Despite the flurry of movement in the Eastern Conference, most of the best teams in the West stood pat this trade deadline. There was no huge Anthony Davis trade, no superstar team-ups, and not much to change about the conference’s postseason outlook.
The Warriors, Nuggets, and Thunder, the three best teams in the conference, didn’t make a single trade. The Jazz and Spurs also opted not to make any changes. These teams are all playoff locks, and seem content with their rosters as is. With the probably exception of the Spurs, they all should be dangerous in the playoffs.
The Portland Trailblazers made some small changes on the fringe: they traded Caleb Swanigan for Skal Labissiere, and acquired Rodney Hood from the Cavaliers. It’s hard to see either of these trades making a huge difference, so for now, they’re simply a good regular season that has yet to prove itself in the playoffs.
Perhaps the strangest team at the deadline was the Houston Rockets. One year after an all-time season, the Rockets are ducking the luxury tax, and making questionable roster decisions left and right: they gave up a first rounder for Iman Shumpert and gave away James Ennis, Nik Stauskas, and Wade Baldwin for nothing. Their failed relationship with Carmelo Anthony and inability to keep Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute earlier in the year have only cast more doubt on Daryl Morey and the Rockets’ new ownership. This type of penny-pinching from billionaires is disappointing and sad: the Rockets are still a good team, but because of aging and lack of depth due to an unwillingness to pay, they shouldn’t reach the heights of last year.
The Clippers had perhaps the most interesting deadline of the Western Conference teams. They traded away Tobias Harris, maybe their best player, for future assets, and moved on from fellow starters Marcin Gortat and Avery Bradley as well. Their moves put them in a great spot to snag a star in the upcoming offseason via free agency or trade. However, I doubt they will make the playoffs now: at eighth in the conference currently, they likely won’t be able to replace the talent they’ve lost.
The Kings made a splash by acquiring Harrison Barnes from the Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph. He fills a massive hole they had at the small forward spot, and could theoretically be a solid defender and shooter for them. But as Warriors fans know, Barnes is a poor ballhandler and passer, and he might not be enough to push them into the playoffs. At ninth place and 1.5 games from the playoffs, it’s difficult to see the Kings beating out both the Clippers and Lakers. Regardless, the team is young and has a bright future if managed correctly.
The Lakers did not have the deadline they wanted: they didn’t get Anthony Davis, their locker room is going to have to regroup, and a year of LeBron’s career is close to wasted. At tenth in the conference and 2.5 games out, they’re going to have to make up lost ground fast to make the playoffs. Luckily, they have LeBron back, and the additions of Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala should help. Even though neither of them are great players, they can both stretch the floor, a quality the Lakers’ role players sorely lack around LeBron.
It seems too late for the Wolves, Pelicans, and Mavericks to make the playoffs, and the Grizzlies and Suns are 100% out, so I’d expect the Clippers, Lakers, and Kings to fight over the last playoff spot. I think the Lakers will end up snagging the eighth seed, and face the Warriors in the first round. I’m looking forward to it.