The weeks heading into the All-Star break are always an interesting time for the NBA. With the playoff seeding battle only starting and the high of the new season gone, it’s usually a slower time for the league. Thankfully, there’s a break from the doldrums of this part of the season: the trade deadline.
For a couple of days in the middle of winter, things heat up for the league. NBA Twitter and Reddit are alive with all the trade rumors and reports. It seems like every year, there’s always something major that happens during the trade deadline. This season was no different.
Now that the smoke has cleared and all the moves have been made, here are the winners and losers from the 2023 NBA trade deadline frenzy.
Winner (and kind of a loser): LA Lakers
The Russell Westbrook experiment mercifully comes to an end.
He was finally traded away for a package that brought back D’Angelo Russell along with Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt. Those three join Rui Hachimura and Mo Bamba as the Lakers’ deadline acquisitions.
Do these players make the Lakers better? Definitely. They’re all upgrades at every position. Russell is a better player than Westbrook. Beasley and Hachimura give the team wing depth. Vanderbilt and Bamba bring size and length to the frontcourt.
The Lakers had to make a move. And they did. They were able to bring in three new starters and two solid back-ups. The real question is do all these moves make them a championship contender? Because at this stage of Kings James’ career, with the scoring title chase wrapped up, all that’s left for him to do is to add championships to his collection.
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
While the Lakers are better than they were before the trade deadline, they’re still the worst team in the Pacific Division (more on this later). They’ll also have to incorporate five new players into a system that their first-year head coach is still teaching them.
At best, the new guys energize the team—especially James and Davis—to go on a solid winning run to get back into playoff contention. At worst, this is just another experiment in a string of failed experiments by the Lakers’ management.
Winner-ish: Brooklyn Nets
RIP to the most vibeless self-assembled big 3 in history https://t.co/NxBdQco2tO— haley o'shaughnessy (@HaleyOSomething) February 9, 2023
This is perhaps the most accurate description of the Brooklyn Big 3 era, which is ironic because before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the Nets, they were all vibes.
So yeah, they lost a couple of All-NBA players in Durant and Irving. At least now they have a young team that can play basketball with no pressure and just have fun on the floor, just like the pre-KD and Kyrie Nets.
Losers: Russell Westbrook and John Wall
The path of these two point guards has been intertwined somehow after they were traded for each other back in 2020.
Westbrook spent just one season in Washington before he headed to LA. It took Wall a season and a sit-out before he made his way to LA, too. After being hyped by their respective teams as one of their major acquisitions, the two have been shipped out of LA to each of their worst possible destinations.
Just a few months removed after saying some not-so-nice things about the Houston Rockets, the LA Clippers traded Wall back to… the Houston Rockets.
John Wall a month ago on his time in Houston: “Trash. Beyond trash.”— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 9, 2023
Today the Clippers shipped him back to Houston. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/uiZkcCaoE9
As for Westbrook, remember when a Utah Jazz fan allegedly said some not so nice things to him back in 2019? Well, the Lakers traded him to… the Utah Jazz.
There will be buyouts involved and most likely these two won’t even play a single game with their current teams. But it’s just cold—and funny, but mostly cold—that they ended up where they are right now.
Winner: Phoenix Suns
The Suns got Kevin Durant. What more needs to be said? This can be analyzed down to the pick swaps but anytime a team gets a player like Kevin-freaking-Durant, they won that trade. Period.
Winner: Jersey Photoshops
These jersey photoshops this year are crazy.
Here’s one of Russell in a Lakers jersey. Wild.
It took us a second, but we finally got that D’Angelo Russell/Lakers jersey swap done pic.twitter.com/jSssRPNFt4— RingerNBA (@ringernba) February 8, 2023
How about this one of Wall rocking the Rockets’ colors? Man.
This KD one has got to be AI-generated right?
There we go pic.twitter.com/yNqVsBnobD— Connor Witt (@ConnorWitt) June 30, 2022
Loser: Ja Morant
Things that happened since Morant said: “Nah. I’m fine in the West.”
The Memphis Grizzlies were accused of stat-padding
They lost five straight games, all to West teams
Kyrie Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks
Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns
They failed to get OG Anunoby during the trade deadline
It looks like the West is fine with the Grizzlies.
Winner: Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge took the salary filler from the Gobert trade and a vet he didn't need and got the pick the whole league wanted. Man's still got it.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) February 9, 2023
This is absolute wizardry from Danny Ainge. The Lakers shopped the 2027 first-round pick as part of a trade package to almost every team. In the end, it was Ainge who ended up with that pick.
Of course, it was Ainge. That’s all the man has been doing since he took over in Utah. He’s been collecting picks like crazy, amassing 15 first-round picks through 2029. But that’s just the right thing to do for a team like the Jazz.
They’re a small-market team that’s never going to be able to attract a superduper star. So they need all the draft capital that they can get their hands on to be able to make moves and trade for the players that they want.
Ainge’s previous rebuild, the Boston Celtics, has finally grown into a title contender. The hope is that he weaves the same kind of magic for the Jazz.
Winners: Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics
After everything that happened during the trade deadline, the Bucks and Celtics are still far and away the two best teams in the league. None of the moves made in the past week change the fact that, for this season at least, the NBA title will run through those two teams.