off the bench. Gibson has a cap hit of $8.9 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
For the Bulls, the deal is a bit of a head-scratcher. The front office decided to hang on to Jimmy Butler and remain in the playoff hunt, but parting ways with McDermott and Gibson won’t help Chicago in the short term. Payne is the primary return, and while the jury is still out on his long-term outlook, he’s struggled this season (33% FG/31% 3Pt) since returning from a broken foot. Michael Carter-Williams, Rajon Rondo and Jerian Grant is an uninspiring trio, but considering the Bulls gave up an expiring contract and a solid young asset in McDermott, Payne, without even a protected draft pick attached, doesn’t seem like enough of a return. That said, Payne still has two more years left on his rookie deal, while both Morrow (UFA) and Lauvergne (RFA) come off the books this summer.
Suns trade cash for Mike Scott
Suns receive: Mike Scott
Hawks receive: Cash considerations
Reaction: It’s a bit of a curious trade for the Suns considering they already have young talent at power forward, but the belief is that Scott is in need of a fresh start after burning out in Atlanta. He’s unlikely to be a major factor down the stretch as Phoenix cruises toward the lottery, but Scott could pick up some of the minutes vacated by P.J. Tucker.
For the Hawks, it’s a quick money grab and a means of clearing a roster spot. Atlanta also created a $3.3 million trade exception in the deal, which could be used toward a potential buyout addition.
Rockets, Lakers swap point guards
Rockets receive: Marcelo Huertas
Lakers receive: Tyler Ennis
Reaction: The Rockets ended up as the most active team around the deadline, making a few minor moves to better position themselves on the buyout market. Huertas will be waived in short order, freeing up a second roster spot after Houston sent K.J. McDaniels to Brooklyn earlier Thursday. With a bit of cap room and roster space, expect Daryl Morey to be active as players like Deron Williams, Terrence Jones and Andrew Bogut hit the market.
For the Lakers, there’s little risk involved in flipping a non-asset in Huertas for a younger point guard on a cheap deal. Ennis is yet to find his footing at the NBA level, but he’s never been given much of a chance, and Los Angeles will take a stab at developing him as a third point guard. If it doesn’t work out, the two sides can part ways this summer with no cap implications.
Raptors add P.J. Tucker
Raptors receive: P.J. Tucker
Suns receive: Jared Sullinger, future second-round picks
Reaction: Tucker was most in the shuffle amid rumors surrounding Paul George and Jimmy Butler, but the 31-year-old could help shape the top tier of the Eastern Conference as the postseason approaches. Tucker was a player many believed Cleveland had its eye on, but the Raptors were able to get the deal done just before the 3:00 p.m. deadline, sending Sullinger and two future second-rounders to Phoenix.
While Tucker’s numbers -- 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 41.5% FG, 28.5 minutes per game -- don’t jump off the page, he’s a force at the defensive end of the floor. It’s not difficult to read into Toronto’s rationale for acquiring Tucker: to guard wings like George and LeBron James in potential playoff matchups.
Expect Tucker to continue coming off the bench in Toronto, where he’ll split time with DeMarre Carroll at small forward and shift up to the four in certain lineups. With Serge Ibaka and Tucker in the fold at minimal acquisition costs, the Raptors have done more than any other team in the East to make a serious run at the Cavaliers.
In return for Tucker, the Suns get two second-rounders and the services of Jared Sullinger, whose one-year contract expires this offseason. Just 24 years old, Sullinger is a mildly intriguing asset, but he doesn’t fit with a Phoenix roster that already has two 19-year-old lottery picks at power forward and a 23-year-old center. The chances of the Suns retaining Sullinger beyond this season appear slim.
Editor's Note: Nick recently visited with 120 Sports to discuss the implications of both the Cousins and Williams trades:
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