The NBA trade deadline has come and gone.
This year, we saw one star player change teams (DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans), two others stay put after they were the subject of rumors (Indiana’s Paul George and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler), and some key supporting pieces get moved to playoff teams looking for more firepower (Serge Ibaka to Toronto, Lou Williams to Houston, Taj Gibson to OKC).
One other trend we witnessed: Teams contending for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot doing some serious wheeling and dealing. Six teams have a legitimate shot at the No. 8 seed out West. Five of them — Denver, Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans and Dallas — made significant roster changes over the course of the trade deadline.
These trades made by the lower-tier Western Conference teams could very well alter the race for who gets the honor of being incinerated by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs come April. Let’s run through the moves and then try to take stock of what it means.
8. Denver Nuggets (25-31)
Got: Mason Plumlee and a 2017 second-round pick (from Portland); Roy Hibbert (from Milwaukee)
Sent: Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick (to Portland)
9. Sacramento Kings (24-33)
Got: Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-round pick (from New Orleans)
Sent: DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi (to New Orleans)
10. Portland Trail Blazers (23-33)
Got: Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick (from Denver)
Sent: Mason Plumlee and a 2017 second-round pick (to Denver)
11. New Orleans Pelicans (23-34)
Got: DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi (from Sacramento)
Sent: Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-round pick (from New Orleans)
12. Dallas Mavericks (22-34)
Got: Nerlens Noel (from Philadelphia)
Sent: Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a protected 2017 first-round pick (to Philadelphia)
Three games are all that separate these five teams in the standings. With the way the deadline shook out, I can envision scenarios where any one of Denver, Portland, New Orleans or Dallas gets the West’s last playoff spot.
The Pelicans added Cousins, a volatile personality and an extraordinary talent. He’s averaging 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists this year. He and Anthony Davis represent a frightening frontcourt matchup for just about any team in the league.
I think the Nuggets got slightly better by getting Plumlee. Nurkic was unhappy with his role here and had frankly stopped trying. Plumlee fits right in with what Denver does offensively.
It’s hard to say the Blazers and Mavericks got immediately better with the trades they made. Their moves could help in the present but seemed to be geared more toward future improvement. But both teams have enough talent and coaching to challenge for that last spot.
Denver has 26 games left in its season. Holding off all of these new-look teams won’t be easy.
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