Since the NBA’s trade deadline, most teams have played around 6-7 games to this point. It’s a small sample for sure, but we are starting to see the early returns on all the chaos that day brought, and while we all wait for the biggest domino to finally hit the floor later this week (Kevin Durant), we’re already seeing how the deadline is impacting the NBA’s stretch run. Some of it’s great, some of it not so great, but with only around 20 games left for most teams, a lot of new lineups are going to be asked to produce without having a ton of time together.
This blog will focus on what we’ve learned so far from some of the bigger moves from earlier this month, and I’m just going to need everyone to understand and accept that we’re working with small samples. It doesn’t mean things may always be as bad as they are right now, the same way it doesn’t mean things will stay as good as they may be for some. These things are fluid, but let’s have a look.
Los Angeles Lakers
Even though this brings me both physical and emotional pain to type, it’s hard to argue that up to this point that the Lakers don’t look like the early biggest winners from the trade deadline. For starters, they found actual NBA talent that can actually shoot the ball. They got off the Westbrook drama and still held onto one of those unprotected picks. That’s all great.
They’ve also put together a 4-2 stretch since the NBA trade deadline, and are 2-0 after the break, coming off their massive comeback against the Mavs yesterday. If you look at their new look lineups that have played at least 10 minutes together so far, it’s hard to argue this team isn’t drastically better
Of course, everything starts and ends with LeBron/AD, so their being healthy is a huge deal, but the early returns suggest this combination of players fits much better. While beating GS twice (without Steph), NO (without Zion), and then DAL yesterday may not be a murder’s row, so what? At this point, you need to win, and all three of those opponents are teams that the Lakers are chasing. As of this blog, they’re just 2.5 games back of a top 6 seed, and are tied for the longest active winning streak in the West.
From an individual standpoint, each new member of the Lakers is doing what they were brought in to do. Malik Beasley (13 points) is averaging 36% from three. Jarred Vanderbilt has been playing solid defense, rebounding well and has been very efficient (69%). DLo (13.5 points) has been plenty good enough in terms of point guard play with 5 assists and 1.5 TOs on 44/35%.
The big question the rest of the way is if these new look Lakers can find a way to survive without LeBron/AD on the floor. So far, that’s been a struggle since the deadline. Their offensive rating drops by over 10 points since 2/9 when LeBron comes off the floor, and their defensive rating goes up by 12.4 points when he’s off. Those are both huge dips. With AD, the offense has been basically the same with him on/off, but the defense also craters.
Given how they currently look, missing the Play In entirely seems like a stretch if everyone remains healthy.
It’s OK, there’s a chance you’re not watching Raptors basketball unless you happen to be a Raptors fan. Two games under .500 and currently in 9th, the Raptors surprised everyone when they decided to be buyers at the deadline rather than sellers. They decided to roll the dice on UFA Jakob Poeltl (who will prob re-sign imo), and he immediately delivered on that investment
From an immediate impact production wise, Poeltl might lead the list of all trade deadline moves. He’s stepped right in and been even better than he was this year as a Spur (14.2/9.8/2.3/1.7 on 75.5%). Defensively, the Raptors with Poeltl are flirting witht he top 10 in the NBA since the deadline compared to their 15th ranking pre-deadline, and that has gone a long way to the Raptors 7-3 record over their last 10.
It’s still going to be a climb for them to get into the top 6 as they trail the 6 seed by 5 games, but they could absolutely get into the 7/8 seeds (2.5 back of 7th). If you’re curious about on/off with Poeltl, the Raptors defense goes from a 104.4 rating with him on the floor to a 120 rating with him off. Everyone knew this roster needed help at the center spot, they got it, and Poeltl has been great. My guess is the Raptors have zero regrets about paying the price to get him, especially if they feel like TOR is where he’s going to end up this summer.
Kyrie and Luka! Scary hours! How will anyone defend them!
I’d be curious how Mavs fans currently feel about this trade. The sample is small, but the Mavs are just 2-4 since the trade deadline. Luka and Kyrie have shared the floor for 4 of those games, and well….
A lot of what we expected when this trade happened has come to fruition. These two have shared the floor for 102 minutes in those 4 games, and the offense is insane. A 120 Ortg with those two on the floor together is pretty good. Sadly, defense exists. In those same 102 minutes, that pairing has a 115 Drtg. That’s bad. Scoring a shit ton of points is cool and fun to watch, but then when you’re immediately giving up just as many points, things are less fun.
Just look at the points allowed the Mavs have given up since the Kyrie trade
vs LAC: 110 (W)
vs SAC: 114 (W)
vs SAC: 133 (L)
vs DEN: 118 (L)
vs SA: 116 (W)
vs LAL: 111 (L)
As a team, they have the 21st ranked defense in the NBA since 2/8. Their overall net rating isn’t terrible, it comes in at 11th, but as we know offenses tend to drop in the postseason and getting stops becomes even more important. Nothing we’ve seen from this version of the Mavs tells you they are ready to get postseason stops. If you look at the Mavs clutch time defense since the trade deadline, it comes in at 140. That’s pretty terrible, and they’re 0-3 in clutch games. The interesting part is their offense is only 15th in the clutch since the deadline too. It’ll take some time for Luka/Kyrie to probably figure that out, but time isn’t exactly on their side.
Los Angeles Clippers
How’s the Russell Westbrook experience going? It’s been just 2 games, but so far from a production standpoint, it’s been better than the Lakers version. There’s nothing wrong with 17/5/9/3 on 55/33% splits. The downside is the TOs are a little high (4.5) but these numbers will obviously adjust once he actually plays more games.
It doesn’t help the narrative that the Clippers have now dropped both games Westbrook has played in, but to me, that’s more about their team defense than just because Russ is now on the roster. What exactly do you expect to happen when you give up 176 points one night and then back that up with 134? OT or no OT, the Clippers are not defending right now.
If you wanted to be negative, you’d point out that the on/off numbers for Russ are pretty gross early. The offense gets 8 points better when he stops off (120 vs 128), but the defense gets worse too (125 vs 130).
From a fit standpoint, the theory of Russ bringing elite rim pressure helping their shooters has been proven right so far. Kawhi looks great. But if the Clips don’t start getting stops, none of this matters.
New York Knicks
I feel confident in suggesting that when you saw the news that Josh Hart was being traded to the Knicks, you probably scrolled right past it. To me, it wouldn’t be crazy if you are of the stance that this was actually one of the most impactful trades of the deadline. I’m being serious. Not only does Josh Hart fit the exact style of player Thibs loves, but he’s also actually playing some of the best basketball of his career since becoming a Knick.
I’m talking 14.2/5.4/2.8 on 61/62% splits on 3.2 3PA a night. You have to understand, when Hart was on the Blazers he basically NEVER shot threes. As a Knick, he’s actually taking (and making) them.
His defense and energy have been awesome and are a huge reason why the Knicks are currently on a 5 game winning streak and are 8-2 in their last 10. They literally haven’t lost since he became a Knick.
In 244 possessions with Josh Hart on the floor, the New York Knicks are +24.7, scoring 135.7 points per 100 possessions, and allowing 111. Uhhhhh that’s kind of a big deal regardless of sample size.
For a trade that didn’t get nearly the publicity and hype as some others on trade deadline day, the early returns suggest this was one of the best and most impactful trades we had.
Again, for the millionth time, it’s early. These guys haven’t even played 10 games yet on their new teams. Things are going to change, that can all be true. But it is interesting to see what looks to be working/not working right now given we’re in the most important stretch of the NBA calendar to date.
How it all shakes out from here is going to be incredible to watch, and chances are the guys in this blog are going to make a pretty significant impact one way or the other.