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Biggest Winner, Loser from the NBA Trade Deadline

Biggest Winner, Loser from the NBA Trade Deadline article feature image

The 2024 NBA Trade Deadline came and went with a whimper.

Dejounte Murray stayed put. Most of the top contenders made moves around the fringes or did nothing at all. The biggest marquee names traded were already moved before the actual deadline — former Raptors OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.

Still, every team had a chance to help itself this week.  Some did, some didn't, and some are too soon to tell.

I've got one team for each category as we look big picture at the league.

Winner: Boston Celtics

You're forgiven if you sort of forgot the Celtics made any move at all at the deadline. It certainly wasn't anything splashy.

Boston already has its elite six-man rotation. The Celtics already have the best team in the league.

Now Boston has Xavier Tillman too, and he is just exactly, precisely what Boston needed.

The Celtics badly needed another big man, someone who can bang in the paint, a guy to soak up a few minutes, someone to play regular season minutes to give Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford a little extra rest before the postseason. Tillman is the perfect addition.

Tillman is strong as an ox, and he's great in the locker room for a team that can always use some direction. He's a very good defender and rebounder with surprising passing skills, which makes him a very solid Horford replacement, and his presence on the team is insurance for a Porzingis injury and a chance to keep KP from spending too much time banging with opposing centers.

Xavier Tillman can help the Boston Celtics get to the Finals, and he can play 15 or 20 minutes a game there too.

When all is said and done, Xavier Tillman might very well be the most impactful title race addition at the deadline.

Loser: Chicago Bulls

You can always go a lot of directions on trade deadline losers.

I don't love how much the Mavs paid to get P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. I have no idea what the Raptors are doing with just about every new roster move.

Then there are the teams that didn't make a move. The Warriors and Lakers basically stood pat and — correctly — admitted they're not good enough to mortgage the future to chase a title this season. The Hawks didn't move Dejounte Murray but didn't need to; he'll still be just as valuable this summer, with more suitors and options.

And then there are the Bulls, who still inexplicably have done absolutely nothing to give the team even a little semblance of direction.

Any hopes of a Zach LaVine trade were dashed with his injury, and good luck finding a Nikola Vucevic suitor. But wasn't it time to move on from DeMar DeRozan, and goodness, how much could Chicago have gotten for Alex Caruso, a guy who helps just about every contender on a dirt cheap contract?

Heck, how about just trading Andre Drummond or Jevon Carter for a second rounder or two? Doesn't sound like much, but the Bulls don't own any of their next four seconds so you might as well start somewhere.

Instead, the Bulls did nothing. Again.

Do you realize the last player trade the Bulls made involved Derrick Jones Jr. and took place almost 900 days ago?! That came a couple weeks after Chicago doubled down on its awful Vucevic trade by trading for DeMar DeRozan — the Bulls still owe a future first to the Spurs for that one too, by the way.

Sometimes you lose a trade. It happens.

Other times you lose simply by not even playing the game at all.

TBD: Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers made one of the splashier additions when they traded for Buddy Hield, and they did so without sacrificing a single first-round pick.

Hield is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Full stop.

The NBA has seen 18 seasons with over 270 made 3-pointers by a single player. Buddy Hield has four of them. That's twice as many as Klay Thompson, twice as many as James Harden, and half as many as Steph Curry — which honestly might be the most impressive feat.

Hield is a career 40% knockdown 3-point shooter, and his fit in Philadelphia is pitch perfect.

How do you defend Hield next to Embiid and Maxey?

If you single team Embiid in the post, that's a bucket. Bring a double and you just left Hield open for three. Manage to cover him too and now Maxey is streaking downhill into all that space between Hield and Embiid. Good luck.

Besides adding Hield, the Sixers also cut cap and added roster spots, setting them up as potential buyout players. Anybody smell a Kyle Lowry homecoming?

Only Philadelphia knows how healthy Embiid is right now or ever will be.

It's possible the big man is back out there a month from now, looking good with new All-Star teammate Tyrese Maxey alongside Hield and maybe even Lowry. That team can contend in the East. It might have a shot to win it all.

On the other hand, it's hard not to wonder if this was a long term move looking past this season.

Philadelphia didn't just get Hield — it also got a chance to pay him this summer. And before the Sixers pay Hield and Maxey, they might very well use the open salary from Tobias Harris and a ton of other expiring deals (and maybe Paul Reed!) to go get one more big time name to add to this roster. The Sixers have a couple extra Clippers picks to add to one of their own and a pile of swaps.

There's also the roster cost of Philadelphia's moves. To get where it needed to, the Sixers traded Patrick Beverley and Jaden Springer away — to their top two contenders in the East.

Few players in the league play with more of a chip on their shoulder than Patrick Beverley. You think he won't relish the opportunity to play a full playoff series against the team that just dumped him? He's not what he once was, but Milwaukee has sorely missed Jrue Holiday's point of attack defense and Beverley provides some of that.

Springer is unlikely to make Philly pay immediately given the depth of Boston's rotation, but I've always been a Springer guy and he's a great fit in Boston, notoriously good talent developers. Springer has done some great work in the G League and still has another cheap year on his contract. Philadelphia just gave him away to its top rival, basically for free.

Glass half full or glass half empty?

You can look at things both ways for Philadelphia. But until we know what's happening with Embiid, we may not know either way.

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Nick Sterling
Mar 2, 2024 UTC