One of the wildest trade deadlines in NBA history was minted in the early morning hours of Thursday when Kevin Durant was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Phoenix Suns. Brooklyn got back Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and four unprotected first round draft picks. The KD blockbuster comes on the heels of Brooklyn’s decision to trade Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks days earlier. As the Nets finally went bust, the rest of the league’s championship picture feels fully reshaped in its wake.
It always made sense that this would be an extremely active trade deadline. There is no overwhelming favorite in the league this year. The standings in both conferences are bunched together with little separation between mid-tier playoff teams and those currently outside of the play-in picture. It feels like a seller’s market with so many teams believing they have a chance this year, but it still takes two (or more!) teams to agree for a deal to go through.
We’re grading every NBA trade deadline deal as it comes in. Let’s go.
Kevin Durant traded to Suns for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, 4 first round picks
Suns grade: A
Nets grade: A-
Read our full breakdown of the Kevin Durant to Phoenix blockbuster here. The Suns finally made the move we begged them to make in the offseason when KD listed Phoenix as his preferred destination. The Suns feel a little thin around their four entrenched starters now, but the Durant-Devin Booker combo should be incredibly dynamic. Meanwhile, the Nets did well to recoup draft compensation in this deal, and also got two solid wings in Bridges and Johnson. Still, part of me is disappointed we’ll never get to see Durant surrounded by the shooters and defenders on the post-Kyrie Nets for one playoff run.
Lakers acquire D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Jazz got Lakers’ 2027 draft pick, Wolves get Mike Conley
Lakers grade: A+
Jazz grade: B
Timberwolves grade: C+
Read our full breakdown of the three-team blockbuster between the Lakers, Jazz, and Wolves here. We love this trade for the Lakers, who added shooting, playmaking, and rebounding by upgrading three rotation spots. The Jazz should have let the Lakers protect the pick within the top-four, but this can still be a good trade for Utah. Minnesota didn’t want to re-sign Russell, so they found a short-term point guard solution in Conley as Anthony Edwards continues to develop. In total, it’s amazing the Lakers were able to rope two other teams into a move that dramatically increases their chances to compete this year.
Josh Hart traded to Knicks, Cam Reddish and 2023 first round pick go to Trail Blazers
Knicks grade: B
Blazers grade: A
The Knicks own two first round picks this year — Dallas’ and their own — and were rumored to be looking for defensive help on the perimeter in exchange for one of them. Hart is a solid get in that regard. While he’s undersized for a wing defender at 6’4, 215 pounds, Hart is the type of role player who does all the little things to help teams win. There’s only one problem: Hart has been allergic to taking three-pointers this season in Portland after dramatically increasing his volume from deep following the trade to the Blazers last year. Hart is a nice addition for the Knicks, but I’m not sure he moves the needle enough to give up a first rounder.
Meanwhile, I really like this for Portland. The Blazers made a sneaky-great move by hiring ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz ahead of this season. Portland owes its first round pick in 2023 to the Bulls if they make the playoffs, so this selection is insurance for that scenario. But if Portland ends up in the lottery, they now have two first rounders in a deep class. I trust Schmitz’s ability to find Portland some good young players in this draft. For a Blazers team that wasn’t really going anywhere, adding a first rounder for Hart is a solid move.
Raptors acquire Jakob Poeltl from Spurs for 2024 protected first round pick
Raptors grade: C
Spurs grade: A
The Spurs finally pulled the trigger on a Poeltl trade after years of his name being in rumors. He goes back to the team that originally drafted him in Toronto, where he’ll finally give the Raptors a real rim protector inside that they’ve been craving. The Raptors are reportedly sending back a top-six protected first round pick in 2024, which feels like a lot to give up for a player who is as limited offensive as Poeltl. Poeltl has no shooting range and can’t make a free throw, but has improved as an interior scorer over time. The real benefit for the Raptors here will be Poeltl’s defense inside. It just feels odd to give up such a potentially valuable pick for a Toronto team that has been struggling all season and may need to be in for a rebuild.
Jae Crowder traded to Bucks, Nets get 5 second round picks
Bucks grade: A-
Nets grade: A
The Nets had just acquired Jae Crowder in the Kevin Durant deal, and they immediately flipped him to the Bucks for a haul of second round picks. Milwaukee is also sending Jordan Nwora, Serge Ibaka, and George Hill to the Pacers in the deal.
Crowder hasn’t played all season after choosing to sit out in Phoenix because he lost his starting spot to Cam Johnson. When Crowder has been on the court the last few years, he’s been a solid piece for some very successful teams. The Heat went to the NBA Finals inside the bubble in 2020 with Crowder as their starting four. The Suns went to the NBA Finals in 2021 while starting Crowder. Last season, Phoenix won a league-high 64 games with Crowder as a starter before being upset in the second round of the playoffs by the Mavs.
If Crowder is in shape and ready to go, this is a useful addition for the Bucks as they push to win another championship. Crowder provides tough wing defense and volume three-point shooting if he’s playing his best ball. The 32-year-old Crowder just won’t have much time to get into a rhythm before the playoffs start. For Brooklyn, getting five second rounders for a player they didn’t have any use for is a good piece of business.
76ers acquire Jalen McDaniels, Trail Blazers acquire Matisse Thybulle, Hornets get second round picks
76ers grade: B+
Trail Blazers grade: B+
Hornets grade: B
The 76ers are pushing to make the NBA Finals, the Trail Blazers just want to make the playoffs, and the Hornets are fully committed to a long-term rebuild. This three-team trade helps each team accomplish their goal even if it doesn’t move the needle all that much for anyone involved.
The Sixers should be the headliner here. They swapped out an elite defender with minimal offensive ability in Thybulle for a big forward with more two-way ability in McDaniels. McDaniels is a thin 6’9 forward who is a career 34.2 percent three-point shooter on low volume. McDaniels also ranks in the 78th percentile league-wide defensively according to all-in-one stat EPM. He’ll come off the bench for the Sixers and try to be a floor spacer and defender for a team that has realistic dreams of winning the championship.
The Blazers got a great defender in Thybulle for some second round picks. The problem with Thybulle is that opposing defenses completely ignore him on offense. It feels like most of Portland’s roster is guys who are elite on one end of the floor and struggle on the other. The Blazers need some more two-way talent around Damian Lillard, but getting Thybulle is a nice move.
Nuggets acquire Thomas Bryant from Lakers for second round picks
Nuggets grade: A-
Lakers grade: B- (feels incomplete)
The Lakers went from having no depth to tons of depth around LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the last few days. Trading Bryant opens up playing time for Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, but it feels odd giving up a talented player to a team they could meet in the playoffs in the Nuggets. Bryant is slow-footed defensively and struggles to guard in space, but he’s had a nice year on offense for LA filling in for Davis for when he’s been injured. The Nuggets badly needed a backup five behind MVP favorite Nikola Jokic, and this feels like a nice get for them without giving up too much. Bryant is hitting 44 percent of his threes this year (albeit on only 50 attempts) and has become a good finisher around the rim. Almost anyone would have been an upgrade for Denver at backup five, and Bryant brings a nice offensive skill set to the table. Denver just has to hope they can survive his minutes defensively. It feels like there’s another move left to come for the Lakers after this deal.
Warriors trade James Wiseman to Pistons, Hawks acquire Saddiq Bey, Warriors get 5 second round picks
Warriors grade: D
Hawks grade: B+
Pistons grade: C
I gave the Warriors a C grade at the time when they drafted Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2020. In reality, that was far too kind. Wiseman never had the talent to be a top pick, he never fit well with the Warriors’ system, and he was never on Stephen Curry’s timeline. The Warriors are finally out of the Wiseman business, but all they are getting back is luxury tax relief. It’s smart for Golden State to move on from Wiseman, but everyone assumed they would get back a rotation player when they did it. We’ll see if there’s another shoe to drop for Golden State, otherwise this move feels useless.
Bey has good size and scoring ability for a wing, but his drop-off in three-point shooting made the Pistons cool on him. He’s a nice addition for a Hawks team that needed another wing after trading Kevin Huerter over the offseason. Bey will be up for a contract extension over the offseason, and clearly Detroit didn’t feel comfortable paying him. Bey is still a solid get for a Hawks team that needed depth.
Wiseman feels like a weird flier for Detroit to take. Wiseman is young and has the tools to be a good center, but Detroit has a better big man prospect on the roster in Jalen Duren. Wiseman should be a better fit in a spread pick-and-roll system rather than the Warriors’ motion offense, and it would be nice to see him find success in Detroit after such a turbulent start to his career — as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of Duren’s development.
Luke Kennard to Grizzlies, Eric Gordon to Clippers, John Wall and Danny Green to Rockets
Grizzlies grade: B+
Clippers grade: B
Rockets grade: B
Kennard gives the Grizzlies a dead-eye three-point shooter to space the floor around Ja Morant. Kennard’s minutes were down this year in Los Angeles, but he’s hitting 44.7 percent of his threes. The Grizzlies adding a knockdown, volume shooter feels like the headliner of this confusing three-team trade.
Eric Gordon is also returning to the Clippers, the team that drafted him way back in 2008, to provide some bench firepower for a team dreaming of making an NBA Finals run. Kennard had clearly fallen out of favor with head coach Ty Lue, so getting a different shooting guard option for the rotation feels like a good move for LA. The Rockets will likely buy out Wall and Green, or try to flip them elsewhere.
Lakers acquire Mo Bamba from Magic for Patrick Beverley
Lakers grade: B+
Magic grade: C
The Lakers continue to do serious work reshaping their roster. The Thomas Bryant trade mentioned above makes a lot more sense now. Bamba is one of the longest players in the NBA, and is shooting 40 percent from three this year on 108 attempts. He’s another big man the Lakers can play with or without Anthony Davis.
Clippers acquire Bones Hyland from Nuggets
Clippers grade: A
Nuggets grade: D
The Nuggets were all the way out on Bones Hyland, a talented shot creator who was often inefficient as a scorer while struggling defensively. Hyland is still only 22 years old and has shown microwave scoring ability to spurts. He has an incredibly tight handle, impressive pull-up shooting ability, and can space the floor to hit threes off the catch. This is a great buy low move for the Clippers. I’m not sure what the Nuggets are doing, other than trying to save money when they should be trying to win a championship.
Warriors acquire Gary Payton II from Blazers for second round picks
Warriors grade: A
Blazers grade: C-
GP2 was a key piece for the Warriors on their run to the championship last season. Payton was a free agent after the year, and the Warriors decided they couldn’t stomach the luxury tax payment to keep him. The Blazers signed him and touted him as a major offseason addition. Only one problem: Payton has barely played this year because of injuries. After the Warriors moved off James Wiseman’s salary earlier in the day, they made a move to bring back Payton in exchange for five second round picks.
Maybe these seconds will end up being valuable to Portland one day, but it feels like a disappointing return after hopes were so high for Payton to help fix their defense. Meanwhile, this is a great trade for the Warriors. Payton knows the system well and fits it perfectly. He will be playing big minutes next to Steph, Klay, and Draymond just like he was last year. Well done by Golden State.
Josh Richardson traded to Pelicans, Devonte’ Graham and four second rounders to Spurs
Pelicans grade: A-
Spurs grade: B
I like this for the Pelicans. Richardson is a tough wing defender who won’t be asked to create as much with the ball in his hands in New Orleans as he was in San Antonio. Richardson can also space the floor around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. He doesn’t have Graham’s pull-up shooting ability, but he’s a more complete player. The Spurs get four second round picks in the move, because second rounders are bitcoin.
Celtics acquire Mike Muscala from Thunder
Celtics grade: B+
Thunder grade: B
Muscala should be an upgrade over Luke Kornet as the last center in the rotation for Boston. He offers three-point shooting in the front court by making 39 percent of his shots from deep on 142 attempts this year. The Thunder picked up a second round draft pick in the deal.
We’ll update this story as it develops.