Another revised headline as I almost dismissed the Miami Heat along with the Boston Celtics as the “chickens’ of this year’s busy trade deadline.
The two teams’ roster of trade targets included Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Harrison Barnes and John Collins.
It was an “expectations vs reality” situation for Boston fans as they only ended up with Evan Fournier (the supposed add-on to the Gordon deal turned out to be the main piece) and getting under the luxury tax by throwing in Jeff Teague in the Orlando Magic deal. Teague will be waived, and may not even wear a Magic jersey.
If the reason behind this is to keep Marcus Smart, then it may be a sign that the Celtics have surrendered their contender card for this season. The main benefit they got from their trade deadline dealings was to get under the luxury tax. They also replaced the hapless Daniel Theis with undersized slotman Mo Wagner.
The Celtics, however, will probably be more active in the offseason, because they have to be.
So close to writing off Miami this time. The Heat pulled a buzzer-beater and managed to snag Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets. The price was always low for the Oladipo rental, and it’s hard to imagine the Rockets getting high value for him.
Big mistake for the Rockets though, as they traded Caris LeVert for Oladipo (although LeVert got a scare with his kidney condition), knowing that Oladipo had every intention to venture into free agency.
The Heat will take that chance, and they managed to snag Oladipo without giving up Tyler Herro or any major asset, just little-used Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. With the former no.2 overall pick, the Heat adds firepower to a roster that already has Jimmy Butler, Herro and Duncan Robinson. And if they can also get Andre Drummond in the buyout market in the next few days, they are going to be title contenders again.
Likewise, the buyout of LaMarcus Aldridge has been confirmed, and he will be a free agent. If the Heat manages to get Aldridge (something they tried to do multiple times), then they definitely have a chance to match against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Heat saw an opportunity after a slow start. They saw that there was no overwhelmingly dominant team, specifically in the East where the Celtics are struggling and the Bucks were not as good as expected. With the injury to Joel Embiid, the Sixers also look vulnerable, so another Finals return is feasible for Pat Riley’s boys, as the East Power hierarchy is suddenly shaken.
The Orlando Magic had their expected fire sale. The buzz was that everyone was available except for Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, who were both nursing injuries.
Aaron Gordon was seen as the main prize, and instead of the Celtics, the Magic shipped him to Denver. But the underrated trade of this deadline is All-Star Nikola Vucevic going to the Chicago Bulls.
Vucevic is a silent, underrated, consistent double-double machine for the Magic, and the reason why they won that historic four-team Dwight Howard trade in 2012. He’s having an All-Star year, and while it may take time for him to mesh with fellow All-Star Zach Lavine, the Bulls will not be an easy draw in the play-in, or the playoffs itself.
Speaking of the play-in, it does add a new dimension to the trade deadline as it reduces the teams that are planning on tanking. The Bulls are at 10th place, currently 2 ½ games behind 8th place Boston. Without the play-in that gives a chance for the 9th and 10th placers to make the playoffs, the Chicago brass may have veered in the other direction.
Kyle Lowry was reportedly pursued by the Lakers with KCP and Dennis Schroder leading the package. The Raptors decided to stay put, even as Lowry becomes a free agent in the summer.
Norman Powell, who is having a career season, was traded to the Portland Trailblazers. The 2019 Raptors, in retrospect, was actually a loaded team. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher, and Powell have emerged since they got their rings.
If Kawhi Leonard did not leave Toronto, the Raptors would still be a powerhouse team in the East.