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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Stempak: Trade deadline fizzles, but NBA will shine

The greatest day of the year for those of us who are addicted to enacting out our fantasies through ESPN’s NBA trade machine was this past Thursday, the day of the NBA's trade deadline.

Last year was highlighted by dead silence until the final hour, when it seemed as though every roster had a player move in a chaotic scramble that took hours to untangle and understand. Key players that moved were Goran Dragic to the Heat, Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks and Brandon Knight to the Suns. Personally, my favorite move of last year’s trade deadline was the Celtics picking up Isaiah Thomas from the Suns. The diminutive guard, listed at only 5’9”, has found his niche in the league as a scorer. Thomas has always been able to get buckets, and he averaged over 20 points per game in his third year in the league despite being the last overall pick in his draft class. The Celtics got him on a good contract, and the move has paid dividends for the team this season, as Thomas was selected as an All-Star.

This year, however, it was much less exciting. The team with the most personnel change was the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, in exchange for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, acquired Tobias Harris from the Magic. Harris is a young, emerging scorer who can play both the small forward and power forward positions and fits in nicely with the timetable of the other pieces of the Pistons’ core — Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond. Detroit also added some depth to their bench with two former members of the Houston Rockets, Marcus Thornton and Donatas Motiejūnas. Thornton and Motiejūnas will provide some depth and scoring to what was previously a thin, weak Pistons bench.

Perhaps the most important move of the day was made when the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Channing Frye. Frye provides the East’s leading contender with another big man with a killer shooting stroke and another piece to space the floor around LeBron James. With the other two main contenders for the title, the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, happy to roll into the playoffs with their current rosters, the Cavaliers’ latest addition could be the missing piece that finally gives James the chance to bring a title to Cleveland.

Even though the moves that were made are fun to discuss, the most important takeaway from a dull trade deadline day should, interestingly enough, be the lack of movement. In the past, teams were quick to pull the trigger and mortgage their future in hopes of hitting a home run or reinvigorating a franchise with a big name deal. These deals often did not work, and in the worst case scenarios, they left a team without young assets and with an aging and overpaid star.

Teams are now becoming self-aware and unwilling to overpay for a half-year rental of Dwight Howard or Al Horford at the hopes of becoming contenders. What is the point in trading away your next six years’ draft picks simply to have Stephen Curry hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer and knock you out of the playoffs in the second round? Instead, big moves can be made in the offseason through free agent acquisitions or trading disgruntled stars after at least a full year of evaluation. Look forward to roster shakeups not in the heart of winter, but in the heat of the summer.