The Oklahoma City Thunder got all their needs met at Thursday’s trade deadline. The Miami Heat made a big splash, too. What other teams helped (or harmed) their chances against the basketball odds?
Jason’s record as of Feb. 18: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Are you ready for another Oklahoma City Thunder-Miami Heat NBA Finals? It’s entirely possible, thanks to the flurry of activity at Thursday’s trade deadline. Some 40 players ended up switching teams, and at least in the short term, nobody did more to improve their chances against the NBA odds than the Thunder and Heat.
Other teams did well for themselves, too. And then you had the head-scratchers, the trades that didn’t seem to make all that much sense. We’ll run down the big deals from Thursday’s deadline and see which teams will make better or worse NBA picks during the unofficial second half of the season.
Oklahoma City Longhorns
Remember how we were saying the Thunder were probably going to lose out on that eighth playoff seed in the West? Never mind. All projections are subject to the whims of personnel changes, be they trades or injuries, and Oklahoma City is now in the driver’s seat after Thursday’s transactions. Gone are Reggie Jackson (15.6 PER) and Kendrick Perkins (7.4 PER); in their place are D.J. Augustin (15.8 PER) and Enes Kanter (17.5 PER), respectively. Instant upgrade.
But that’s not all. The Thunder also added a pair of “spacers” in Steve Novak (48.5 percent from downtown) and Kyle Singler (40.6 percent), giving their bench a much-needed boost to go with Kanter’s offensive production. And don’t forget, Augustin and Kevin Durant (28.6 PER) played together in college at Texas. The Western Conference is still up for grabs, but now there are eight teams who can win this thing, not just seven.
The Phoenix Suns are not one of those teams. Or so it would seem, after they got rid of both Goran Dragic (16.6 PER) and, ironically enough, Isaiah Thomas (19.6 PER). The Suns did bring back another useful point guard in Brandon Knight (18.5 PER), but all told, Thursday’s deals signal a step back and a re-organization for Phoenix. As for the New Orleans Pelicans, they’ll have a hard time keeping up with OKC after adding just Norris Cole (9.9 PER) and Ish Smith (9.0 PER) for depth.
It’ll be an easier playoff path for Miami in the Eastern Conference, especially after they picked up Dragic (and his brother Zoran) from Phoenix. And the Heat did it without disrupting their core. Taking their talents away from South Beach, in addition to Cole: Danny Granger (8.7 PER), Justin Hamilton (9.8 PER), and perhaps Shawne Williams (11.3 PER), depending on which source is accurate. We’ll have to see how things shake out once all the dust has settled.
What that leaves behind is an outstanding starting lineup – when healthy. Put Dragic on the same floor as Dwyane Wade (22.4 PER) and Chris Bosh (19.9 PER), and you’ve got an established Big Three again. That’s even if Hassan Whiteside (28.4 PER) turns back into a pumpkin. And Luol Deng (16.7 PER) can still go. The Heat don’t have much of a bench anymore, but they still have Chris Andersen (15.7 PER) and Mario Chalmers (12.1 PER) backing up the most important positions on the court. Don’t sleep on the Heat.
When all is said and done, we might end up declaring the Milwaukee Bucks the real winners of Thursday’s trade deadline. It was a bit of a surprise to see them let Knight go, but they got back a “true” point guard in Michael Carter-Williams (12.8 PER) who should thrive under head coach Jason Kidd. The Bucks also landed Miles Plumlee (13.1 PER) and little-used rookie Tyler Ennis from Phoenix. These moves don’t just make the Bucks a better NBA pick in the future – they might improve Milwaukee’s chances this year, as well.