By Dave Del Grande
Winners and losers at the 2018 NBA trade deadline:
Koby Altman. In less than a full year as Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, Altman has demonstrated two praiseworthy traits: The boldness to trade the likes of Kyrie Irving, and the unselfishness to admit he made a huge mistake. Within an hour Thursday, the Cavaliers went from the league’s most disappointing team to the Eastern favorite again, with an assist from the Los Angeles Lakers (Jordan Clarkson) and especially the Utah Jazz (Rodney Hood) and the Sacramento Kings (George Hill).
Jerry West. As with Altman, the team West joined as a critical adviser last offseason, the Clippers, look a whole lot different today than it did then. His expertise paid off handsomely previously as the Golden State Warriors, whose leading scorer on the day he was hired was Monta Ellis, went from a perennial doormat to one of the greatest teams of all time in five short years. If he says the Clippers are better off without Blake Griffin, then rest assured they’re better off without a guy who has never been out of the Western semifinals and boasts a 19-21 postseason record. It won’t happen this year (as it didn’t right away in Golden State), but the Clippers’ future is a lot brighter today than it was before they lured West back to Los Angeles.
Isaiah Thomas. No one’s stock has fallen farther than Thomas’, and at just the wrong time being that the guard had a shot at a championship and hitting the jackpot in free agency before the confetti had been swept away. He was dealt from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, and the move from a chaotic penthouse to a refurbished outhouse is just what Thomas needs to prove he’s still worth the big bucks in free agency. Heck, a fully rejuvenated Thomas might move Lonzo Ball to shooting guard in the Lakers’ suddenly bright future. And if that fails, he can always fall back upon new pal LaVar Ball for a job in Ball’s new league next year.
Adrian Wojnarowski. The NBA trade deadline is the Super Bowl of source-tapping reporting in the NBA, and one guy easily snatched the Peter Vecsey Trophy this year. It seemed Wojnarowski, ESPN’s basketball version of Adam Schefter, was announcing trades before they cleared Adam Silver’s desk Thursday. In a profession that’s becoming more and more competitive, Woj clearly has moved to the top of the NBA standings.
Tie, Joe Johnson and Houston Rockets. Johnson, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose … It’s possible any or all of the six will be available to the most attractive bidder as soon as terms of a buyout can be reached. No doubt, teams such as the Warriors and Rockets are working with agents behind the scenes at this moment. The defense-stretching and playoff-tested Johnson could be the perfect addition to put the streaking Rockets over the top in the West.
Tie, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. The East’s new front-runners both appeared to see a tornado in the rearview mirror, panicked and moved aside. Turns out, it was the Cavaliers coming.
Utah Jazz. They are on one of their best rolls of the post-Malone/Stockton era, quickly propelling themselves into solid playoff positioning, and then they decide it’s time to jettison arguably their best offensive player for two has-beens? The Hood deal to Cleveland has to rate as the biggest head-scratcher of the day. It’s the type of move that has made Billy Beane (in)famous: Sell high from a surprisingly good product, in hopes of a brighter future that never seems to come.
Chris Wallace. The well-traveled Memphis general manager fired David Fizdale 19 games into the season one year after Fizdale took the Grizzlies to the playoffs as a rookie head coach. Forget that Wallace allowed two key players — Zach Randolph and Tony Allen — to walk in the offseason. And forget that Mike Conley, aka The Franchise, had the team off to a 7-4 start before his Achilles flamed up on him. Is it really a surprise that Wallace couldn’t extract a decent price for arguably the most hotly pursued player on the market, Tyreke Evans? So now Evans is likely to exit the same door as Randolph and Allen this summer. Similar to Utah, a franchise such as Memphis simply cannot afford to waste the rare gems it unearths.
Dwyane Wade. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder? Just didn’t work out. Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose? Bulk pick-up. That all makes sense. But has Wade really sunk to such depths that he merits inclusion among the six players the Cavaliers jettisoned Thursday? Two months in Miami has never looked less desirable. (Four months if you count the playoffs he’ll be watching.)
New York Knicks. Every NBA analyst east of the Rockies spent at least one hour of his/her life this past month trying to figure out a way to fix the Knicks. Several trades were suggested. None were overly attractive. So the fact that the Knicks did basically nothing at the deadline is no surprise. But it is telling. A team can’t acquire assets without even the slightest hint of having something useful to exchange. The silence of the Knicks’ phones Thursday was deafening.
–By Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media