At the trade deadline, the NBA world was rocked with a monster four-team trade. How did the respective parties do?
For starters, Houston sheds the essentially dead roster spots of Nene and Gerald Green, and they also created a roster spot by sending out three players and bringing in two. Salary cap-wise, they also got far enough under the tax that when they use the remainder of their mid-level exception from this summer, they can pay more than most other teams can in the buyout market.
They also now have the option to use their non-taxpayer mid-level exception this summer to fill the center hole going forward with another starter level player, and they can create a roster without any holes for the future. Plus, they created a $3.6 million trade-exception that can be used to absorb a player into. So before even looking at the basketball fit, they came out extraordinarily well from both a roster construction and allowing-themselves-more-ways-to-get-better perspective.
Looking at the basketball fit, there is definitely a version of this deal where they become a better team on the court and the worst case is, they are probably slightly worse. They have been killing it with their small ball lineup lately while Clint Capela has been hurt, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been getting all the way to the basket more often, their shooters have been getting more open looks, and the team has been flying around on defense. Adding Covington should only make all those things even better.
The lack of a true center will hurt them at times (if they don’t add another one before the playoffs). But it is very possible the positives outweigh the negatives for several reasons; the Rockets small-ball lineup has always killed Rudy Gobert and the Jazz, and I don’t expect Nikola Jokic to be able to guard on the perimeter. Though Anthony Davis will be tough to handle, his defense will be neutralized to some extent in five-out lineups with him being on the perimeter more, and P.J. Tucker’s excellent post defense will still be competitive on the other end.
All signs pointed to the Nuggets not wanting to pay Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez this summer. This trade nets them a first-round pick and two rotation guys in Napier and Vonleh who can help counteract the loss of depth. Bates-Diop is a very interesting piece here too, as he has been pretty decent in an increased role this year.
He is close to league-average efficiency and his size and instincts at his young age suggest that he can round out to be a rotation player soon. How much can he play on a playoff team? Likely not much, but maybe he can be a solid contributor in two years. Either way, he provides cheap production on a roster that is going to get expensive going forward.
The most underrated aspect of this trade: Denver now has the ability to attach the first round pick they obtained in this deal to Mason Plumlee’s expiring $14 million contract. They can bring in another starter level/fringe All-Star level player and withstand any loss of depth. One person I would keep an eye on for them is Aaron Gordon. Denver is in a significant position to upgrade their team for this season after this deal.
Atlanta dipped in their enormous amount of cap space next summer to make this trade happen. Capela is under contract for three more years after this one on a team-friendly deal. He should be a quality basketball fit with this team, as he gives them a good defensive anchor and a great dive-man to partner with Trae Young in the pick and roll. His fit next to John Collins will be clunky, but I’m sure their minutes will be staggered a good bit and they will not share the court too much.
This was definitely a worthwhile risk for the Hawks. They filled one of their biggest holes and took a step towards establishing a defensive identity. They will still have their first-round pick this year and around $50 million in cap space to fill out the roster this summer.
The T’Wolves did a great job in getting young players who fit what they are doing going forward and getting a solid draft pick here. Sure, no one piece of this trade is too overwhelming, but I think it is a solid step in creating an identity going forward. They can surround KAT with Beasley and Hernangomez, who are both versatile players and specialize in shooting – exactly what you would want to put around KAT. They still lack a dynamic ball-handler, but that can be addressed in this upcoming guard-heavy draft (or maybe continue stalking the Warriors about D-Lo).
The Wolves gutted their depth but at the end of the day what difference does that make? They lost some players on expiring deals, but they are a rebuilding team that does not have anything to compete for.
Heck, if this deal makes them slightly worse this year because of their lack of depth and weird positional set up, they should get a better draft pick out of it – making the loss of the expiring players a positive instead of a negative. The significant loss here is Keita; as I mentioned earlier, I think he projects as a legit rotation wing in a few years. He’s also the exact type of player you want on a rebuilding team.