Deals go down every year at NBA trade deadline time and every year there’s always a team or two that profits greatly from a midseason deal. The phone lines were busy again this season as a flurry of moves reshaped the NBA last week with both blockbuster deals and low key acquisitions. Which team improved the most? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, right, drives past Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles. A person familiar with the situation said Sunday that the Sacramento Kings have agreed to trade Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Tyreke Evans, 2016 first-round draft pick Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round draft picks this summer. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Riley: The teams at the top sat stagnant as Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland pretty much have the top of their rotations set. NBA trade deadline week is normally reserved for teams right on the cusp of heavy contention. And while a few middling teams made some moves, none became legitimate challenges to the NBA’s top three teams. One team that made the biggest splash, however, was the New Orleans Pelicans, who acquired all-star center DeMarcus Cousins for a couple of unimpressive guards and a handful of unused draft picks. Cousins won’t come in and instantly make the Pelicans contenders but paired with blossoming forward Anthony Davis, the trade could make New Orleans a power in the coming years. No team is going to crack the top three of the NBA this year so the best you can hope for is future success. No team did a better job of that than New Orleans.
Green: Sure, Cousins is a big name going to a middling market, but the more I watch him the more I’m convinced his style will never translate to winning basketball. It sounds nice to have a center who can bring the ball up court and connect from three-point range but you won’t find those big men on championship contenders. I like what Toronto did last week by adding Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Will it be enough to topple Cleveland or even Boston in the East? Probably not, but their team roster definitely improved.
Riley: Toronto’s moves were impressive but unless they’re toppling Cleveland then it’s really all mute points. Cousins has his flaws but I refuse to believe a front court of Davis and Cousins won’t be formidable in the coming seasons. The NBA landscape is so top-heavy that teams almost have to play for the future at this point and who is better set up than New Orleans? Toronto has disappointed in the playoffs so many times that it’s hard to put faith in anything that they do. With two dominant big men both under the age of 26, the Pelicans are in an envious position. It might take a couple of seasons for New Orleans to round out their roster but everything out West could change in two years with free agency set to hit Golden State hard and San Antonio constantly aging more with each passing season.
FILE – In this Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, file photo, Orlando Magic’s Damjan Rudez (3) fouls Dallas Mavericks’ Justin Anderson (1) as he tries to get around center Andrew Bogut, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Orlando, Fla. A person with knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press that the Dallas Mavericks have acquired big man Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia. In exchange, the 76ers will get Bogut, Anderson and a protected first-round draft pick. The two teams agreed on the deal on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, a few hours before the trade deadline. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Green: I agree that the NBA is in a stranglehold right now with three dominant teams but Toronto has a chance to step up with perhaps the most balanced roster in the East. It’ll take a lot to upset Cleveland in the eastern conference but the Raptors have now positioned themselves where they have solid depth and talent at all five positions. They already had one of the league’s best backcourts between DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry but now they’ve added defense and floor spacing with Tucker and Ibaka. New Orleans still has to worry about two powers out west while if anybody tweaks an ankle or sprains something in Cleveland then Toronto is literally next in line. No trade was going to push any team past the league’s big three players at the top so Toronto did the next best thing by positioning themselves to kick the door down should absolutely anything happen to one of the stars in Cleveland. Toronto improved the most with the moves they made last week.