The 2023 NBA trade deadline went into overdrive as soon as the clock struck midnight on Thursday. After sending Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks a few days earlier, the Brooklyn Nets had another blockbuster up their sleeve: trading Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for two talented wings (Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson) and four unprotected first round draft picks.
We don’t get a serious MVP candidate traded in the middle of the season every year, and that alone would have made this one of the wildest deadline days in league history. The action didn’t stop there: the deals kept rolling in until 3 p.m. ET, with nearly every team in the league involved in a transaction.
There were so many deals on deadline day that it’s hard to keep track of where teams stand at this point. We are here to help. Here are the winners and losers of the 2023 NBA trade deadline.
Winners: Phoenix Suns
This one is obvious. If you trade for Kevin Durant, you are automatically a winner.
The Suns have never won a championship in franchise history, and the goal of the Durant trade is to change that. KD is still might be the best player in the NBA when the chips are really on the table in the playoffs. He’s scoring with ridiculously efficiency inside the arc this year, and he’s still one of the best three-point shooters ever. Durant has also been playing at a high level defensively. He fits this team like a glove.
We’re slightly worried this Suns still is a still a bit too thin to win the title this year. Phoenix doesn’t have a ton of depth around Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton, but there’s still enough offensive firepower and two-way talent to give them a chance. It’s never easy to part with so many unprotected draft picks, but kudos to the Suns’ new ownership for giving the team the greenlight to try to win the whole thing. Read our full analysis of the Durant deal here.
Winners: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been trying to upgrade their roster all year around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it seemed like such a tall task to actually pull off. While LA struck out on their bid for Kyrie Irving, they may have come away with an even better haul. Somehow, the Lakers added Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell, and Mohamed Bamba over the last 24 hours, and that doesn’t even count their trade for Rui Hachimura late last month.
It’s an incredible infusion of talent that balances the roster of James and Davis. The fact that the Lakers only gave up a top-four protected 2027 first round draft pick, Patrick Beverley, Russell Westbrook, and Thomas Bryant to pull it all off feels like a miracle. Getting rid of Westbrook feels like addition by subtraction.
The Lakers’ biggest problem right now is time. They currently sit at 25-30. They are still two spots out from even making the play-in tournament. LA has to make up ground fast, and even if that happens they will still likely have to go through the play-in to make the playoffs. That likely meets a first round date with either the Nuggets, Grizzlies, or Suns.
The Lakers don’t have an easy path to a deep playoff run, but they do have a chance. Now it’s on LeBron and AD to make this work. Rob Pelinka really pulled off an amazing deadline, and I can’t believe it happened.
Losers: Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat
Almost every team in the NBA made a deadline deal. The Bulls and Heat did not.
NBA podcasts wasted thousands of hours talking about how the Bulls could be one of the big sellers at this year’s deadline after a disappointing season without injured point guard Lonzo Ball. There was also an opportunity for Chicago to be buyers, and try to add more shooting or another option at point guard. Instead, the Bulls did nothing. This is becoming a trend for Chicago, who also chose to sit out the trade deadline last year as well and only added minimum contracts over the offseason. The Bulls apparently do not have bigger ambitions than trying to get the No. 8 seed in the East this season. We’ll see if they can pull it off.
The Heat technically did make a move by trading Dwayne Dedmon for a second round pick. Who cares. Miami has an up-and-down season mostly because of injuries, but they’ve been playing better ball lately. Still, the Heat needed a serious addition if they want to compete with the Celtics, 76ers, and Bucks in the East, and it didn’t happen.
Loser: Ben Simmons
The Nets just traded their two best players, don’t have any of their new guys from the Suns yet, and Simmons still isn’t in the starting lineup on Thursday night. Woof.
Ben Simmons is coming off the bench tonight — and it’s behind Cam Thomas, Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith. Imagine reading that three or four years ago. https://t.co/HwGVzK0Aaa— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) February 10, 2023
Maybe Durant and Irving leaving town will open up more offensive opportunities for Simmons? We’ll believe it when we see it.
Winners: Los Angeles Clippers
I like what the Clippers did to remodel their bench at the deadline. LA added Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon, and Mason Plumlee while sending out John Wall, Reggie Jackson, and Luke Kennard. The Clippers will still go as far as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George take them, but this feels like a talent upgrade on the whole.
Hyland is a skilled young shot creator who offers tight ball handling, tantalizing pull-up shooting, and microwave scoring ability. Gordon is a veteran guard who can space the floor and hold his own defensively. Plumlee has quietly had a really good season in Charlotte for his standards, and gives LA a second playable big man on the roster next to Ivica Zubac.
Loser: Ja Morant
Morant made a bold claim in an interview earlier this season when he said his Grizzlies were “good in the West.”
Malika Andrews: "Who do you look at around the league as you're studying and say, 'We're gonna have to run through them?'"— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 21, 2022
Ja Morant: "The Celtics"
"No one in the West?"
"Nah, I'm fine in the West."pic.twitter.com/2iYrc4AxIG
Now the West includes Kevin Durant on the Suns, and Kyrie Irving on the Mavericks. The Grizzlies, who prefer to do their team-building through the draft, only added Kennard from the Clippers.
Memphis still has a great chance to go to the NBA Finals, but it sure feels like Ja’s quote will come back to haunt him if the Grizzlies fall short. It’s been a rough week for Morant for multiple reasons.
Winner: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors’ “two timelines” plan is dead. It’s starting to feel like a miracle they ever got a championship out of it in the first place.
The Warriors selecting James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft was always a bad move — we said as much at the time. We were begging Golden State to take LaMelo Ball, our No. 1 overall player in the class, but Golden State ownership was drawn in by Wiseman’s length, his speed in the open floor, and the tantalizing idea of what they thought he could be.
On Thursday, the Warriors finally traded Wiseman midway through his third season, with the young big man up for a contract extension after this season. By moving him to the Detroit Pistons (more on that in a minute), the Warriors opened up enough space to bring back Gary Payton II, a key defender from their run to the championship last season. Wiseman simply never made an impact on winning in Golden State. Payton sure did last year at the highest levels of the game, even if it was in a small role.
The Warriors’ defense and depth have been issues all year. Payton helps fix both if he’s healthy. Trading Wiseman is certainly a difficult move for management because they invested so much in him, but the Warriors owed it to Stephen Curry and Co. to maximize their window this year. Getting GP2 back helps them do it.
Winner: James Wiseman
Wiseman has some talent to be sure, but he was never a good fit for the Warriors’ system. Wiseman’s easiest projection into the league was always as a pick-and-roll big man who could score around the rim with a head of steam. That’s not the style the Warriors play, and it’s not the role their bigs have in their offense.
To thrive in Steve Kerr’s system, bigs need to be able to make high-level passing reads. They need to set a good screen, roll into space, and then make a play from there. They need to know the split-cut like the back of their hand, and they need to nail every rotation on the defensive end. That was always going to be too much for Wiseman this early in his career.
Detroit represents a fresh start for Wiseman, and for that he’s a winner. He’ll get to play in a more pick-and-roll heavy system, and he’ll get to play with a more traditional lead ball handler when Cade Cunningham gets back. This should be a much better fit for him.
There’s only one problem: I think there’s a younger big man on the roster who is already much better than Wiseman is. We had Jalen Duren as our No. 5 overall player in the 2022 NBA Draft. The Pistons drafted him at No. 13 overall, and he’s been flashing his immense talent all year despite being the youngest player in the NBA. We just hope that getting Wiseman doesn’t overshadow Duren, because he should be the long-term answer at center in Detroit. If Wiseman can be his backup, that works best for everyone involved.