The 2021 NBA trade deadline is officially in the books with a number of transactions seen throughout the day that may or may not shift the balance of power around the league.
Two of the biggest names that were anticipated to be on the move -- Aaron Gordon and Victor Oladipo -- did in fact end up moving on, while the biggest name who was rumoured to be available, Kyle Lowry, ended up staying with the Toronto Raptors until at least the end of this season.
In total, there were 16 trades made throughout the day. To help better understand these transactions so far, here’s a look at the winners and losers of this year’s trade deadline.
Coming into deadline day all eyes were on the Raptors as they appeared to hold the keys to everything with two of the most hotly-contested trade targets in Lowry and Norman Powell.
There was a lot of debate among Raptors fans about why they should sell and trade both of those players or just stand pat and keep the two of them, and what the club ended up doing was actually a combination of both.
As mentioned off the top, the Raptors ultimately decided to keep Lowry, but before that, they opted to flip Powell to Portland Trail Blazers for Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr.
This looks like a half-measured approach from the Raptors, but looking holistically at the two transactions you’ll understand why making these two decisions will ultimately steer the team in the right direction.
Because the Raptors were mired in a nine-game losing streak before their win Wednesday night, the natural reaction heading into deadline day was that the Raptors were going to be sellers because their season was already going down the drain.
But while they entered deadline day as the No. 11 seed in the Eastern Conference, they're also only 1.5 games back of the No. 10 and final spot in the play-in tournament. Not to mention, this losing streak they underwent was mainly because the team was decimated by COVID protocols and not entirely indicative of what the club’s actual potential was.
And this is why the moves the Raptors made at the deadline are positives. The notion that the Raptors were going to sell and tank was never on the table because this is a team that has viewed itself as a competitive club all season and there was no chance they were going to look to tank.
And so, in that sense, keeping Lowry was fitting. Toronto played hardball with any packages for Lowry because nothing they would get back in return would be able to match his productivity anyway.
Yes, the Raptors will have to deal with this all over again this off-season when he’s a free agent, but they’ll have his Bird rights and the possibility of re-signing him will remain.
As for Powell, he was always the more likely candidate to be on the move because the nature of his contract made it easier to do so.
With him also likely to be a free agent this summer at a price Toronto likely wouldn’t be able to afford, the Raptors had to make a move and made one with an eye towards possibly getting back into things this season and for their future.
The acquisition of Rodney Hood and his non-guaranteed contract gives the Raptors, essentially, a free look at a player who has flashed potential in the past and bringing in Gary Trent Jr. gives the Raptors a dynamic shooter and scorer -- who's similar to Powell in a lot of ways, and still on his rookie contract.
Throw in the two other transactions the Raptors made -- dealing Matt Thomas to the Utah Jazz and Terence Davis to the Sacramento Kings both for second-round picks in moves that restock some of their draft picks and opens up a pair of roster spots to potentially be players in the buyout market -- and you have a tidy piece of business done by the Raptors.
It didn’t address the hole they still have at centre, but it’s a deadline day that’s giving this current group a chance while opening up some future flexibility.
The Bulls are big deadline winners because of the big move they made for Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic, as well as the sneaky transaction they made with the Boston Celtics for Daniel Theis.
Chicago hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017 but looks to remedy that situation this season with their big move for two-time all-star Vucevic, whose combination of post and perimeter skills figures to add another layer of lethality to a Chicago offence that features a core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White.
Better yet for Chicago, Vucevic is under contract until 2022-23 so he figures to be a big part of the Bulls’ future as well, and all it cost them was young big Wendell Carter Jr. -- who’s game is like a younger, less mature version’s of Vucevic’s -- the expiring contract of Otto Porter Jr, and two first-round picks which the team is counting on not being in the lottery.
And then, by adding Theis, a great defensive centre who can knock down the occasional three, the Bulls have shored up a major weakness of theirs at little expense.
The biggest impact trade of the day goes to the Denver Nuggets’ acquisition of Aaron Gordon.
Denver did have to give up a promising player in Gary Harris to make it happen, but given Harris’ health concerns the risk looks like it was worth it because you now have a talented Denver team adding a great athlete and playmaker in the frontcourt in Gordon.
The imagination can run wild thinking what kind of lob combination Nikola Jokic might be for Gordon, and Jamal Murray now has another big who’s adept at finding re-locating shooters and cutters.
And in a separate transaction, the Nuggets made a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers for JaVale McGee for a pair of future second-rounders. McGee isn’t exactly a game-changing player, but he’s a guy with championship experience and figures to be a needed veteran for Denver’s playoff push.
Lou Williams is heading to the Atlanta Hawks and, more importantly, will basically be right next to gentlemen’s club Magic City, renowned for their famous chicken wings and a Williams favourite.
Going back the other way to the Los Angeles Clippers in this transaction is Rajon Rondo, who figures to be a needed voice in that locker room, but the real big winner of this transaction is definitely Magic City.
Business will be booming.
Though it was expected, the Magic’s teardown on deadline day that saw them trade Vucevic, Gordon and Evan Fournier is still disappointing nonetheless.
The return the Magic got in each of these transactions was alright -- except perhaps only getting a pair of second-round picks for Fournier -- and it’s true this is a team that’s been spinning its tires for the last little bit before falling off a cliff this season, but anytime a professional sports organization feels the need to take a step back and trade away all of its core pieces in an effort to begin anew, it’s never good news.
The Rockets were successful in trading Victor Oladipo right at the buzzer of the deadline, but the return they got back for him was pitiful.
Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a pick swap that’ll probably never come to be just isn’t good enough.
But as bad as the haul is, the real reason why the Rockets are losers at the deadline is because this just may have been all Oladipo could’ve got them anyway.
Oladipo hasn’t been anywhere near the same player he was after suffering a ruptured quad tendon in his knee a couple seasons ago and the Rockets should’ve known that when they initially acquired him and not Caris LeVert in the James Harden deal at the beginning of the season.
And what you saw Thursday is the sad result of that.
The very first trade made on deadline day was a minor-looking deal between the Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons as the Pistons swapped Delon Wright for Cory Joseph and a pair of second-round picks.
Though small on the NBA scale, this transaction could have big implications for the Canadian men’s national team because his contract isn’t guaranteed for next season, there’s a strong likelihood that Detroit might waive him in the off-season making him a free agent.
This would be problematic for Canada Basketball because guys usually want to take care of their professional situation before committing to the national team.
Olynyk will also become an unrestricted free agent in the summer, meaning Team Canada might not have two of its most senior members for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria.
Great Kyle Lowry scrums
On Wednesday night when so much was uncertain about his future, Lowry held court with the media for a little over 23 minutes.
It was spectacular and had an air of finality to it.
Well, Lowry is still a Raptor for the time being so what are the chances such an epic press conference may happen again anytime soon?
Likely pretty slim.