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As we approach the trade deadline this season, rumors, speculation, and reports will begin to circulate on social media. Some may be grounded, others may be purely opinion-based. Regardless of what comes up, there is always one guarantee: Trades will be made.
Whether teams are trying to improve their roster before the playoffs, mix up mediocre lineups, or take on bad contracts in return for assets to build for the future, there’s almost a certainty that just about every team is trying to make a move.
Now some teams might not necessarily need to make a trade. Surely they would if the right opportunity were to be presented, but no franchise is making a trade unless they feel it benefits them in some ways.
The outcome to trades can land all over the spectrum. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t. A lot of the time it is about fit. Some players work better in different systems. Other factors might be a player’s health. There can even be issues with desire and drive. At the end of the day, NBA General Managers are not in the business of helping other teams improve if it doesn’t help them in return.
Let’s take a look at a handful of the bigger trades made around the deadline from last season and see how it has played out a year later.
Eric Bledsoe Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks
Last season – about 2 months before the trade deadline – Bledsoe sent out a not-so-cryptic Tweet about his lack of desire to continue on with the Phoenix Suns. On December 7th, 2018 the Suns sent him to the Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe – who was bought out a few months later – and both a 2018 first and second-round pick.
Milwaukee received their point guard of the future and the Suns received future assets.
Unfortunately for the Suns, certain protections were placed on the picks. Because Milwaukee finished with the 17th pick, it pushed Phoenix’s first-rounder via the Bucks to 2019.
To finish up the 2017-18 campaign, Bledsoe put together solid numbers for his new team. He finished the season with Milwaukee posting 17.8 points a night on 47.6 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three. He also led the team in assists at 5.1 and steals at 2. Most impressively – as he is teammates with Giannis Antetokounmpo – Bledsoe led the team in plus-minus per game at 2.7.
While Bledsoe is putting up similar numbers again this season, the Milwaukee Bucks seem like a considerably better team as opposed to last year. Perhaps bringing in Mike Budenholzer was a big reason for this. You can also point to Giannis having an MVP-level season. Still, Bledsoe is a key piece on an almost-championship level team. It is safe to say that the Bledsoe trade certainly worked out for the Bucks.
As for the Suns, only time will tell. The first-round pick likely will not be conveyed until 2020, as it only falls to the Suns this offseason if it falls in the 4-16 range. Seeing how much success the Bucks are having, there’s a good chance it isn’t even available until the late 20s. In 2020 it falls to the Suns if it is in the 8-30 range and it becomes entirely unprotected in 2021.
Blake Griffin Traded to the Detroit Pistons
This trade has seemed to work out well for both parties. Before the 2017-18 season, the Los Angeles Clippers inked Blake Griffin to a mega-extension but then shipped him off at the end of January to Detroit, most notably for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Avery Bradley and a 2019 first-round pick.
While Griffin didn’t help the Pistons reach the playoffs last season, he’s putting up incredible numbers this season. He’s averaging 26 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a night. That leads the team in all categories except rebounding where he falls second to Andre Drummond. The only other players in the league putting up those numbers or better are LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Griffin leads both of them in three-point percentage and three-point attempts.
While the Pistons don’t seem on track for anything other than a first-round exit at best, it is hard to say that keeping the players they sent out would be advantageous over having Griffin. At worst, the Pistons have a bonafide superstar that can fill the seats in the stadium. If the Pistons can manage to surround Griffin with more talent, they have a shot to make some noise in the East.
The Clippers came out much better than what most would have anticipated. They replaced a perennial All-Star for three players who have been in their starting lineup and one of the better backup centers in the NBA. Harris, Bradley, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who the Clippers acquired in the draft via a trade with Charlotte using the first-round pick from Detroit) are all starters for the Clippers – and all contribute in a big way. Boban plays a major role coming off the bench and plays an absolutely dominating role in his somewhat limited minutes.
What is more important is the intrigue the current roster has to superstars in free agency. By losing the Griffin contract, the Clippers have the ability to have two max slots this upcoming summer. They’ll likely need to use one – or at least part of one – to retain Tobias. Many speculate that the other spot could be for Kawhi Leonard, should he decide to leave Toronto.
Jae Crowder Traded to the Utah Jazz
In a three-team deal, the Jazz ended up with Crowder, Rodney Hood was sent from Utah to the Cleveland Cavaliers, George Hill was sent to the Cavaliers from the Sacramento Kings, and Iman Shumpert ended up with the Kings.
This was a tremendous deal for the Utah Jazz. Hood had been struggling with injuries – as well as increasingly sporadic minutes – and Utah was gearing up for a big decision to make with him as he approached restricted free agency. The Jazz flipped him for Crowder who has been monumental.
His hard-nosed, defensive presence allows him to fill the stretch-four position the Jazz were lacking off the bench. Since the trade, Utah uses Crowder to close out just about every game. He was a big reason why the Jazz were able to finish last season on a 29-6 run and push themselves into the second round of the playoffs.
While his offensive game isn’t quite as efficient as Utah would hope, his presence on the defensive end more than make up for his shortcomings. He’s not necessarily a negative on offense – this season the Jazz sport a 107.6 offensive rating – good for second on the team among regular players.
He’s fourth on the lineup at 12 points a night and fifth in plus-minus at 2.8.
Hood had great offensive instincts, but Crowder is a significantly better fit in Utah’s defensive-first scheme. Accounting for five-man lineups that have spent at least 200 minutes together, the Jazz starting lineup with Crowder at the four has the fourth highest net rating in the NBA.
As for other outcomes of this deal, Shumpert has played a significant role in the Kings’ surprisingly solid start to the season. George Hill played a significant role next to LeBron in the 2018 Finals before being dealt to the Bucks earlier this season. Rodney Hood ended up taking a small deal to stay with Cleveland this season and he becomes a free agent this upcoming offseason. His season hasn’t been much different than his time with Utah – mostly streaky.
As previously mentioned, the trade deadline for this season quickly approaches and plenty of deals will likely happen. There will be plenty of buyers, a handful of sellers, and teams that simply stand pat. Luckily for fans and media alike, information will continue to come out, trades will be finalized, and it will only give us more storylines to explore.
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