The 2016 NBA trade deadline was more about deals that weren’t made rather than deals that were completed.
Big names such as Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks center-forward Al Horford and guard Jeff Teague, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Milwaukee Bucks forward-center Greg Monroe weren’t dealt.
Teams with assets and plans for success this postseason, such the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, didn’t make a trade.
Of the deals that were made Thursday before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, just two players involved play more than 20 minutes a game this season.
It was an underwhelming trade deadline when it came to blockbusters for a few reasons.
With many teams having a significant amount of money to spend in free agency this summer because of the unprecedented spike in the salary cap, teams were hesitant to part with valuable assets.
They prefer to keep those assets — be it draft picks or talented players — and take their chance on signing a talented player or two in free agency. They’d rather keep those assets and sign players this summer.
Why would a team give up value for Howard, who is the final season of his contract, when there is no guarantee he will re-sign this summer? Understandably, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey wanted more than a negligible return.
It’s easy to see why both sides aren’t interested in making a trade.
Toronto was in the market for a forward — and pushed for the Brooklyn Nets’ Thaddeus Young — but couldn’t make a trade, in part because it didn’t want to give up a first-round pick.
“We didn’t want to give up the future of our team for any of the stuff out there. … We can add in the summer to what we have,” Raptors general manager Masai Uriji said.
Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge repeated Ujiri. “I feel that we have an opportunity in the spring and during the summer to make our team better — much better than the opportunity that we had at this time,” Ainge told reporters.
Also, many teams, especially in the East, are in the playoff race, and they had a difficult time deciding if they were buyers or sellers.
The Hawks considered trading Teague and Horford — if the yielded what they wanted in return. For Teague, the Hawks wanted a starter and a first-rounder in return. The asking price was too high for a talented player who plays the deepest position in the league.
Stalemates were common, and the safe decision — do nothing — ruled the day. As Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman told reporters: “Nothing made sense.”
That doesn’t mean there weren’t good moves, under-the-radar acquisitions, sensible trades, risks and financial implications.
The Detroit Pistons won the trade deadline with a pair of moves — acquiring forward Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and getting forward-center Donatas Motiejunas from Houston on Thursday. Both can fit into Stan Van Gundy’s system and both should help Detroit’s push for a playoff spot.
Just as important, Van Gundy is finding his way as president of basketball operations, along with help from general manager Jeff Bower. They’ve made nice moves in the past year.
The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Channing Frye for Anderson Varejao in an attempt to get better floor spacing from a back-up stretch-4.
Houston, Phoenix, Memphis and Portland wrangled first-round picks, and Memphis and Portland also acquired second-round picks.
The Miami Heat made trades that got them under the luxury-tax line, which means they likely won’t write a check to the league after the season.
The Clippers helped their rotation by getting forward Jeff Green from the Grizzlies for guard-forward Lance Stephenson. Green has been looking for the right situation, and reuniting with Doc Rivers, his coach in Boston, and a deep lineup could benefit Green.
Washington took one of the bigger risks when it decided to give up a first-round pick for difficult but talented Suns forward Markieff Morris, who wanted out of Phoenix and battled with coaches and teammates. He has averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals in his past 11 games.
The Wizards are in 10th place in the East and three games behind Charlotte (before Thursday’s game) for the eighth and final seed with two months left in the season.
Washington is making a push for the playoffs now and adding for the future. Morris is in the first season of a four-year, $32 million deal, and he can be a value — if it works for Washington.
The trade deadline wasn’t a total bust. But the deals that didn’t get done were more interesting than the ones that did.