The Whiteboard: Winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline concluded without any seismic trades, but that doesn't mean there can't be winners and losers.

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks
Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks / Al Bello/GettyImages

The 2024 NBA trade deadline was never going to have the fireworks of its predecessor. James Harden, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam were all moved well before the Feb. 8 deadline day, Zach LaVine suffered a season-ending foot injury, and the only marquee player left on the market was Dejounte Murray.

No deal ever materialized for Murray, and the biggest names to move on deadline day were Gordon Hayward and Buddy Hield. While the trade deadline was light on star power, there were plenty of moves made by contenders to round out their rotations. These are the winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline.

Winner: 2024 Dallas Mavericks

The NBA trade deadline is about upgrading, and based upon that criteria alone, the Mavericks had an excellent day. They traded for arguably the best center on the market, upgraded at power forward, and both guys are on reasonable long-term deals. 

Daniel Gafford has been withering away on the Wizards for the past couple of seasons, but he’s become a very solid player nonetheless. As a traditional rim-running, rim-protecting center, he should fit extremely well next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and he brings a gear of mobility that makes him more than a drop-back stiff. He is still a 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game player, but he could easily start for the Mavericks, and if he doesn’t, he’ll just be one of the best backup bigs in the league. 

The more exciting pickup for the Mavericks is P.J. Washington. Washington is a significant upgrade over Grant Williams, and his ability to score will ease the offensive burden on Doncic and Irving. He is also a versatile defender and has flashed potential playing as a small-ball 5, which could make lineups with him and Maxi Kleber in the frontcourt a dangerous unit. 

The Mavericks are 28-23 and eighth in the Western Conference, but they’re only two wins back of the five seed. Avoiding the play-in is hugely valuable, and they’ve improved their odds. You’ll notice I didn’t mention the details of the trade, but that’s for the 2025 Mavericks to worry about. 

Loser: 2025 Dallas Mavericks

Three first-round picks were traded on deadline day, and the Mavericks traded two of them. If they ended up with a Dejounte Murray-level talent, I’d be content, but they got Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. When the market sees Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks get moved for two second-round picks, you don’t need to give out firsts like you’re a desperate club promoter. 

The Mavericks will now enter the offseason down a total of three first-round picks and two swaps. If they were a serious title contender, it’d be a different story, but this roster still needs bolstering. The 2025 Mavericks are set up to be better than the 2024 version, but this is still a team well outside the championship conversation with limited upward mobility. 

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s good to see that the Thunder aren’t standing pat after so many years of acquiring assets. Their trade for Gordon Hayward netted them the most famous player to move on deadline day, but he’s also an excellent on-court fit. The Thunder are committed to playing a spaced-out offensive game, and they need every player to be able to dribble, pass, and shoot. Hayward checks all three boxes, has playoff experience, and should be a significant upgrade over Josh Giddey. 

To get Hayward, all it cost the Thunder were Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic, three players who average a combined 27.3 minutes per game, and two second-round picks. But the Thunder weren’t done there. They also traded their 2024 first-round pick to the Mavericks to get swap rights on the Mavericks’ 2028 first-round pick. Any trade deadline where you make a good win-now move and a great future-focused trade has to be considered a win. 

Loser: Philadelphia 76ers fans

If you were hoping the 76ers were going to address their gaping hole at center or swing a trade for a big name to push them over the top, then this trade deadline will feel a bit underwhelming. The Sixers added Buddy Hield but also made moves to save money and recoup a few picks. 

The Sixers’ deadline felt like a team hedging its bets around the health of their MVP center. Joel Embiid underwent surgery on his left meniscus and the Sixers have been intentionally vague about his return. If they had been aggressive at the trade deadline, it would have signaled Embiid is likely to be full strength before the playoffs, but if they stood pat, it’d be easy to read the tea leaves of a lengthy absence. Instead, the Sixers kind of did a bit of both. 

If you’re a Sixers fan the most important thing is Embiid’s health, and this deadline doesn’t give you any more clarity. Now it’s back to waiting on the Sixers’ famously noncommittal injury updates to learn that Embiid may or may not be reevaluated within a two to six-week period. 

Winner: New York Knicks

The New York Knicks must be giggling over the heist they pulled. They turned Evan Fournier, Malachi Flynn, Quentin Grimes, Ryan Arcidiacono, and two future second-round picks for Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks. Out of the four, only Grimes has played more than 60 minutes for the Knicks, and even Grimes averages 20.2 minutes per game. 

For the cost of one rotation player and two second-round picks, the Knicks got two 40 percent 3-point shooters. Burks and Bogdanovic aren’t household names but they’re excellent floor spacers, and Bogdanovic has averaged 21.1 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent over the past two seasons. 

The Knicks added a good role player in Burks and the best scorer to change teams. They upgraded and barely had to dip into their asset jar. That’s how you win at the deadline. 

Loser: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors love to inexplicably trade away a first-round pick on deadline day. Last year, they traded for Jakob Poeltl, and this season they sent the Jazz a first-rounder for Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji. If the Raptors were competing for anything meaningful, it’d be a defensible move, but they’re 18-33. To make matters worse, Olynyk is on an expiring contract and Agbaji is a soon-to-be 24-year-old who is averaging 5.4 points per game. 

The Raptors didn’t stop there. They also traded Dennis Schroder and Thaddeus Young for Spencer Dinwiddie strictly to save money next season. So the Raptors traded a first-round pick to get better this season and also downgraded their point guard rotation to save money. Does it make any sense? Nope, which is why they’re an NBA trade deadline loser. 

Winners: Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets turned Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington into a first-round pick, Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Vasilije Micic, Tre Mann, Davis Bertans, and two second-round picks. That’s a good haul for the Hornets and doesn’t include the first-round pick they got for Terry Rozier. 

Grant isn’t as good as Washington, but he’ll add some defensive toughness and is under contract through 2026-27. The Hornets have an interesting collection of young players, have shed most of their long-term commitments to older players, and are now stockpiling picks. It’s rebuilding 101, but the Hornets are taking the class for the third time.    

Loser: Detroit Pistons 

The Pistons getting just two second-round picks for Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks is an incredibly light return. Their fans will argue Quentin Grimes is like getting a first-round pick, but he has struggled this season, and unlike a first-round pick, he only has one more year of team control. 

Not much has gone right for the Pistons this season, and their trade deadline is another addition to the list. Their release of Killian Hayes, the seventh pick in the 2020 draft, perfectly captures their front office’s dysfunction. 

Winner: Royce O’Neale

Royce O’Neale should be ecstatic. He gets to leave the hapless Brooklyn Nets for the Phoenix Suns and compete for a championship while playing next to Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. 

The swing in circumstances for O’Neal is like a Dickinsonian tale of an orphan who goes from the streets to a castle. The Nets have minimal shot creation, while the Suns have an abundance. O’Neale will have a steady stream of open looks and gets to play meaningful basketball again. That’s about as big a win as a player can hope for. 

Loser: Tyus Jones

The Washington Wizards not trading Tyus Jones was a surprise, he’s on an expiring contract and was the best pure point guard after Dejounte Murray on the market, but it is likely a huge disappointment for Jones. The Wizards have been awful but Jones has been stellar running the point, and it looked like he would get a chance to head to a more competitive team. 

For whatever reason the Wizards didn’t trade him, and that means he has to finish the season in Washington playing for his next contract on a team playing for nothing. Perhaps the Wizards decide they want to keep him around and re-sing him, but I’m sure Jones was hoping he’d land somewhere in the thick of the title race. 

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Gordon Hayward
Minnesota Timberwolves v Charlotte Hornets / Matt Kelley/GettyImages

QUICK HITTER: The Western Conference power structure

In Wednesday's edition of The Whiteboard, I looked at four trade scenarios that could actually affect the power structure at the top of the Western Conference. Three of them happened so I wanted to quickly review.

4. Timberwolves get an offensive boost

Check. The Timberwolves landed Monte Morris from the Pistons. He'd barely played this year but averaged 13.5 points and 6.9 assists per 36 minutes the year before for the Wizards, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 38 percent from beyond the arc with one of the lowest turnover rates in the league. This was a superb pick-up.

3. Lakers land Dejounte Murray

Nope. The Lakers didn't just miss on Dejounte Murray, they sat out the trade deadline entirely.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder take a big swing

Check. The Thunder didn't swing for a big star but landing Gordon Hayward for spare parts is the next best thing. Injuries have taken their toll and he's not the player he used to be but he's a versatile solid outside shooter and secondary creator whose experience could be a huge boon for the Thunder.

1. Phoenix Suns get their two-way, swing forward

Check. They didn't get Miles Bridges, their primary target, but they were able to land Royce O'Neale from the Nets. O'Neale is just 6-foot-4 but he can defend 3s and 4s enough to save some wear-and-tear on Kevin Durant in both big and small lineups and his steady 3-point shooting mean the Suns can do that without sacrificing anything on offense like they have been with Nassir Little or Josh Okogie.

— Ian Levy

Keanu Pinder, Ron Holland
NBA G League Fall Invitational - Perth Wildcats v G League Ignite / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Big Three: Chris Kline on the strengths and weaknesses of the 2024 NBA Draft class

FanSided's NBA Draft expert, Chris Kline, just finished his latest NBA Draft Big Board and he's joining us today to answer three questions about Victor Wembanyama and how this draft class might help the struggling Spurs and Pistons.

1. This NBA Draft class may not have the star power of previous years and see teams drafting more for role and fit. Which skills or attributes are deepest in this class?

I'd say there is considerable defensive upside in this class. For all the incomplete offensive packages, there are several first-round prospects with the potential to impact winning as a defender straight away.

Just at the top of the board, there is Alex Sarr — a game-changer with his length and mobility at the five spot. Ron Holland's best attribute is his defensive playmaking. Kentucky's Reed Sheppard has lit the college basketball world on fire with his jumper, but he's also one of the most active and fundamentally-sound guard defenders in years. Virginia's Ryan Dunn is putting up Matisse Thybulle steal-block numbers. Zaccharie Risacher is 6-foot-10 with the lateral quickness to defend guards and the length to muck up passing lanes. Ja'Kobe Walter, Donovan Clingan, Kel'el Ware — the list goes on.

2024 also has a chance to revive the small guard. Once you move outside the lottery, a ton of 6-foot-nothing playmakers are going to enter the fray. Teams in search of bubbly bench scorers and shot-in-the-arm creators are going to be swimming in options. A few can actually defend, too. Colorado's KJ Simpson, Marquette's Tyler Kolek, Florida's Walter Clayton, and Oregon's Jackson Shelstad all have first round NBA upside.

2. Which skills or attributes are the rarest and hardest to find in this class?

Generally there are at least a few strong creator bets in each class. The 2024 draft isn't short on future backup point guards or sixth-man scorers, but as far as future No. 1 options go, there ain't much. Maybe Nikola Topic can get there as a gifted slasher, but his limitations as a pull-up shooter raise questions. And he's my No. 1 prospect. Beyond that, teams will generally be betting on secondary or tertiary options who can thrive within a team context. There are some elite movement shooters, a couple strong rim pressure guards, and a vast array of endlessly toolsy wings, but none really project as bankable offensive engines. That can always change — plenty of NBA stars didn't begin as "creator bets," just ask Kawhi Leonard. But the lack is especially apparent in this class. Ajay Mitchell and Rob Dillingham stand out as guards with a chance to break that mold, but Mitchell doesn't shoot a ton of 3s and Dillingham's light frame is a concern. Isaiah Collier, too, as long as he reigns in the turnovers.

3. Because this class might lack star power, presumably the difference in value between the No. 1 pick and, say, the No. 7 pick is much less than in other years. Do you think this leads to more trade jockeying in the lead up to the draft with more picks potentially available for trade?

In a way, it could lead to less trade jockeying. There's less value in trading up. As you said, the difference between No. 1 and No. 7 could be negligible for a smart front office, so why bother? On the flip side, every front office ends up with "their guy" in every draft. I'd imagine teams that land near the top would be more than willing to engage with the concept of trading back and stockpiling a few assets. If the Pistons land No. 1 but would prefer to select Reed Sheppard at No. 8 while pocketing a future first? That kind of scenario could be justifiable this year.

So, at the end of the day, yes. There will be trade jockeying. I would mostly expect teams to sell — to aim to move back or move out of the 2024 draft entirely. Teams like Toronto or OKC, with several first-round picks at their disposal, should be especially interested in packaging picks for win-now talent or moving their real estate to the 2025 draft. Once the talent tapers off after the lottery, a ton of teams will be trying to sell their picks to the highest bidder.

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