The NBA trade deadline in 2022 was even more unpredictable than we could have imagined, after weeks of speculation and intrigue. If you aren’t caught up, here’s a quick recap of some of the top-line items.
The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers completed a trade that involved James Harden for Ben Simmons, with the Nets also acquiring two first-round picks.
Kristaps Porzingis was traded by the Dallas Mavericks to the Washington Wizards in exchange for two players.
The Celtics made two trades. Josh Richardson and a first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Daniel Theis.
There was a four-team trade involving the Kings, Pistons, Lakers, and Clippers, in which the Kings got Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Jackson, and the Pistons got Marvin Bagley III.
Some of the smaller deals and moves that were completed earlier in the week are not included. The league looks different than it did a few days ago. The Eastern Conference went through a huge change with the Nets and 76ers blockbuster. The top eight teams in that conference are separated by just 5.5 games, so it’s going to be a mad dash to the end of the season.
Let’s take a look at the different tiers of contention in the East.
The winner was the Milwaukee Bucks.
The record was 35-22.
The position in the Eastern Conference is 4th.
They traded Donte DiVincenzo to the Kings, Serge Ibaka to the Clippers, and two second-round picks to the Pistons.
Things have not gone to plan for the team. They’ve been decimated by injuries. Lopez underwent back surgery and is out indefinitely. Jrue Holiday has been limited to 29 games. Due to Lopez’s absence, the defense hasn’t been as good, and they’ve put it on auto-pilot mode at times.
They’re in fourth place in the East at 35-22, 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat. The big three have been healthy and the Bucks have been dominant. They have a plus-13.5 net rating with that trio on the court. They addressed their biggest weakness by trading for Ibaka. He is not the healthiest guy, but he fits in perfectly with what they like to do on both sides of the ball, and they won’t need him to play a lot of minutes if Lopez comes back.
The best player in the world at the moment is Giannis, who is making a push for his third Most Valuable Player award. The Bucks are the defending champion and have all the experience and confidence that comes with being at the top.
Someone is going to have to take the belt from them.
The main challengers are Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.
The record was 32-22.
The position in the conference is 5th.
The Nets got James Harden, Ben Simmons, and two first-round picks.
We’ll talk about the two teams together. Everyone was waiting for the blockbuster trade to happen, and it did, with James Harden going to the 76ers for Ben Simmons and two first-round picks.
The Ben Simmons saga is over for the 76ers and they have a second star to put next to their big man. It wasn’t cheap, Curry was awesome for them, and they gave up two future firsts, but the upside is obvious.
Simmons was notorious for shrinking from the moment in the playoffs, even though he hadn’t played all season. Harden is one of the best offensive talents in the league and is not only a much better fit next to Embiid but is immediately the best player the big man has ever played with. The Philadelphia 76ers have a 32-22 record this season and almost single-handedly dragged them by the wayside with some truly spectacular performances by Embiid. Imagine what he will be able to do now that teams are worried about Harden.
The health of the team is always going to be a concern, but with Harden on board, they are a real threat to make it out of the East.
The record was 29-26.
The Eastern Conference has an 8th position.
James Harden was traded to the 76ers for Ben Simmons and two first-round picks.
On the Brooklyn side, things are a bit more complicated. The Nets don’t know when any of their stars will be available, as the old cliche says, the best ability is availability. It’s not clear when Simmons will be able to play for the team or if Irving will be able to play in some road games while he remains unvaccinated. The bigger the problem becomes for the Nets, the longer that remains the case. They would be in the play-in tournament if they lost 10 games in a row.
We don’t know how this trade will work on the court. We knew that the previous big three crushed teams when they were able to play together. Will this new group be able to do the same things? Maybe? Probably? They aren’t going to have much time to adjust before the playoffs because we don’t know for sure.
It could be great. Brooklyn is the best place for Simmons. There’s plenty of spacing, two offensive savants that will allow him to never shoot again if he doesn’t want to, and he’ll be on a contender without being the focal point of media attention. Simmons is younger than Harden and gives the Nets a much-needed defensive anchor. Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA game in eight months because of his flaws. The Nets are going to have to combine all these new pieces on the fly.
It’s hard to have too much faith in a team that’s been so chaotic with the Nets having the talent to win it all this season.
The Miami Heat are in the mix.
The record was 36-20.
The position in the Eastern Conference is 1st.
There was a big deadline move.
The Heat have the best record in the East, and are tied for the fifth-best net rating in the league, so perhaps it’s unfair to have them in the third tier, even though they’ve reached this point despite rarely being at full strength. They’ve missed at least 13 games, and they’ve only played together 18 times.
There is no question that this is a dangerous team. Tyler Herro is on his way to the Sixth Man of the Year Award, PJ Tucker is on his way to the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and Kyle Lowry has been a huge addition. They’re the best 3-point shooting group in the league, they defend, they’re tough, and they have a clear identity. The team has a chance to come out of the East.
Why are they in the third tier? Health is a major concern for the team. This is an old core built with guys who have struggled to stay on the court in recent years. They’ve missed a number of games this season and there’s no guarantee they’ll make it through the playoffs. In the playoffs, the Heat don’t have elite talent on the level of those players.
A puncher’s chance is the Chicago Bulls.
The record was 34-21.
The position in the Eastern Conference is 2nd.
There was a big deadline move.
The Bulls made a number of big moves in the off-season, but there were many questions about how it would work. It was pretty well! LaVine is putting together another great season, Ball and Caruso have formed a great defensive backcourt, and DeRozan has been unbelievable.
They have not been able to stay healthy. At one point, the number of players in the COVID-19 protocols reached double digits, but Patrick Williams, Ball and Caruso have all suffered long-term injuries. They’re still 34-21 and in second place in the East thanks to the hard work of DeMar DeRozan and the emergence of rookies like Ayo Dosunmu.
We need to see the Bulls healthy again before we can truly assess their chances. It’s hard to see them winning multiple playoff series against the teams ahead of them. Their thin frontcourt rotation is going to be a problem against the two teams. They’re 4-9 against the other top-eight teams in the East and 0-7 against the top-five teams in the West. They did not make any additions at the deadline.
The record was 31-25.
7th is in the Eastern Conference.
The big deadline move was the swap of Dennis Schroder, Bruno Fernando, and Josh Richardson for Daniel Theis, Josh Richardson, and a first-round pick to the Spurs.
The Celtics are one of the most confusing teams this season. They were terrible to start and caused a lot of discussion about whether they needed to break up.
Following the team’s recent resurgence, that topic has been put on hold. They have won 13 of their last 17 games and are on a six-game winning streak. They have surged up into seventh place in the East, just 5 games out of first, because of their dominant 99.7 defensive rating. A softer schedule has helped, but Marcus Smart is playing the best basketball of his career, and they made some very strong deadline-day moves to acquire Daniel Theis and Derrick White.
There are still a lot of questions about this team’s offense, which has a tendency to shut down for long periods of time. Like the Bulls, it’s hard to see them getting past two or three of the other teams. If they’re going to defend like this the rest of the way, they’ll be a tough out come playoff time.
The team: Cleveland Cavaliers.
The record was 34-21.
The Eastern Conference has a 3rd position.
Ricky Rubio was traded to the Pacers for Caris LeVert.
The team has exceeded expectations in a big way this season. They are on their way to their first playoff appearance since James left for the second time in the summer of 2018, instead of gradual improvement.
Evan Mobley is doing things we’ve never seen from a young big man, Jarrett Allen is making the Nets look foolish for trading him, and Kevin Love looks rejuvenated.
It’s one thing to be a fun young team and one of the best stories of the season, but it’s another to win the Eastern Conference. They’ve earned a spot in the discussion, but their inability to score is going to be magnified in the playoffs, even with the addition of Caris LeVert.
The Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, and Atlanta Hawks are sparring partners.
We should run through these teams quickly.
The record was 31-23.
The Eastern Conference has a 6th place position.
Goran Dragic was traded to the Spurs for a protected first-round pick.
The Raptors have been better than expected. Everyone is on the roster outside of the All-Star game. They’re just really solid on both sides of the ball and Fred VanVleet is required to be exactly 6-foot-8. They won’t be fun to play in the playoffs, but they aren’t winning the East.
The record was 28-28.
The position in the Eastern Conference is 9th.
Ish Smith and Vernon Carey were traded to the Wizards.
Things were looking better a few weeks ago for the Hornets, who have now lost six games in a row to drop to ninth place. They are a fun team with LaMelo Ball leading the way, but they aren’t consistent enough.
The record was 26-28.
The position in the Eastern Conference is 10th.
There was a big deadline move.
The Hawks were last season’s darlings. They have not been able to build on their Eastern Conference finals run because they can’t stop anyone. Atlanta is 3-7 in their last 10 games, but they did well in the playoffs a year ago, so they deserve a mention.
images: cbs sports
source: cbs sports