Analysis: How the trade deadline could pay some dividends

March 26, 2021 GMT
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Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul passes the ball past Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul passes the ball past Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The NBA called this season’s trade deadline the busiest in the last 35 years, with 46 players from 23 teams involved in 16 different deals.

What’s unclear is how many of those deals will have an impact on this season.

Face it: Some will not register much of a blip.

Brad Wanamaker getting moved to Charlotte by Golden State for a draft pick that will probably never change hands, that’s not exactly swinging a balance of power. Same goes for the Warriors sending Marquese Chriss to San Antonio, and Toronto trading Matt Thomas to Utah and Terence Davis to Sacramento — getting second-round picks back in both cases. Those Raptors moves were almost certainly made to clear roster spots for a Kyle Lowry trade that never happened.

And it says something about the busiest trade deadline in 35 years when the biggest news of the day was a trade that didn’t happen, in Lowry’s case.

That said, there were some moves that have potential to affect the postseason races. Here are some of the teams that benefited most:


The Nuggets got better and smarter by acquiring Aaron Gordon from Orlando and JaVale McGee from Cleveland.

Gordon catching lobs from Nikola Jokic and softening some of the perimeter defensive attention that Jamal Murray gets are just a couple of the ways that he could make an immediate impact on a Denver team that went to the Western Conference finals last season and entered play Friday having gone 9-3 in its last 12 games.

McGee has played for three of the last four teams to win NBA titles: the 2017 and 2018 Warriors and last season’s Los Angeles Lakers. And much like Gordon, there’s a depth to McGee that not many probably realize. Gordon is a fan of and has appeared on National Public Radio; McGee spends his spare time obsessed with finding ways to help bring clean water to hundreds of millions of people around the world who go without.

No team has ever lost because it had too many guys who like NPR and clean water.


The only All-Star from this season to be traded at the deadline was Nikola Vucevic, who went from Orlando to the Bulls. They suddenly have two All-Stars with Vucevic alongside Zach LaVine.

That’s what makes this trade so likable for Chicago. Don’t look at Vucevic’s numbers, which are excellent. Look at how this might lessen the burden on LaVine.

Chicago isn’t exactly a playoff lock with this move. The Bulls play nine of their next 10 on the road and most of those games are against either playoff-bound or playoff-capable teams. The only home game in that stretch is against Brooklyn.

Give them credit for entering the fight in an East race where much is up for grabs.


Kelly Olynyk was a contributor for the Heat and his rebounding will be missed, plus he’s just a good guy. And that matters.

Avery Bradley has been hurt most of the year. Moe Harkless and Chris Silva barely played.

Somehow, the Heat turned those four players into two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo and stretch big Nemanja Bjelica — and seem poised to add LaMarcus Aldridge in the buyout market.

The Heat wanted Lowry. They wouldn’t give up young assets to get him, especially with Lowry becoming a free agent this summer. Now, they get to see what Oladipo has left before deciding how to spend their money this offseason.


Playoff Rondo isn’t just a catchy nickname. It’s a real phenomenon.

Rajon Rondo is a proven difference-maker in the postseason, and if the Los Angeles Clippers are ever going to realize their championship hopes — or finally make the West finals for the first time — they needed another guy who knows how to get it done.

Atlanta moved Rondo for Lou Williams. Georgia is home for Williams, he’s probably happiest there, famously has chicken wings named for his lemon-pepper preference there, and the Hawks added another scorer to their lineup.



Evan Fournier is tough. He wants the ball and wants to take big shots. He won’t have any issue meshing with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart.

The win for the Celtics is that they got him from Orlando for a couple of draft picks, able to absorb his salary into the trade exception created in last summer’s Gordon Hayward deal.

Another potential winner in this deal: The United States of America. If the Celtics make a deep playoff run, one wonders if that could affect Fournier’s desire to play for France in the Olympics that start in July. The U.S. opens its Olympic quest against France — the team that knocked the Americans out of the medal race at the 2019 Basketball World Cup — on July 25.


Yes, Orlando.

The Magic probably won’t win too many more games this season. But they took the leap: trading away three of their four best players for young guys and draft picks.

Orlando was wrecked by injuries this season and had little chance at the playoffs. Even if the Magic did get in, getting out of the first round would have been a longshot. So, they did the scariest but probably smartest thing: they blew up their roster and started over.

Always applaud bold.


Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)


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