NBA: 3 biggest winners of the trade deadline

NBA Golden State Warriors D'Angelo Russell . (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NBA Golden State Warriors D'Angelo Russell . (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Looking at the three biggest winners of the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline

Now that the dust has finally settled, I think we can all agree that the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline was as exciting as one could reasonably expect. The action started on Tuesday and lasted right up until the 3:30 p.m. deadline, and several players now have a new home.

The trades were made for a multitude of reasons, whether it be financial, strengthening the roster, or acquiring Andre Drummond because he was merely available for the right price. Even though we don’t know how each player fits or where draft picks fall, there were some clear winners of the trade deadline.

Houston Rockets

Out: Clint Capela, Nene, 2020 first-round pick

In: Robert Covington

The Houston Rockets made a big splash on Tuesday night when they acquired veteran wing Robert Covington in exchange for Clint Capela (to Atlanta) and a 2020 first-round pick (to Denver). The motive for this trade stems from the Rockets’ fixation for small lineups and shooting as well as financial implications.

According to Jabari Young of CNBC, Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta was adamantly avoiding the luxury tax. And with a team that has two players on max-contracts in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, they had very few options.

Clint Capela, who in the second season of a five-year $90 million contract, was the odd man out. At 25, the young center has a bright future ahead of him in Atlanta; but the hefty salary for the old school center made him expendable to the Rockets.

Considering Houston’s intention to shed salary went public before the trade, they gave up minimal assets for Robert Covington. It had been reported that the Timberwolves were seeking two first-round picks in exchange for their prized wing.

Players like Covington are never easy to find, as he’s a career 35.8 percent 3-point shooter and premier defender. Not only that, but he’s in the second season of a four-year, $46.8 million contract. This skillset makes Covington the ideal power forward for Houston’s efficiency-focused approach. In one move, Daryl Morey was able to dodge the luxury tax and acquire a player that fits in Mike D’Antoni’s system.

As of now, the team will be starting the 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker at center, which could (will) lead to bad matchups in the playoffs. Look for Houston to be aggressive on the buyout market.

Memphis Grizzlies

Out: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder

In: Justise Winslow, Gorgui Dieng, Dion Waiters

The front office in Memphis continues to make all of the right moves. After acquiring a first-round pick in exchange for taking Andre Iguodala’s expiring contract, many expected Memphis to buyout Iguodala.

However, they recognized that he was still valuable on a contender, so they held onto to the aging forward until the right deal came along. Memphis’ plan came to fruition Wednesday night when they acquired a 23-year-old point-forward in Justise Winslow.

In the days leading up to the trade, the young core of the Grizzlies made it clear that they were done with the former Finals MVP. As Iguodala still wanted out even though his team was in the playoff picture. This kind of drama usually decimates the potential return for the incumbent team, but Miami is making a push for the championship.

For Miami, this trade was met with understandable skepticism. Winslow is only 23 and is a proven impact player, but he’s dealt with injuries throughout his career. And Iguodala is 36 and will only contribute for another year or two, if at all. This is the epitome of a win-now move for Miami. Pat Riley gave up on his oft-injured asset and paired it with bad contracts to achieve future cap flexibility.

Memphis hit a home run and are yet another example of a smart, progressive rebuild.

They essentially turned cap space into Winslow and a pick (from Golden State). If Winslow can manage to shake the injury bug, the front office added another valuable piece to its already promising young core. If he can’t, his modest salary of $13 million can be used to facilitate a future deal, and the contract contains a team-option after next season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Out: Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Kieta Bates-Diop, Jordan Bell

In: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernanogomez, Evan Turner, Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman, Jarred Vanderbilt

The Minnesota Timberwolves are 15-35  (including two separate 11-game losing streaks) and have fans looking forward to the draft lottery yet again. Head coach Ryan Saunders implemented a system involving consistent ball movement and a strong emphasis on 3-point shooting.

The system has been utilized, but the execution has been abysmal, as the Wolves rank third in 3-point attempts but 30th in conversion. Change in personnel was desperately needed, and President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas did just that by making one of the most sudden and drastic roster overhauls in recent history.

On Tuesday night, the Timberwolves traded Robert Covington, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, and Jordan Bell in exchange for Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt and Brooklyn’s 2020 first-round pick. This deal was genuinely disheartening for Wolves fans.

Other than Towns, Covington was the team’s most valuable trade asset; as he is a respectable shooter and a versatile defender playing on a team-friendly contract. The players Minnesota received are promising, but they don’t entirely address the team’s needs. Only Beasley is as good of a shooter, and none of them possess the defensive skill set of the departing player.

Simply, it’s highly unlikely the players Minnesota received will be better than Covington. Not to mention Beasley and Hernangomez are restricted free agents this summer, and the former may sign a reasonably lucrative offer sheet. The Timberwolves lost their thirteenth consecutive game the following day, and the future of the franchise looked bleak.

Everything changed in the hours before the deadline, as the Timberwolves acquired the perfect piece to pair alongside Towns. First reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, Minnesota sent Andrew Wiggins, a 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected), and a 2021 second-round pick to Golden State in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman, and Jacob Evans.

Many questioned why Golden State would make this trade, as Russell is undoubtedly better than Wiggins. The caveat with the trade is that Golden State is (barely) avoiding the luxury tax by sending out Spellman and Evans.

Furthermore, they’re currently facing an $8.7 million tax bill in 2021, even though they only have eight players under contract. Since they avoided it this season, they avoid paying a repeater tax bill worth “north of $30M”, per Bobby Marks. Golden State also receives additional picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. The picks are especially valuable due to the NBA lowering the eligibility age from 19 to 18. This allows top prospects to forgo their “one-and-done” in the NCAA, thus creating an abundance of talent.

Acquiring Russell has been the Gersson Rosas’s goal since he was appointed President of Basketball Operations in 2019. Russell was an All-Star with Brooklyn last season and is currently averaging career-highs in points, TS% (total shot percentage), and offensive box plus/minus. And by excelling in the pick-and-roll and as a spot-up shooter, he and Towns could be an excellent offensive duo.

Next. Miami Heat: Pat Riley made an audacious gamble at the trade deadline. dark

Time will tell how the team will do on defense, but Minnesota now has the personnel and salary cap flexibility to address the need. The fact that Gersson Rosas able to acquire a talent that fits in the team’s system and timeline is impressive. Being able to do so while sending out Andrew Wiggins’ albatross contract makes this trade a borderline miracle.