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Trade deadline recap: Raptors bulk up, Lakers fall flat

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An abundance of moves were made prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. Here’s what happened, and how it impacts the Warriors.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline has come and passed, and, to the surprise of no one, the Golden State Warriors were inactive. The Warriors were not involved in any trades, and if they even discussed any, it didn’t make it to the public rumor stage.

But the Warriors are the pace-setters in the NBA. As coach Steve Kerr eloquently put it the other day, making deadline moves is “everyone else’s problem.”

And, as always, those other teams took it upon themselves to chase the Warriors, both in the short term and the long term. The deadline was a wild rush of trade after trade - some were big, some were small, and almost all of them felt as though they led back to the Warriors at some point.

So let’s look back on the biggest moves of the last few days, and how they impact Golden State.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The East’s top tier loaded up

The Warriors are, without question, the favorites to win the title this year. But in order to do that they’ll have to go through someone in the East - and there’s a formidable quartet of teams battling for that top spot.

With Victor Oladipo out for the year, the Indiana Pacers are unlikely to make much noise. But the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors all present serious challenges to Golden State. And three of those four made big moves to challenge the Dubs should they meet in July.

Milwaukee Bucks

Key incoming pieces: Nikola Mirotic
Key outgoing pieces: Thon Maker, Jason Smith, four second-round picks

Mirotic has had an excellent year for the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 36.3% from deep. And his style fits perfectly with what Mike Budenholzer has implemented in his first year in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee gave up exactly zero rotation pieces, and no future assets of much value for a player who brings added length, depth, shooting, and flexibility. And they’re already leading the league in record and net rating.

Philadelphia 76ers

Key incoming pieces: Tobias Harris, Jonathan Simmons, first-round pick, second-round pick
Key outgoing pieces: Markelle Fultz, Landry Shamet, two first-round picks, two second-round picks

The Sixers took some risks, but got dramatically better. Tobias Harris joins Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons, creating a four-man core of All-Star caliber players. And while he’s an expiring contract, Philly also acquired his Bird rights, so they can retain him after this season and move forward with that core.

Philadelphia instantly becomes one of the most fascinating teams in the league. Will Harris - who went from his team’s best player to fourth-best player overnight - fit next to three other high-usage alphas? Warriors fans are all too familiar with “there’s only one ball” being a silly criticism, but stylistically, it could be a factor for the Sixers, who don’t have a Draymond Green (who doesn’t need to score) or Klay Thompson (who doesn’t need to dribble).

But they now have an ultra-switchable lineup with four strong scorers, and the ability to lock down the core for years to come.

Toronto Raptors

Key incoming pieces: Marc Gasol
Key outgoing pieces: Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, second-round pick

Well, hello there. The Raptors are 39-16, and tied with the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder for fourth-best net rating in the league. And now they’ve added a top defensive center, who also happens to be a wizard passing the ball, a strong rebounder, and capable of stretching the floor.

This is going to be interesting.

It’s not a coincidence that these teams ended up with Mirotic, Harris, and Gasol. All three have done very well against the Warriors.

That explains things pretty well, I’d say.

New York Knicks v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Kevin Durant, come on down

While some teams focused on how they can conquer the Warriors this season, other teams looked towards besting Golden State in the summer.

In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Durant will be a free agent this coming offseason. He doesn’t want to talk about it, or about anything. It’s quite a story.

Whether or not Durant wants to talk about it, teams are gearing up for a run at one of the greatest scorers in league history. And two teams went all-in on the task.

Los Angeles Clippers

Key incoming pieces: Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green, two first-round picks, two second-round picks
Key outgoing pieces: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley

The Clippers’ deadline approach can be summed up like this: Get assets in exchange for players they don’t intend to keep around. It’s a pretty good strategy!

In doing so, LA ensured that they’ll have the cap space to make a run at Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, or DeMarcus Cousins. And given how easily they could shed more contracts this summer, they can definitely make a run at two stars.

New York Knicks

Key incoming pieces: Dennis Smith Jr., two first-round picks
Key outgoing pieces: Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke

Durant doesn’t want to talk about the Knicks. He really doesn’t want to talk about the Knicks. He took nine days off from talking to the media as rumors began swirling, and returned just to tell everyone that he doesn’t want to talk about the Knicks.

But the Knicks want to talk about Durant. And by trading Porzingis - the best player the team has drafted in decades - New York was able to unload some hefty contracts and clear enough space to hit a grand slam in free agency.

New York’s goal is no secret: They want to sign Durant and Irving. They may come up empty, but they set the table fiscally to make that dream a reality.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Rockets and Lakers stay home

The Los Angeles Lakers newest star, LeBron James, has met the Warriors in the postseason four years in a row. The Houston Rockets pushed the Dubs to the absolute brink in last year’s Western Conference Finals.

It was understandable to think that both teams would gear up to try and make a run at Golden State this season.

That didn’t happen.

Houston Rockets

Key incoming pieces: Iman Shumpert, second-round pick
Key outgoing pieces: James Ennis III, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, first-round pick, three second-round picks

Houston’s goal was not to gear up for another showdown with the Warriors. No, their goal was to shed money and get under the luxury tax.

The good news for the Rockets? They achieved that goal!

The bad news? This team is significantly worse than last year’s iteration that nearly knocked off the champs.

Los Angeles Lakers

Key incoming pieces: Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala
Key outgoing pieces: Ivica Zubac, Svi Mykhailiuk, Michael Beasley, second-round pick

In the Lakers’ defense, they tried to make a big move, with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka throwing nearly their entire roster at the Pelicans in a prayer for Anthony Davis.

It didn’t work.

So instead they did something perplexing: They traded Zubac, an exciting young center who is cheap and cost-controlled, for Mike Muscala, and the ability to open up a roster spot to use on the buyout market.

And while that spot hasn’t yet been used, it might be earmarked for . . . you guessed it . . . Carmelo Anthony.

You can’t make this up, folks. You really can’t.

New York Knicks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome to buyout season

With trades no longer allowed, the buyouts are going to start flying in. Already a lot of interesting names are hitting the market, including Robin Lopez, Enes Kanter, Zach Randolph, Michael Beasley, and Wayne Ellington.

The buyout candidates from New York are a bit interesting. The Knicks reached an agreement to buy out Wes Matthews, who was a potential target for the Warriors. But he opted to join a team who could offer him a big role: the Indiana Pacers.

Meanwhile, New York’s other prime buyout candidate, DeAndre Jordan, is apparently going to stick out his contract in the Big Apple, despite the Knicks lottery pursuits.

Many other names have been bought out, and will continue to be bought out, and we’ll keep you updated if any are linked to the Warriors. So far the only player who is linked to the team is Marcin Gortat, who secured a buyout and apparently wants to join the perennial title favorites.

Hey Marcin - me too. Get in line, buddy.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

And now, for something completely different . . .

Most of the deadline moves are driven by the Warriors in some way or another. But not all of them are. A few other interesting moves went down that are unlikely to impact the Dubs at all, but are still worth talking about.

  • Old friend Harrison Barnes, who spent his first four years with the Warriors, was traded to the Sacramento Kings. This makes perfect sense, as playing in the state’s capital will allow Barnes a seamless transition to his inevitable role as a senator.

Sacramento is apparently interested in locking up Barnes long term, which would add a veteran presence to go with their exciting young core.

  • Anthony Davis, despite informing the Pelicans that he would not re-sign with the team in 2020, was not traded.

It’s sensible for New Orleans to hang on to the superstar, since the trade packages weren’t compelling. The Celtics can make a trade offer for him this summer (they were prohibited from doing so this year), and once the draft lottery sorts itself out the Pelicans may get a more intriguing package.

  • Markelle Fultz, last year’s top draft pick, was traded to the Orlando Magic for a low cost (Jonathan Simmons, a top-20 protected first-round pick, and a second-round pick). Hopefully Fultz can get his nerve issue resolved by Orlando’s doctors, and get his career back on track.
  • Despite trading Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies opted to hang on to fellow veteran star Mike Conley.

And that’s all for this trade deadline, folks. It was predictably wild, with countless transactions taking place.

Ultimately, we were reminded of the basic current NBA truth: All roads lead through the Golden State Warriors.

Buckle up. The next stop is the postseason.