Holy mother of trade grades
Including the first "F" grade I've ever handed out
I never believed there would be silence.
Observers were worried that because all the biggest trades had already happened (Harden, Siakam, Anunoby, etc.), the buyers would be too asset-poor to take swings. The sellers, theoretically, should have been motivated to wait until the summer, when there would be significantly more first-round picks freed up to trade. The hot stove was merely lukewarm leading up to the deadline today, and many predicted it would be a relatively boring afternoon.
Thankfully, they were wrong! While there weren’t many massive moves, there were a bunch of interesting ones that were too big to be considered marginal. Let’s talk about ‘em with the usual caveat that grading trades right off the bat is foolish, particularly when we talk about draft picks located a half-decade in the future. Some details are still leaking out, and some players who were traded will likely be waived and join other teams. We still don’t have full clarity.
But we’re diving in anyway, because grading trades is fun. Who doesn’t love to judge? We’ll cover every trade of note and most that aren’t noteworthy at all!
Update: It’s 5,000 words and several hours later. I no longer think trades are fun, and I despise these front offices making meaningless moves just to rearrange their deck chairs. Read this at your own peril, and please excuse any typos, worse-than-usual similes, and complete non-sequiturs that you come across.
Dallas Mavericks receive: forward PJ Washington
Charlotte Hornets receive: Grant Williams, Seth Curry, 2027 top-two protected first-round pick
Mavs grade: C+
For the second straight deadline, the Mavericks send out some real assets. Washington isn’t in Kyrie Irving’s class, of course, but he should be a substantial upgrade for them at forward who may have some potential as a small-ball center (although I wouldn’t count on that).
Washington’s effort levels have waned a bit this season on an injury-ravaged Hornets squad, but he has a history of being a switchable big man with quick feet and hands. He was a reliable three-point shooter early in his career, but he’s hit only 32% this season (on fairly high volume, to be fair). Mavs’ superstar Luka Doncic has a history of helping players’ three-point percentages by gifting them wide-open looks and pinpoint passes. The Mavs are betting — and I agree — that Washington’s shooting will bounce back.
Washington won’t help their rebounding woes. But he gives them some defensive flexibility, which is uber-important in the matchup-dependent NBA playoffs. He’s a better perimeter defender than Grant Williams (who became a bitter disappointment after an initial promising start in Dallas) and a far more capable offensive player than my beloved Derrick Jones Jr. When Irving is hurt, Washington can be a scorer for the Mavs — he averaged nearly 16 points per game last season, although his numbers have dropped a bit this year.
The price was steep, though. Williams is still a real NBA player, and a nearly unprotected 2027 pick is a hell of a snag for Charlotte. Dallas could have waited until the summer to have up to three tradeable firsts and try to nab a bigger name, but they chose to make a smaller move now. If Luka starts eyeing greener pastures, that first-rounder will become extremely valuable as a trade chip or on its own.
I’ll be honest — this move has a hint of desperation to it. Mark Cuban just sold his majority share in the Mavs to new owners, and the NBA has a long history of new ownership settling in and installing their own people in the front office. The Mavs dealmakers pretty clearly don’t care about a future three years from now because if they don’t become serious contenders this season, they’re likely out of a job. Moral hazard much?
So yes, I understand the reasoning behind this trade. And Washington is an upgrade with some upside. But it’s about as high-risk, high-reward as a deal of this caliber can be.
Hornets grade: A
To reiterate what I said above, that’s a much juicier first-rounder than I thought the Mavs could get for Washington.
Grant Williams is still a solid corner shooter, and he can slot into most Hornets lineups. At just 25, he can be a rotation player for the next good Hornets team, or his salary can be useful for matching purposes in any future trades the Hornets make.
Seth Curry likely won’t play much, but it’s always good for a young, rebuilding team like Charlotte to stock up on as many shooters as they can. We’ve seen in Detroit what happens when a rebuild is too spacing-constrained; it’s not pretty.
Boston Celtics receive: Big man Xavier Tillman
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Wing Lamar Stevens, 2027 second-round pick (via Atlanta), 2030 second-round pick (via Dallas)
Celtics grade: B
Boston already has the most talented rotation in the NBA, bar none. But team president Brad Stevens decided that his team’s least-solid strength was big man depth, given the rickety bones and ligaments of Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.
Tillman is a strong defensive center who has had some noteworthy moments against Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic, among many others (a specific matchup Stevens may have had in mind with this transaction). Although standing just 6’8”, he’s brick-wall strong and possesses quick hands. In just 20 minutes per game, he’s averaging 1.2 steals and one block — he averages more steals per possession than Alex Caruso, Jalen Suggs, and Kawhi Leonard!
He’s a master of the swipe-down block as players gather for a layup, but he’s fleet enough to corral wayward passes, too:
Offensively, Tillman has been inconsistent throughout his career, and he’s had trouble at the rim this season. His jumper has abandoned him. But he’ll only be playing a few minutes per game, and it won’t be because of his scoring. If Tillman spends just a few playoff possessions causing problems for Giannis Anteotokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and, perhaps, even Jokic, then this is a worthy trade.
I do feel for Luke Kornet and Neemias Queta, the Boston backup bigs who will be most impacted by this trade. I thought both have had plenty of moments this season, but Stevens clearly wanted a more proven defensive commodity.
Memphis Grade: B-
Hard to imagine the Grizzlies doing better, and while both second-rounders are distant, they do have some upside if either Trae Young or Luka Doncic were to leave their current team. Tillman was on an expiring contract, and while he’s a valuable player, the Grizzlies may not have been able to afford him next season.
I am concerned though. After trading Steven Adams earlier, the only center the Grizzlies have under contract for next season is the badly injured Brandon Clarke; they will have to find a big body to eat some minutes next year. Whether that player is better than or cheaper than Tillman remains to be seen.
Detroit Pistons receive: forward Simone Fontecchio
Utah Jazz receive: 2024 second-round pick (better of Wizards and Grizzlies), draft rights to Gabriele Procida
Detroit grade: B+
I’m surprised at how negative other trade coverage has been for the Pistons. A single second for Fontecchio is decent in a vacuum. He’s also the exact player archetype of traded Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, if not nearly as good, which keeps a floor-spacing forward on the roster.
Fontecchio was a feisty team defender in Utah with legitimate movement shooting, efficient passing, and some surprising bunnies. He doesn’t dunk often, but that’s due to his floor-spacing role, not the bounce in his legs. A favorite Jazz play (usually run for Lauri Markkanen) featured their big shooters faking a curl around a screen before darting backdoor for an alley-oop. In fact, conveniently, here’s just such a play at the expense of Bogdanovic:
Now, that second-round pick will be really early. It’s as good as second-rounders get. And Fontecchio isn’t some young guy with years to improve; he’s 28 already (he was a rookie from Europe last year). But even early second-round picks almost never develop into a player as good as Fontecchio, and he has enough of an all-around game to support the development of the young guys in Detroit without breaking the bank. The Pistons already have plenty of young talent on the roster; they don’t really need more rookies who aren’t pedigreed lottery picks.
Jazz grade: C+
This trade signals that the Jazz, currently 10th in the West, have no interest in fighting for the play-in and would rather try and keep their top-10 protected 2024 first-round draft pick. They’ll have to start losing a lot of games, so expect to see big minutes for rookie 3-and-D forward Taylor Hendricks (who just saw two guys eating up minutes in front of him get traded) and fellow rookie point guard Keyonte George (having an up-and-down but promising campaign so far).
Again, the Jazz received a good pick. And this grade will change for the better if they manage to keep their own first-rounder this year. But I like Fontecchio; he’s the sort of jack-of-all trades that can fill in roster gaps as a team starts winning. This move makes sense, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Gordon Hayward
Charlotte Hornets receive: guard Tre Mann, forward Davis Bertans, guard Vasilije Micic, two second-round picks
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