The 2021-22 NBA trade deadline did not disappoint, with several deals on the final day that will shape the course of the season. The biggest move was James Harden reuniting with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia as the Nets and 76ers made a trade. Polarizing guard Ben Simmons got his wish in this move as well, going to Brooklyn as part of a significant package for Harden. These players and teams weren’t the only ones involved in moves ahead of the deadline. Here are the winners and losers of the 2021-22 trade season.
Winners: James Harden, Ben Simmons
Both players were unhappy with their respective situations. Both players eventually got out of those situations and landed on contending teams. The Nets got back a huge haul for Harden, who’s unhappiness was bleeding onto the court. Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond round out Brooklyn’s rotation, while the first-round picks help the Nets going forward. The 76ers keep their core intact and pair Harden with the odds-on MVP favorite in Joel Embiid. It’s a rare win-win trade for two players who wanted a change.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs
It appears the Spurs have finally decided to start rebuilding in earnest. San Antonio shed Derrick White’s long-term contract while getting back a lightly protected first-round pick. The Spurs also shed Juancho Hernangomez’s deal for Tomas Satoransky’s expiring contract and more draft compensation. They got an additional pick with Thad Young’s expiring deal. San Antonio kept Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson as cornerstones while setting themselves up well for the future. We’ll see how the summer plays out for the Spurs.
Losers: Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls
The Heat and Bulls have navigated an injury-filled season successfully and made good on their offseason activity. Miami is at the top of the East while Chicago sits one game back of first place. Both teams were looking at the East thinking the conference was there for the taking with a few breaks here and there. All of a sudden, the rug was pulled out from underneath both organizations. The Harden trade further bolstered the 76ers, while the Nets appear to have pivoted well from a souring situation assuming Kevin Durant and Joe Harris come back. The Milwaukee Bucks remain a contender. The Heat and Bulls can still make some noise in the playoffs, but it appears the window for this season has already closed.
Winner: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers publicly set out to rebuild the roster by dealing Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Indiana has essentially punted on the playoffs this season, but got some big pieces in the LeVert and Sabonis deals to bolster its rebuilding effort. Tyrese Haliburton is one of the best young players in the league and fits extremely well with Malcolm Brogdon and Chris Duarte. Buddy Hield is a great get on his contract, which has a decreasing cap number. A first-round pick and two second-round picks for LeVert is great, along with an expiring deal. Look for the Pacers to be a factor as soon as next season depending on how the summer goes.
Loser: Sacramento Kings
This franchise is creating even more suffering for it’s already long-suffering fans. Sabonis is a great player and will fit well with De’Aaron Fox, but it doesn’t move the Kings closer to contending. That trade also cost Sacramento Tyrese Haliburton, who is one of the best young players in the league. Dealing Marvin Bagley was something that eventually had to be done, but it didn’t net much in terms of impact players for Sacramento. Donte DiVincenzo has potential, but he’s not Buddy Hield. The Kings are likely trying to make the play-in tournament in hopes of ending a playoff drought. Dealing good players for underwhelming returns is not the way to do that.
Winner: Kyrie Irving
It’s been a wild season for Irving, who has had to deal with questions about his mindset and criticism for his anti-vaccination stance. The point guard was ready to miss the whole season prior to the Nets being so depleted by COVID-19 they wanted him back as a part-time player. That irked James Harden, who was eventually shipped out. Kevin Durant is hurt, but he’s backed Irving at every moment. The organization has also helped Irving despite the questionable optics. Let’s see if New York City eventually changes its mandate, which would allow Irving to play in home games moving forward.
Losers: Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal
The longtime Blazer saw his backcourt mate get dealt, only for the team to deal one of the key players in that trade for Joe Ingles. There’s a lot of change going on in Portland and it appears the team is ready to completely blow things up. Lillard’s injury made it tough to trade him, but look for something to happen in the offseason here. The same goes for Beal, who is out for the season. The Wizards made a lot of deals with an eye to the future at the deadline and could’ve easily sent the guard somewhere else if he indicated he wanted out. Both players have been loyal through some down seasons, but this summer seems like one for change.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers find themselves in the unenviable position of a .500 team with limited space to maneuver. The team was not ready to attach future draft picks to Russell Westbrook’s contract to move him, which means the Lakers have to now make the LeBron James-Anthony Davis-Westbrook partnership work. Injuries have already limited the amount of time those guys have worked with each other, and the Lakers don’t have much more time before they find themselves out of the playoff picture. James and Davis should be enough to keep the Lakers competitive but they did just get beaten by a Portland team that blew up its roster at the trade deadline. It’s hard to see this ending well for LA.