The NBA trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday without any fireworks. Carmelo Anthony is still in New York. Blake Griffin remains in Los Angeles. Paul George is still a Pacer. Jimmy Butler is still a Bull. The Celtics still have their treasure trove of assets. While several larger deals went down ahead of the deadline (Serge Ibaka to Toronto, DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans), there was still plenty of activity on Wednesday, even as many teams decided to stand pat.
The Rockets, who are 40-18 with the second-best offense in the league, added more firepower on the offensive end earlier this week, acquiring Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams (averaging 18.6 points per game coming off the bench in Los Angeles). On Thursday, Houston traded Tyler Ennis to the Lakers and K.J. McDaniels to the Nets in separate deals, creating more cap space for the team to pursue any contract buyouts this month. Daryl Morey's work might just be starting.
The Houston Rockets intend to pursue Andrew Bogut -- but not Deron Williams -- in the upcoming buyout market, league sources tell ESPN.- Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 23, 2017
A week before the deadline, the Raptors -- who had lost 11 of 15 games -- bolstered their frontcourt by trading Terrence Ross and a first-round pick to acquire Ibaka from Orlando. On Wednesday, general manager Masai Ujiri continued adding, sending Jared Sullinger and two second-round picks to Phoenix for P.J. Tucker, who was originally drafted in 2006 by Toronto.
The Raptors are 16th in defensive efficiency this season and per NBA.com, in their last ten games, have allowed 107.8 points per 100 possession, putting them near the bottom ten in the league. The addition of Ibaka and Tucker will help address those concerns, and gives the Raptors a much more formidable rotation heading into the playoffs.
Westbrook might average a triple-double this season and garner plenty of attention for the Most Valuable Player award, but the Thunder -- at 32-25 and sitting in seventh in the West -- appear headed for a first round playoff exit. Oklahoma City bolstered their chances slightly on Thursday, acquiring Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second round pick from the Bulls in exchange for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. Gibson will provide an additional frontcourt option for Billy Donovan, while McDermott gives Westbrook another long-range option on the floor. The Thunder didn't transform into championship contenders on Wednesday, but they got their superstar some much needed help.
Also, R.I.P. to the Cameron Payne-Russell Westbrook pre-game dance routine.
�� last dance with Cameron Payne- Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 23, 2017
one more time before the game �� pic.twitter.com/VPRMOPO5TY
Noel appeared in 29 games with the Sixers this season, averaging 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 19.4 minutes. During training camp, Noel opened questioned how the Sixers would figure out their frontcourt logjam with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and himself. Embiid, when healthy, has been stellar, while Noel and Okafor struggled to find minutes together alongside Embiid.
On Wednesday, Noel was traded to Dallas for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a protected first-round pick. The Mavs will give Noel every opportunity to rebuild his value as he heads into restricted free agency this summer.
To be determined
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics
Ainge continues to hold the most intriguing set of assets in the league, with the right to Brooklyn's first round picks in this year and next year's draft, along with a combination of intriguing young talent and cap-friendly contracts like Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. According to reports, the Celtics pursued trades involving Paul George and Jimmy Butler, but Ainge once again couldn't find the right trade or was unwilling to part with either of the Nets' picks.
Boston is the second best team in the East and have two star players in Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas. And it's possible they could land another franchise cornerstone in this upcoming draft if the Nets' pick ends up being the first overall pick. We're still several years away from seeing whether Ainge's asset-collection plan ends up pushing the Celtics into championship contender status. In the meantime:
me: danny, let go- ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 22, 2017
me: [gently pries open ainge's hand] let go of some assets
The Pacers entered the All-Star break having lost six in a row and at 29-28, are dangerously close to falling out of the playoff picture. In the meantime, their superstar Paul George has expressed his frustration with the team several times this season, and as he heads towards unrestricted free agency after next season, all indications are he is looking to leave Indiana for the Los Angeles Lakers:
I repeat: Paul George - barring a title chance in Indy - is hell-bent on heading for Laker Land. This message has been sent throughout NBA.- Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 23, 2017
The trade deadline provided a window for Indiana to extract the best possible combination of assets from another team in exchange for George, but it appeared Larry Bird would rather wait until the summer to make a decision:
ESPN sources say Indy ownership felt compelled to hear out Paul George suitors but that Larry Bird was determined to swat away all pitches.- Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 23, 2017
Which is all fine since the market for a player of George's caliber will still be here in July, but it's hard to not include the Pacers in this category as it appears they will be the latest small-to-mid market team to have to bid farewell to their superstar player.
The Bulls recouped some assets for impending free agent Taj Gibson on Wednesday, but the direction of this team remains unclear. They're 28-29. They're likely headed toward a buyout with Rajon Rondo, who is owed $13.4 million next season. Dwyane Wade has a $23.8 million player option for next year and might not return. Younger players like Michael Carter-Williams and Nikola Mirotic have not delivered on a consistent basis and it's unclear what the future core group of this team is. In addition, Butler's name has been floated around in trade rumors, which begs the question: Do the Bulls want to rebuild and tear down this roster, or do they want to rebuild around Butler, or do they have a plan at all? All of that remains unclear after Wednesday.
After all of the trade rumors and being kept at home instead of traveling with the team because of a potential trade with Chicago or New Orleans, Okafor is still in Philly, and his long-term fit with the team remains very much in question.
New York Knicks
The Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony stand-off continues as another trade deadline passed without a deal for 'Melo and his no-trade clause to sign off on. The Knicks reportedly explored a Derrick Rose-for-Ricky Rubio deal but ultimately couldn't come to an agreement with the Timberwolves.
A 'Melo trade remains difficult and the Knicks did at least make an attempt to move Rose -- who will be an unrestricted free agent looking for a max-level contract this summer -- for an upgrade at point guard. But there were other moves the Knicks could have explored, like moving Brandon Jennings or Kyle O'Quinn for draft assets, fringe moves that could position the Knicks for the future. Instead, like it has been throughout the Phil Jackson era, the Knicks were frustrating even in their inactivity.