So your team didn’t take a big gamble on that one player that you really wanted, or they couldn’t move that gnarly contract. Maybe the team made one or two lateral moves swapping middle tier players in need of fresh starts. Or maybe your team just blew up that one squad that you loved so much. There are so many different ways that the NBA’s trade deadline can affect a team that they warrant investigation. Let’s figure out what kind of trade deadline your favorite team had.
Blow it up!
The two biggest culprits here are the Los Angeles Clippers, and of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers. There are many reasons a team could come to this conclusion as the deadline nears but for the Clippers and the Cavs, their reasons are polar opposites. For the Clippers, this process actually began with the trading of Chris Paul, the first non-drafted Clipper to give legitimacy to the franchise. With Paul gone, it became clear the Clippers planned on making a move and did so by trading the best player in their franchise Blake Griffin. While he was traded about a week before the deadline, it was clear that this was a move that was only about the future, salary dumping, and preparing for a post-Blake era. The Cavs on the other had faced a Lebron James problem, meaning that the immense amount of pressure he puts on any franchise to win was causing the team to wilt. Compounding this issue was the ineffectiveness of players on larger contracts, an overall aging roster, and Isaiah Thomas’ complaints. Both teams recognized that they had to make a move or face being trapped with failing teams and bloated contracts. Cleveland opted for a full-scale reboot (80% of the roster!) centered on extending Lebron’s window and the Clippers shed a potential albatross and committed to the future.
Bring them home!
Every season there are players and teams that seem to orbit each other for a myriad of reasons. It could be a former player-coach relationship that resulted in the best years of a career or it can a home city/state/franchise that a player holds dear. After the 2018 trade deadline, there are two such players in wildly different positions, orbiting two divergent teams, and both coming from Cleveland. The most obvious is Dwyane Wade the Miami Heat who divorced each other just two seasons ago but did save each other’s number. After a contentious contract negotiation in 2015 where Miami, rightly, refused to give him a max contract, Wade left for what he thought were greener pastures. Two tumultuous seasons later and Wade has returned for virtually nothing and with the hopes of leading a limping seventh-seeded Heat team back to the playoffs. The other player is Derrick Rose who is in dire need of a change in scenery and some external motivation. He too has had a rough last few years starting with his hobbled return from injury with Chicago, a brief stint with New York, and this season a second consecutive two-week departure from his team. Each of the last two years he has questioned if he should retire, now that he has been traded and bought out, Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves is on the hunt to return Rose to the fold. Both players are bound to their most familiar people and spaces and if they intend to finish their careers on high notes there probably aren’t any better landing spots.
There’s always next season!
This category of deadline results could be applied to many teams who either made minor moves because they had no trade chips or because there was little there to move the needle. The best examples of this are the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. These two rival franchises are in very different developmental stages as the Lakers moves were simple salary dumps as they navigate interstellar space, while Boston has been miles ahead of most Eastern Conference franchises. Lakers fans have been pining for a big name star to land in SoCal since Kobe Bryant retired and the moves made to move on from Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. are in that same vein. These moves will help them in terms of cap space next season, and perhaps Isaiah Thomas can return to form late this year, but this move was all about 2019. Boston occupies a different position as it is preparing to eventually to do battle with Lebron James in the playoffs. Many expected the Celtics to move on from Marcus Smart and make a play for Tyreke Evans or some other bench bolstering move. Instead, they stood pat and prepared for their eventual pursuit of Anthony Davis next season reasoning that no small moves would make a difference this season. Both teams are angling for the future even as opportunities to get marginally better present themselves now. With this forward-thinking move, their fans exit the deadline hopeful of the future but with nothing to show for it at the moment.
The Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Toronto Raptors are not only locked into the teams but, but also disinterested in outside entities. In short, if asked if they wanted another player the reply would simply be: “Nah man, we good.”