Another exciting NBA trade deadline is in the books, with stars, draft picks and expiring contracts flying across the league, as teams chase the playoffs and flee from the luxury tax. Here are 10 things we learned about Woj’s favorite day of the season.
1. No one is untradeable
Andrew Wiggins signed a maximum extension in 2017 after the Timberwolves’ owner famously made him promise to try to improve — not a great omen when they were giving him $148 million. But the Warriors took on the millstone of a deal in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, a first-round pick in 2021 (top-three protected) and a second-rounder in 2021. Wiggins makes about the same as Russell, and a small forward fits the Warriors better, given that there’s only room for two Splash Brothers in one backcourt. Neither one plays defense, but the Warriors must be hoping that getting out of Minnesota and alongside Draymond Green will help Wiggins defend at a decent level. But he’s been a huge disappointment. The million-dollar suites with personal butlers and wine cellars are only the second-most overpriced thing at the Warriors’ new arena now.
It’s hard not to conclude that the Warriors primarily wanted to dodge the luxury tax this year. They dealt Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III to Philadelphia for three lousy second-round picks this week, and dumped Omari Spellman and Jacob Evans in this deal. Getting under the tax this season lets them avoid the harsh “repeater tax” penalty for overspending next year, especially if they plan to use their large trade exception from dealing Andre Iguodala. They can also use the full mid-level exception. The dowry for agreeing to the three-year marriage with Wiggins is a likely lottery pick in 2021. But Minnesota desperately wanted to keep Karl-Anthony Towns happy, so a first-rounder is a small price to pay for acquiring your franchise player’s BFF.
2. Biggest winner: Andre Iguodala
The Grizzlies traded for Andre Iguodala on the first day of free agency in order to get a first-round pick from the Warriors. Then they let him stay home and wait out a trade. But Memphis turned into a playoff team earlier than expected, and frustration mounted with the young Grizzlies that he was staying away. Meanwhile, Iguodala was on a four-month paid vacation, hiking with Klay Thompson, promoting his book and holding out for a deal to one of the Los Angeles teams. Now he’s going to the playoffs with the Miami Heat, and for the great personal sacrifice of moving to South Beach, he demanded and received a two-year, $30 million contract extension at age 36. He may not get a ring this season, but he definitely got the bag.
3. Pat Riley believes Heat team can win it all
The Miami Heat began the summer capped out, disappointed after narrowly missing the playoffs in Dwyane Wade’s farewell campaign. Then Riley and the front office started making moves. They turned Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson into Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard, found two great rookies in Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn and even weathered the storm of Dion Waiters’ gummy incident. Now they’ve added Iguodala and Jae Crowder, dumped the unwanted contracts of James Johnson and Waiters, all while keeping their picks and preserving their 2021 cap space. It would have been a perfect deadline if they’d snagged Danilo Gallinari from OKC, but ultimately, the Thunder had too many of Miami’s picks already.
4. Memphis got a lot for a player they never really had
Rumors were floating that the Grizzlies would settle for something like the Warriors’ second-round pick this June by trading Iguodala, a player who never actually reported to the team. But they didn’t panic, holding on to Iguodala until they got a dynamic 23-year-old in Justise Winslow, who’s missed most of the season with a back injury — though he’s played 10 more games than Iguodala. Winslow is on an extremely team-friendly contract: $26 million for the next two years, and the 2021-22 deal is a team option. Plus, they got a first-round pick just for keeping Iguodala on their books, if not in their locker room. They extended 24-year-old Dillon Brooks for three years, after he called out Iguodala for not reporting, proving he had the proper grit ‘n’ grind fire to play for the Grizz. Memphis also picked up Gorgui Dieng and Dion Waiters for free, because why not? Memphis may pull off the trick of rebuilding while still competing for the playoffs, as long as Waiters sticks to vaping.
5. Future is now for Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni
Coach Mike D’Antoni’s love of small ball perfectly meshed with owner Tilman Fertitta’s hatred of paying the luxury tax in their deadline moves. Perhaps emboldened by the Rockets playing (and winning!) a full game with no players taller than 6-foot-6, the Rockets traded Clint Capela for the switchy and cost-controlled Robert Covington, who at 6-foot-9 is now their biggest man, with 6-foot-6 P.J. Tucker the new center. Covington is a three-and-D guy who’s not so great at the threes or the one-on-one defense, but he’s a fantastic help defender, which is very necessary paired with the help-averse James Harden and Russell Westbrook. D’Antoni’s in the last year of his contract, so why not go out playing “seven seconds or less” ball on steroids? It’s the first step in helping Daryl Morey get under next year’s luxury tax, which will be lower than expected thanks to a tweet by, you guessed it, Daryl Morey. And it only cost a first-round pick, which doesn’t matter to Morey since he could be getting fired too. Hey, the Knicks have a job opening and Morey loves musicals.