Basketball is a zero-sum game, and as an extension of that, the NBA trade deadline is a zero-sum game. For every winner, there is a loser. For every gain, there is a loss. One man's hallelujah is another man's "d'oh!" A few teams made themselves more powerful in the league's wackadoo madness of the past week, while others either failed to capitalize, or actively inflicted pain upon themselves. Similarly, some players were put into better situations, while others were traded to New Jersey. Our breakdown of the trade season's winners and losers follows.
Oklahoma City Thunder. Just landing Nazr Mohammed for Morris Peterson and D.J. White would have had those who watch the game closely considering the Thunder in high esteem. Everyone on the planet knows that interior defense is the great problem OKC has had, and that it's what would make the Los Angeles Lakers huge favorites in a playoff series between the teams. Mohammed himself would have helped to address that. But Mohammed and Kendrick Perkins? That's just unfair. The Thunder went from zero good true centers to two really solid true centers in the span of a couple hours. Nick Collison is a fine player, but now he can play power forward, where he's better suited. A tough contract decision on Jeff Green that could have upset the locker room is avoided, and even if they won't admit it, the Lakers are a bit frightened of the Thunder right now.
The Prokhorov. Something tells me Mikhail Prokhorov could just trade Troy Murphy for Brandan Wright -- as the New Jersey Nets did on Wednesday -- and look like a champion. That his team managed a coup like Deron Williams completely out of the blue the day after the rival New York Knicks landed Carmelo Anthony? That's just beautiful. One trade timed perfectly is worth dozens of imposing billboards. No other NBA owner can touch Prokhorov's swag right now. (Seriously, don't touch the swag. You've heard those stories about his winter holidays in the Alps, right?)
Carmelo Anthony. The star forward wanted, in this order, money (check), to play in New York City (check) and to play for a winner (check). There's an argument to be made that 'Melo and CAA, his representation, played this as perfectly as possible, despite having almost no leverage because of the collective bargaining drama. In Denver, 'Melo would have gotten two of his three wishes (money and a winning team). With the Nets, the same (money and NYC). But the Knicks offered all three, and 'Melo got there. Well played, if completely maddening.
Dwight Howard. Many in Oklahoma City cheered, no doubt, when news of the Perkins trade broke. But no cheered louder than Howard, who now avoids his nemesis in the Eastern bracket. Some of joked that the trade means that Boston no longer fears the Magic, but that's not quite right. All told, Boston would have loved to keep Perkins, but the contract math and team needs dictated the trade. It's a trade-off. The Celtics will now be vulnerable to the one elite center in the East, should they meet up in the playoffs. But the gains on offense and future flexibility are worth it for Celtics' management. Meanwhile, Howard watches Shaquille O'Neal miss games and licks his chops.
Washington Wizards. The rebuilding Wizards basically picked up three late first-round draft picks to rent Kirk Hinrich for almost one year and Mike Bibby for just more than one year. Washington used a pick from the Bulls sent in the original Hinrich trade on French power forward Kevin Seraphin, who is struggling to get on the floor but remains intriguing. In the Bibby trade on Wednesday, the Wiz grabbed rookie Jordan Crawford -- who has the No. 27 last year and hasn't played much -- and a Hawks' first-round pick. The team is waiting on John Wall and the team's 2011 lottery pick to develop. Might as well hoard draft picks until then.
Houston Rockets. There's been substantial backlash against Houston GM Daryl Morey over the past year or so, given his lofty status among some analysts but his team's lack of success. And he'll get more today: With some quality moves, Houston could have made a run at the last playoff spot in the West. Instead, they'll continue to score 120 points every other night, and either give up 115 or 125. Shane Battier was the team's best defender, and they traded him for a pick (which will be useful in the future, but obviously not right now) and Hasheem Thabeet, a player who won't sniff the rotation under Rick Adelman. They traded Aaron Brooks, who will be a restricted free agent, for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick -- there's another pick -- but that's not making the team much better right now. But look at the plan -- acquire picks and prospects for free agents -- and look at the results from the superstar trades this week. Why did 'Melo to the Knicks take so long? Because the Nuggets demanded more picks or prospects. Why did the Nuggets favor the Nets' offer? More picks, more prospects. The Rockets now have four firsts in the next two drafts, plus Dragic, plus Thabeet. It's something.
Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have even more dead salary thanks to Baron Davis and an inability to shed Antawn Jamison. But the Clippers' unprotected 2011 first-round pick could conceivably give Cleveland two top-five picks in the draft, and the player the Cavs use the Clips' pick on has a good chance of outperforming whatever player the team could get with the extra $5.5 million per year Davis makes over Mo Williams. Picking up Semih Erden for nothing helps, too. This offseason could end up kick-starting the next rise of the Cavs.
Deron Williams. I don't mean to disparage Newark, but the Nets have sold out one game this year, and it was against the Knicks, and thousands of New Yorkers made the trek to fill up the Prudential Center. So the fan base is light, to say the least. Add in that Williams' wife is pregnant, that the Nets still have a trip to London to make, that the team basically needs to run the table to make the playoffs and that every post-game interview from now until the end of the season will include questions about his free agency in 18 months. Sounds like fun, huh?
Indiana Pacers. Frank Vogel has the screaming Pacers, well, screaming. They won't be a dangerous team in the Eastern playoffs simply because the top of the conference is so danged strong. But they're on the right path. Landing a player of O.J. Mayo's caliber would have been a nice next step. But the deadline deal fell apart, and the Pacers did nothing else, meaning that Indiana's myriad expiring contracts -- Jeff Foster, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford -- will simply expire at season's end. The Pacers will have a tough time convincing any quality free agents to join an overmatched team in a non-glamor market, so the trade game will likely be required going forward. But Larry Bird and the gang seem a bit overly confident in their current talent. Will they ever make a big move to take a leap?
Sacramento Kings. With expiring contracts tied to good players (Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry) and $15 million of cap space to play with, the Kings should have been able to help the Rockets and Jazz escape the luxury tax and pick up some assets in the process. Instead, they got Marcus Thornton and the opportunity to watch Dalembert flee in free agency. The Maloofs are bleeding, I get that. But if there's one advantage to hanging out around the salary floor, it's that you have maximum flexibility to pick up assets. The Kings failed there.
Los Angeles Clippers. Losing Baron Davis is nothing short of a miracle, but the Clippers will only save $11 million over two years thanks to Mo Williams' bloated salary. And while Williams is also a better player, the Clippers had to give up an unprotected 2011 first-round pick to make the swap. The Clippers are the sixth-worst team in the league. When you're that bad, you don't trade an unprotected first before the lottery. You just don't. Some analysts say the Clippers don't need more youth. Guess what? No team in the NBA turns down a potential No. 1 pick, young or old.
Mike Bibby. Take it from someone who watched Bibby go from the Western Conference Finals to the lottery in about five years: If there's one thing Mike Bibby does not like to do, it's mentor teammates.