Raptors headline list of winners and losers of NBA’s trade deadline

Eric Smith and Michael Grange break down the Toronto Raptors acquiring P. J. Tucker from the Phoenix Suns.

A relatively quiet NBA trade deadline has come and gone. While the superstar names rumoured to be on the move all stayed put, there were still plenty of winners and losers by the time the 3:00 p.m. ET deadline rolled around. Let’s take a look:

Winner: Nerlens Noel
Since he was drafted sixth overall in 2013, the oft-injured Noel saw his team add two centres in Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor and his minutes dwindle accordingly. The change of scenery from Philadelphia to Dallas, where he’ll get plenty of opportunities to see the floor, should serve him nicely.

What’s more is that he projects to fit well alongside Dirk Nowitzki, where Noel’s defensive prowess and shot-blocking ability will fill a clear need. In short: He’ll get a chance to blossom into the player we thought he’d be coming out of the draft and his record-setting season at Kentucky.

Loser: Boston Celtics
Few teams had as many assets to land a superstar-calibre player as the Celtics this deadline. With players like Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Jaylen Brown, $20+ million in expiring contracts, and a bevy of draft picks — including Brooklyn’s first-rounder (expected to be in the top three this season) — Boston was in prime position to swing for the fences on another tradedeadline blockbuster. And given that they’re closing the gap on the Cleveland Cavaliers and have their sights set on a trip to the Conference Finals and beyond, many expected Boston to be active and acquire another significant piece to slot alongside Isaiah Thomas & Co.

Alas, after discussing deals for Indiana’s Paul George and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, the Celtics stood pat. Whether or not they were unwilling to part with a combination of players and picks (one report suggested Indiana wanted three of Bradley, Crowder, Brown and Marcus Smart, and Brooklyn’s 2017 first-rounder — a deal I would’ve ultimately said ‘no’ to as well if I were Boston’s GM…) or that they simply evaluated their roster and flexibility via the draft and liked what they saw, an opportunity to land an all-star passed the Celts by.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Boston. After all, they’ve been one of the top four teams in the NBA over the past few months and are just a game and a half back from the Cavs. Still, while watching other East rivals (read: the Raptors) improve at the deadline, the Celtics did not.

Winner: Toronto Raptors
Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. A nice trade-season haul for the Raptors, who had ultimately parted ways with Terrence Ross (somewhat expendable given Norm Powell’s rapid development), Jared Sullinger (who looked incapable of helping this team since returning from a foot injury), a first-round pick (the worst of their two first-rounders this year) and two second-round picks (whatever) to upgrade their roster significantly.

We’ve gone into detail about what Ibaka brings to the Raptors, and, shot-blocking aside, Tucker (who was originally drafted by the Raps in the second round in 2006) stands to bring the same kind of toughness and defensive acumen to Toronto. He’ll more than likely fill a valuable role coming off the bench, and is an excellent rebounder for his size.

On the morning of Deadline Day, the Raptors had also been linked to the Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler, a player who’d take up a similar spot on the roster but would’ve been on the books for more than $12 million in each of the next two seasons. Tucker, on the other hand, has a $5-million contract that expires at season’s end, making him a rental to help for the playoff push where his ability to guard elite wings like LeBron James and Paul George (or as well as anyone can try…) could make him a key piece for the Raps heading into April and May.

Tucker and DeMarre Carroll will fill a similar role, sure, but depth is one of the most valuable attributes of any winning team, and is something the Raptors have re-attained since the Ibaka deal.

The best part? The cost. While the Suns had reportedly been asking for Toronto’s first-round pick in this year’s loaded draft as part of the deal (which would’ve made this far less of a slam dunk for the home team), the Raps had to surrender only a pair of second-rounders while swapping Sullinger’s expiring deal for Tucker’s.

So after slip-sliding their way down the standings, the Raps addressed some of their most glaring needs by improving their defence significantly ahead of the deadline without affecting their short or long-term assets in the process. We’ll see how it translates come playoffs, but for the time being? Nicely done.

Winner: Doug McDermott
Dougie McBuckets (does anybody still call him that? Or did that die when he left Creighton?) was dealt along with Taj Gibson to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he’ll get a chance to fill a meaningful role as a scorer and deadeye shooter for a bona fide playoff team.

Sadly for Raptors fans, McDermott’s move out West doesn’t signal the end of his killing their team. The Raps have another game on the sked vs. the Thunder this season. He’s a career 8.2 point-per-game scorer, but averages 14.1 against the Raptors — that’s more than he scores against any other team.

Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
So the Sixers traded away Noel, who’ll almost surely come back to haunt them now that he’s joining a team with a defined role to fill. Fine. But what really stings is what they got in return. While first reported as Andrew Bogut (who will be bought out and sign with a contender), Justin Anderson (a decent forward) and a first-round pick, it turns out the best part of that haul — the pick — is smoke and mirrors. The pick, it turns out, is top-18 protected. Seeing as there’s almost no way the Mavericks finish among the NBA’s top 12 teams this season, it means that pick will stay with Dallas and turn into a mere two second-rounders.

Loser: Jared Sullinger
Sullinger hurt his foot in the pre-season and underwent surgery. That’s not his fault. Still, it kept him out of the Raptors lineup as the team got off to a red-hot start to the 2016–17 season, and once healthy he struggled to earn a spot in the rotation.

Sully was brought into Toronto as a potential answer to their power forward problems, a projected starter to suit up alongside Jonas Valanciunas. Instead, he barely saw the floor — except in the D-League with the Raptors 905 — and never really had a standout moment in a Raptors uniform. Now he’ll go from a playoff contender to an NBA bottom-feeder.

Winner: Houston Rockets
The Rockets didn’t acquire anybody on deadline day via trades, yet made two sneaky-good moves. First, they shed $3 million in cap space when they sent K.J. McDaniels to Brooklyn, and then shipped Tyler Ennis to the Lakers for Marcelo Huertas, who they plan to waive. Those two moves free up enough cap room to sign a veteran buy-out candidate, and it’s believed that they are already in pursuit of Bogut, who can offer lineup flexibility and help them match up against bigger teams like the San Antonio Spurs and new-look New Orleans Pelicans.

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