NBA trade deadline winners, losers: Did rest of league catch up with Denver Nuggets?

NBA trade deadline winners, losers: Did rest of league catch up with Denver Nuggets?

While the Nuggets didn’t change their 18-man roster at the 2024 NBA trade deadline, other contenders around the league made a variety of moves — mostly on the margins — in an effort to steal the throne from Denver.

From the view at altitude, here are the winners and losers of the deadline:

Winner: New York Knicks

The leader of every other winners-and-losers think-piece is the leader of this one, too. New York landed Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks on deadline day at relatively low cost, but the Nuggets already got a close-up view of the new Knicks when O.G. Anunoby registered six steals against them at MSG. With Milwaukee reeling and Philadelphia hedging after Joel Embiid’s injury (Buddy Hield was a solid middle-ground acquisition), New York suddenly transformed into the most proactive win-now team in the East this deadline.

Loser: Dallas Mavericks

In arguably the highest-profile trade on actual deadline day, Dallas overpaid for P.J. Washington, whose 13.6 points per game felt somewhat like empty calories in Charlotte. The trade was simultaneously an admission of failure in the Grant Williams Experiment and a brand-new roll of the dice. More importantly, the Mavericks did what the Knicks avoided: They traded a precious first-round pick (2027). Future: mortgaged. Draft assets are close to extinct now for Dallas, a franchise throwing darts at the wall and hoping one will stick before it’s too late to salvage and extend the Luka Doncic era.

Winner: Boston Celtics

Is Xavier Tillman going to be a significant role player in Joe Mazzulla’s playoff rotation? Probably not. Will the Celtics feel a lot more comfortable having an affordable, playable backup big ready to aid the injury-prone Kristaps Porzingis and aging Al Horford? Absolutely. Especially if they’re dealing with six or seven games of Nikola Jokic. This was a depth move that felt tailored to fit a Nuggets NBA Finals matchup, but it cost Boston only two second-round picks to add a salary under $2 million.

Loser: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder should have done what Boston did. Don’t get me wrong: Gordon Hayward seems like an outstanding veteran addition to a young team. A lot of teams might have pursued him if Charlotte had bought out his contract. But Oklahoma City’s biggest need still hasn’t been addressed. Back in October, I asked Michael Porter Jr. for his first impressions of Chet Holmgren after Denver won in OKC. “I think he’s very, very talented,” Porter said. “To me, he’s more of a four.” Holmgren, who has an even more injury-prone body type than Porzingis and already missed all of last season, is the Thunder’s starting five. Sophomore charge-taking specialist Jaylin Williams (6-foot-9) backs him up. The center position runs dry from there. For a team so small and with a rebounding weakness (No. 27 in the league), it seems neglectful not to dip into a horde of 10,000 picks and add a more traditional five to at least deploy in bench lineups. Without reinforcements, Holmgren is susceptible to getting worn down by Jokic in a long series.

Winner: Monte Morris

Congratulations to one former Nuggets backup point guard, who moved from the league’s most puzzling team (Detroit) to a Western Conference title contender. Smart trade for the Timberwolves, who needed more offense to support their top-rated defense. Minnesota’s two most common lineups involving point guard Mike Conley have net ratings of 9.6 and 7.6, respectively, in 635 combined minutes. The most common lineup without Conley on the floor is a minus-5.1 in 127 minutes (a lineup including Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns), and second-most common without Conley is a modest 4.9 in 100 minutes (using all four starters except him). Morris supplies 3-point shooting and an upgrade in turnover prevention for an offense that’s third-worst in the NBA at protecting the ball in clutch time.

Loser: Bruce Brown

Pour one out for a different former Nuggets backup point guard. Brown did the Reverse Morris three weeks ago, getting traded from a young playoff-caliber core in Indianapolis to a losing team. But the league-wide expectation was that Toronto might flip Brown. There was a market for his versatility and recent championship experience. So he waited and waited, until the deadline passed Thursday, leaving him temporarily stranded in Canada. Brown was just one bullet point on a list of head-scratching decisions by the Raptors, also including their forfeiture of a 2024 first-round pick among other assets for Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji.

Winner: The NFL

The most lopsided final score of the 2024 sports calendar so far: Super Bowl week vs. NBA trade deadline week. The NFL needn’t worry about its biggest build-up of the season getting hijacked by the NBA thanks to the latter’s new collective bargaining agreement. This was the most boring trade deadline in recent memory. The two biggest deals occurred in January. The biggest surprises were the players who didn’t get traded. Football kept a firm grasp on media attention.

Loser: Hourglass emojis

Is nothing sacred? When LeBron James drops a cryptic social media post and his team doesn’t move heaven and earth for him, that’s when you know it’s an underwhelming trade deadline. The hourglass emoji turned out to be a symbol for NBA fans’ feelings as they refreshed Twitter on Thursday. Among the notable teams to stand pat: Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Pelicans, Kings, Cavaliers, Magic and Hawks. That encompasses a decent chunk of the Western Conference playoff picture, perhaps an encouraging sign that the rest of the league isn’t catching up with Denver at an alarming pace. Nonetheless, LeBron’s hourglass emoji, and yours, was unfulfilled.

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