Recapping the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline


Although plenty of big names changed hands in this year’s trade deadline, no trade was bigger than Phoenix’s acquisition of Kevin Durant.

Brooks Coleman, Staff Reporter

While the NBA trade deadline is usually a time of great change for the league, a lot of people didn’t know what to expect heading into the 2023 edition. Many predicted a mild trade deadline compared to other seasons due to a lack of buzz around star players in the weeks prior. But expectations were exceeded, as some of the biggest names in the league were dealt to serious contenders. Here are some of the most important moves that went down before the deadline passed on February 9 analyzed and graded.

Kevin Durant to the Suns 

This was the big blockbuster trade this season, and one that nobody saw coming. Durant had requested trades from Brooklyn in the past, but seemingly no team had enough resources to trade for one of the greatest scorers of all time. 

Once teammate Kyrie Irving was jettisoned to Dallas, Durant’s price was a lot lower than one would expect for a player of his caliber. While the Nets still got plenty for their star, it became clear that Brooklyn had to let him go sooner or later.

Phoenix is the clear winner here, as they added one of the five best players in the league to a lineup that had already made back-to-back conference finals trips. It’s also pretty shocking that the Suns were able to hang onto stars Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Chris Paul. Adding Durant into the mix makes this team absolutely deadly. After consecutive heartbreaks, the Suns are truly going all-in.

For the Nets, a team beginning a rebuild, this is a pretty good haul. Bridges is one of the best young 3-and-D players (someone who specializes in both three-point shooting and defense) in the league, and Johnson is one of the best shooters in the league. However, the real prize here is the four first-round picks the Nets received. These picks go as far into the future as 2029, meaning that Brooklyn could have multiple lottery picks if the Suns end up rebuilding at some point.

Suns Grade: A+

Nets Grade: B+

Kyrie Irving to the Mavericks

Kyrie Irving has been pining for a trade from Brooklyn for what seems like an eternity, and this year, the mercurial point guard finally got his wish. Nets owner Joe Tsai, seemingly out of spite, refused to trade Kyrie to the Lakers, which was his preferred destination, and instead sent him to Dallas. It was a fitting end to Kyrie’s drama-filled tenure with Brooklyn.

Kyrie will team up with MVP contender Luka Doncic to form the most high-octane backcourt in the league. Doncic has been mind-bogglingly efficient on the offensive end, averaging 34 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Kyrie is still an offensive savant when he plays, meaning this backcourt will be deadly scoring-wise.

The problem for Dallas arises in what they gave up. Already a poor team defensively, the Mavericks gave up virtually their only quality perimeter defender in Finney-Smith. Irving is a negative on defense, as is Doncic, and the rest of their starting five isn’t much better. The Mavericks are banking on being able to outscore their opponents, which is a risky bet in the NBA come playoff time. I don’t expect it to work.

As for the Nets, the return they got was just okay. They got a great bench scorer in Dinwiddie as well as the aforementioned Finney-Smith, giving them a good young rotation to begin their rebuild with. The real benefit for Brooklyn is being able to rid themselves of the headache Kyrie has caused them since signing there. With the failed era of Kyrie, Durant, and James Harden in the past, the Nets can finally have a fresh start. 

Nets Grade: B

Mavericks Grade: C

Russell Westbrook to the Jazz in blockbuster three-team trade

I have no clue how Los Angeles got away with this. The Lakers were the big winners of this year’s deadline, adding players such as Mo Bamba and Rui Hachimura, but this was general manager Rob Pelinka’s magnum opus. The Lakers gave up a first rounder and Russell Westbrook, and in return, they got an upgrade at point guard in D’Angelo Russell. Russell is a much better fit for the Lakers’ offense than Westbrook, who is ball-dominant and a below-average shooter. Los Angeles also addressed two significant needs in shooting and frontcourt defense with Beasley and Vanderbilt, making them this trade’s big winner.

The Lakers certainly made out like bandits in this trade, but the Jazz also got a great return in Westbrook, Toscano-Anderson, Jones, and the Lakers’ 2027 first round pick. Utah is reportedly going to buy out Westbrook’s contract, worth $47 million per year, which will free up a ton of cap space. 

While Jones and Toscano-Anderson are spare parts, the Lakers’ 2027 pick is the real prize here. Los Angeles has a pretty old roster, meaning a rebuild could be on the horizon. Since the pick Utah received is unprotected, a Lakers rebuild in the future could make that first- rounder very valuable.

How Utah and Los Angeles got Minnesota to agree to this trade is beyond me. In exchange for D’Angelo Russell — a guard who still has a lot to offer a playoff team — the Timberwolves received guards Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker as well as two second-round picks and a 2025 pick swap.

Conley is washed up, and he also has an enormous contract. Alexander-Walker has barely played this year. The second-round picks the Timberwolves received will most likely amount to very little. Why did they make this trade? This feels like a lateral move at best for a team stuck in neutral.

Lakers grade: A+

Jazz grade: A-

Timberwolves grade: D+

Jakob Poeltl returns to the Raptors

Poeltl has had the best season of his career so far in San Antonio, which explains why he was viewed as one of the best available assets headed into this year’s deadline. But instead of being dealt to a contender as many predicted, he was sent to Toronto. San Antonio is in the middle of a massive rebuild, so getting a first rounder and another center in Birch to replace Poeltl is a success. 

What’s puzzling to me is why the Raptors decided to trade for Poeltl. 

Sitting at 10th in the East, I expected Toronto to sell and start a rebuild, especially in a conference with so many good teams at the top. Pascal Siakam is in the middle of a career year, and his trade value had to be astronomical. Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes are both in the middle of disappointing seasons, but still could have fetched a decent return. OG Anunoby, one of the best defenders in the league, has been a hot name on the trade market for a couple of years now. 

Instead, the Raptors decided to buy. While Poeltl is a good player and a nice addition, one has to wonder: what’s the game plan for Toronto moving forward? They’re floundering near the bottom of the conference, and while they have a decent roster, they’ve been slowly getting worse for the past few years. It’s an odd move, especially for a front office with a track record as good as Toronto’s.

Raptors grade: C-

Spurs grade: B+

Mo Bamba to the Lakers

After dealing breakout center Thomas Bryant to Denver, many wondered whether the Lakers had another trade up their sleeve, considering the marginal return they received of Davon Reed and three second-round picks. Sure enough, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had another move in store, dealing the veteran Beverley for Mo Bamba.

Throughout his career, Bamba has always been a mysterious player. On paper, he should be a superstar. Bamba has the longest wingspan in the league at a staggering 7-foot-10, making him an elite shot blocker, but he’s also highly athletic and a fantastic shooter for his position. However, Bamba never really got a chance in Orlando; in his first couple of years in the league, he was buried behind all-star center Nikola Vucevic, and then by star youngster Wendell Carter Jr. 

In Los Angeles, Bamba will finally get the chance to prove whether or not he is actually good. The Lakers need more game changers in order to make the playoffs, and with how much potential Bamba has, this trade could end up being a massive success if everything goes right.

Orlando, meanwhile, is destined for the draft lottery this year. However, they are a very young team, with plenty of potential superstars such as Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Plus, they still have Markelle Fultz, the former number one overall pick. Fultz is 23 and still has time to become an impactful player. With so many young players, the Magic needed veteran leadership, and there’s almost nobody better for that than Beverley. While Beverley is in decline, his underdog mentality and hardworking mindset tends to positively influence the teams he plays for. Orlando is hoping he can help develop their young talent.

Lakers Grade: B+

Magic Grade: B-

Eric Gordon reunited with the Clippers in three-team deal

  • Clippers receive Eric Gordon from Houston and three second-round picks from Memphis
  • Rockets receive Danny Green (waived), John Wall, and a 2023 pick swap from Los Angeles
  • Grizzlies receive Luke Kennard from Los Angeles

This is a rare trade where everybody benefits. 

Eric Gordon, veteran deadeye three-point shooter, is reunited with his former team in Los Angeles. He should immediately bolster their rotation heading into the playoffs, making them an even deadlier shooting team. While Gordon has a giant contract, his shooting ability will be worth the expense for the Clippers as they make an all-in push for the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Houston is the worst team in the league, sporting an abysmal 13-43 record. Their main goal this season is to get the number one pick in order to select French prodigy Victor Wembanyama. However, they still needed to get one major problem out of the way: Gordon’s contract. 

They solved that problem by dealing him to the Clippers. In exchange, they received Danny Green and John Wall, who both have massive expiring contracts that the team plans to buy out. This should free up even more cap space for the Rockets this offseason, allowing them to potentially pursue a big-ticket free agent should they land Wembanyama.

However, the Grizzlies are the clear winners here. They gave up Green, a player who was seeing virtually no playing time in Memphis’ rotation, in exchange for Luke Kennard. Kennard is shooting an unbelievable 44.7% on three-pointers, which is an enormous boost to Memphis’ bench as they head into the playoffs. 

Clippers Grade: B+

Rockets Grade: A-

Grizzlies Grade: A

In his first official season as the Blazers’ general manager, Joe Cronin was quite active all the way up to the deadline. Here are Portland’s wheelings and dealings on the trade market.

Josh Hart dealt to the Knicks

In the week since this trade happened, I’m liking what the Blazers did here more and more. Hart, while good, wasn’t a true difference-maker for the Blazers. In return, they got Reddish, a former lottery pick with plenty of two-way potential, as well as the Knicks’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft. This year’s draft is incredibly deep, especially at the top, so this pick gives the Blazers more ammunition to potentially move into the top five. While Arcidiacono is a role player at best, guard depth was a huge need for Portland, so adding Arcidiacono gives them another guard to use in case of injuries.

On the Knicks’ end, Hart should be a solid player for them, especially since he’s the type of player that a playoff team could use. He shoots threes, he’s athletic, and he’s a good perimeter defender. He’s also consistent, which is where he differs from Reddish, a player who didn’t see many minutes in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. Hart should slot into the Knicks’ lineup nicely and give them solid play in the playoffs. 

Knicks Grade: B

Blazers Grade: A-

Blazers land Matisse Thybulle in three-team trade

This is the type of trade that Portland has been in dire need of for a very long time. Thybulle may be a complete nonfactor offensively, but he’s absolutely destructive on the defensive end. He’s a two-time All-Defense selection, and he’s also the only player in the NBA with 250 steals and 150 blocks since 2020. Thybulle will be a game-changer on defense for a Blazers team that needs one.

The 76ers gave up Thybulle, a player that was seeing no minutes in their current rotation, and got back Jalen McDaniels. While McDaniels doesn’t have quite the same defensive impact of Thybulle (almost nobody in the league does), he offers significantly more two-way potential. For teams contending for a title like the 76ers, a player like McDaniels is priceless for their bench.

The Hornets are one of the worst teams in the league, and this trade made them even worse — Charlotte gave up a good young player for essentially nothing in return. However, Charlotte’s objective this year is to lose as much as possible in order to get a high draft pick and land Wembanyama. This practice is often known as “tanking.” Even if they don’t get the first pick, they should still get a great player in the top five. The Hornets may have lost this trade, but getting worse was probably their goal.

76ers Grade: A

Hornets Grade: C

Blazers Grade: A-

Gary Payton II, Saddiq Bey involved in four-team trade

After a failed Payton II physical threatened to sink this deal at the last minute, the Warriors decided to go through with this trade. They bring back Payton, who was vital to their 2022 championship run before leaving for Portland in free agency. While it’s a bit strange that the Warriors decided to trade for him instead of just re-signing him in the first place, Payton II’s great perimeter defense should bring a boost to Golden State when he’s healthy again.

James Wiseman was selected with the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and has since been a complete disappointment for the Warriors, even spending time in the G-League, which is the NBA’s lower-level league for players who can’t cut it in the NBA. Wiseman’s name was floating around the trade market before the deadline, but it’s bizarre that the Pistons were the team to trade for him. Detroit already has a better prospect at center in Jalen Duren, and they gave up a legitimate asset in Saddiq Bey to get Wiseman. While I’m hoping Wiseman turns it around, this will probably end up being a failure for the Pistons.

While Bey hasn’t had a great sophomore campaign compared to his rookie year, he’s still averaging an impressive 15 points and five rebounds per game, and he has shown deadly shooting ability in the past. Even better, the Hawks didn’t even give up a player to get him. Atlanta currently sits at 8th in the East, but Bey should provide a huge boost at virtually no cost.

Portland’s involvement in this trade was really strange. I don’t know why they gave up Payton II, a legitimate defensive monster when healthy, for a draft bust in Knox and a bunch of second round picks. I guess those picks could be used to trade for someone in the off-season or move up in the draft, so this isn’t a complete lost cause for the Blazers.

Hawks Grade: A

Pistons Grade: C-

Warriors Grade: B

Blazers Grade: C