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Five things we learned from the 2023 NBA trade deadline

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We guessed a wild NBA trade deadline reaction from the basketball community, and we surely got swept off our feet. The Dallas Mavericks’ acquisition of Kyrie Irving served as a prologue to what went down in the trade market a few days later.

There’s a lot of stuff to unpack here, so here are the five things we learned from the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline.

1. The Western Conference is a problem

Ja Morant now has a lot of things to think of before he makes another bold assessment of the Memphis Grizzlies’ rivals in the West. The Grizzlies may be sitting in the second spot in the West standings, but they should now be looking at the rearview mirror.

The Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and even the Golden State Warriors shored up their respective rosters before the trade deadline. Look at the projected new starting lineups for the Mavericks, Suns, and Lakers, assuming all their players are healthy.

Mavericks’ projected starting five

Lakers’ projected starting five

Suns’ projected starting five

While it’s true that the Warriors will not change their starting lineup, they also brought back elite multi-positional defender Gary Payton II. With the West stockpiling talent, the conference’s race for the playoff spots just got tighter.


Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets may still hold the top seed entering the postseason, and there’s a big chance that the Grizzlies will remain in the top 4. But who knows what will happen when the big guns come out and play in the playoffs?

2. The Lakers admit to a mistake

An “end to an error”, was how Statmuse puts it. The Lakers traded away essentially half of its roster, sending out Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and Thomas Bryant before the trade deadline. In return, the purple-and-gold squad welcomed back D’Angelo Russell, along with fresh faces in Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, Mo Bamba, and Davon Reed.

LeBron James and the rest of the Lakers fan base should be happy with their haul. Russell, Beasley, and Hachimura provide the floor spacing that LeBron and Anthony Davis need to operate more effectively. Moreover, Bamba and Vanderbilt offer versatility and size in the frontcourt, just what the Lakers need to improve their defense which currently ranks 21st in defensive rating.

The Lakers are definitely on the right side of the winners and losers debate in this year’s NBA trade deadline saga.

3. The Raptors are looking forward to the off-season

Expected as one of the big movers before the trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors stood pat and did not sell any of their significant assets. The only move they made was to bring back 27-year-old Jakob Poeltl, who was part of the trade deal that brought Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in 2018.


While it’s true that Poeltl is a solid big just entering his prime, he’s not someone who could move the needle for the Raptors. Poeltl will be a significant boost for the team this season, but how far can the Raptors go with this roster?

General manager Masai Ujiri already hinted at making more significant moves in the summer, so there’s a notion that the team doesn’t believe that they have what it takes to seriously contend this year.

4. The East is a race among three teams

With the Miami Heat opting for a quiet trade deadline and the Brooklyn Nets parting ways with Irving and Durant, the race in the Eastern Conference may come down to three teams. Pegged early on as the elite contenders in their conference, the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers will remain true to that billing come playoff time.

The league-leading Celtics squad did not make any splash before the trade deadline, but it’s not like they are expected to. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are All-Stars again, and they’ll be more difficult to stop once Marcus Smart recovers from his injury.

The Bucks added Jae Crowder, a 3-and-D combo forward who can play the four when the team goes small-ball with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the center position. The Sixers added Jalen McDaniels and sent Matisse Thybulle to the Portland Trail Blazers, but look for them to get active in the buyout market.

The Celtics, Bucks, and Sixers should still be sitting at the top of the East’s post-trade deadline power rankings.

5. The buyout market is going to be tasty

The trade deadline deals produced a handful of buyout candidates who could soon head to playoff contenders. Backcourt players who are expected to agree on a buyout with their respective teams are Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Patrick Beverley, John Wall, and Bryn Forbes. More buyout candidates like Will Barton and James Johnson could provide versatility on the wing, while Serge Ibaka and Dewayne Dedmon could offer size in the frontcourt.

We haven’t mentioned the current crop of free agents too. There are some intriguing names out there, including Derrick Favors, Tristan Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, DeAndre’ Bembry, Rodney Hood, and Avery Bradley. Contending teams who stayed quiet (or relatively quiet) before the trade deadline, like the Heat and the Bulls, will surely look for potential reinforcements in the buyout and free agency market.

It won’t be as wild as the trade deadline affair, but expect your favorite teams to continue making roster moves before the playoffs.

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