2018 NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Blake Griffin brings the ball up the court
Blake Griffin was the biggest name to change addresses before the NBA trade deadline. Photo by Verse Photography (Flickr) [CC License].
  • The Cavs made a flurry of moves. Will they entice LeBron James to stick around?
  • The Lakers cleared cap space. Can they tempt two max free agents to join them in a title quest next  year?
  • Will Nikola Mirotic get coldcocked by his new teammates in New Orleans?

The NBA trade deadline ended on Thursday at 3:00 p.m., and once again it went down to the wire with teams scrambling to make deals at the 11th hour. Once the dust settled, more than 25 players had been traded by 14 franchises. Some of the deals that didn’t happen were just as noteworthy as the ones that did, as prime trade targets like DeAndre Jordan, Kemba Walker, and Julius Randle all stayed put.

We’ve sorted through the flotsam and jetsam from one of the busiest deadline days in NBA history, and have come up with a definitive list of the biggest winners and losers. When online sportsbooks re-post their NBA futures, we will analyze the best value among the revamped rosters.

TRADE DEADLINE WINNERS

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

In the end, it may amount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but you have to give the Cavaliers credit for changing things up. Over a period of 30 minutes, Cleveland acquired George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. while jettisoning Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and Dwyane Wade. The deals instantly make the team younger, quicker, and more athletic, and infuse the locker room with hope and optimism for the first time in months.

Over a period of 30 minutes, Cleveland acquired George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. while jettisoning Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and Dwyane Wade.

LeBron James may still bolt this summer, but in the meantime he has a stable of promising young talent to help him reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year. Hill is a massive upgrade defensively over Thomas, Wade, and Rose; Clarkson is a dependable spark-plug off the bench; Hood is a superb floor spacer with a bit of bounce to his game; and Larry Nance Jr. is a first-class finisher and consummate glue guy who can contribute without needing the ball. It will take a few weeks for all of the new pieces to gel, but the Cavs are in better shape now than they were when the morning began.

DETROIT PISTONS

The Pistons went all-in on January 29th when they shipped out Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and a pair of draft picks for Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed. It’s fair to ask whether Detroit gave up too much in the deal, but you certainly can’t question the early returns. Griffin has led the Pistons to a perfect 4-0 record and is averaging 21.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists since arriving in the Motor City. The five-time All-Star has already developed excellent chemistry with Andre Drummond, and has the team positioned for a deep playoff run for the first time since 2008.

Detroit may regret this deal the next time Griffin inevitably gets sidelined, but for now, they’ve revitalized the franchise and become relevant for the first time in years.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

So much for sitting on the sidelines. Two days after saying they were focused on the 2019 free-agent class, the Lakers managed to clear cap space for two max contracts by trading Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a protected first-round draft pick. Regardless of what becomes of impending free-agent Thomas and his wonky hip, L.A. is now in perfect position to attract LeBron James and Paul George this summer and jumpstart the team’s latest title chase.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

The Hornets made a great under-the-radar move by acquiring Willy Hernangomez from the Knicks for Johnny O’Bryant and a pair of second-round draft picks. The 23-year-old big man had fallen out of New York’s rotation this season, but was a member of the NBA All-Rookie Team just a year ago and is on a team-friendly deal with three years remaining on his contract. Hernangomez should fit in nicely in Charlotte, where he’ll spell Dwight Howard at center and see a few minutes behind Marvin Williams at the four.

LOU WILLIAMS (CLIPPERS)

Every year at least one NBA team panics at the trade deadline and spends the equivalent of Mozambique’s GDP on a player headed for free agency. This year it was the Clippers, who agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal to keep Lou Williams in L.A. It isn’t the biggest contract on the market, but it represents a huge win for the well-traveled 31-year-old, who is now playing for his sixth team and has been openly lobbying for some stability in his professional life. Williams won’t win a title in L.A., but he’ll get to shoot until his arm falls off and finally has some well-earned financial security.

Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls
Nikola Mirotic had many suitors during this year’s trade season. Photo by Verse Photography (Flickr) [CC License].

NIKOLA MIROTIC (PELICANS)

Things are looking up for Nikola Mirotic, who was dealt to the Pelicans on February 1st for Omer Asik, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson, and a protected first-round pick. The sweet-shooting forward will now get to start over in New Orleans, where his chances of making the playoffs go up and his chances of getting punched in the face by a teammate go down. Sounds like a win-win.

ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI (ESPN)

Santa has Christmas, the Easter Bunny has Easter, and Adrian Wojnarowski has the NBA trade deadline. Deadline day has become nearly synonymous with ESPN’s ace reporter thanks to his ability to break stories and report transactions long before any of his peers. His so-called “Woj Bombs” dominated Twitter all morning long and resulted in millions of impressions and tens of thousands of likes and retweets from around the world. In this age of instant information, we’re willing to bet that more NBA players found out they had been traded from @wojespn than from their own general managers.

TRADE DEADLINE LOSERS

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

L.A. could have cleaned house and started fresh after trading Griffin to the Pistons, but instead, they re-signed an aging guard with a singular skillset, retained a center who’s almost certain to leave in free agency, and held onto a valuable trade asset in Avery Bradley who is also likely to leave this summer. The Clippers gave themselves a shot at making the playoffs this season, but any short-term gains will be more than negated by the years of mediocrity that lie ahead.

The Clippers gave themselves a shot at making the playoffs this season, but any short-term gains will be more than negated by the years of mediocrity that lie ahead.

DENVER NUGGETS

Few teams had more irons in the fire than the Nuggets, who made aggressive plays for Lou Williams and Tyreke Evans, and were said to be actively dangling Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Emmanuel Mudiay. In the end, they were only able to obtain Devin Harris for Mudiay in a three-team trade also involving the Mavs and Knicks. Harris’ dependability will be welcome, but it’s small comfort for Michael Malone, who will now be tasked with the unenviable job of coaching two players who know they were unwanted by all 30 teams in the NBA.

ISAIAH THOMAS (LAKERS)

How the mighty have fallen. Thomas was so maligned by the media during his brief tenure with the Cavs that it’s easy to forget he led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals and was in the thick of the MVP race as recently as nine months ago. He still has a chance of resurrecting his career, but it likely won’t happen in L.A., where the Lakers will give the lion’s share of their backcourt minutes to Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

ANYONE DEALT TO THE KINGS

If basketball has a Hell, it’s located smack dab in the middle of the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Don’t forget to grab your pitchforks and tails on the way in, Iman Shumpert and Joe Johnson!

Most sportsbooks have closed their NBA futures today while they take stock of all the personnel moves around the league. New odds will be available soon at the reputable online sportsbooks and, as mentioned, we’ll analyze the smart wagers when they are.