Well, that was an eventful trade deadline.
Now that we’re past the chaos, in this week’s NBA Stock Watch, we’ll take a look at which teams have risen and fallen in the aftermath of it all.
Rising: Phoenix Suns
The Suns immediately became a favorite to win the championship when they acquired Kevin Durant to play alongside Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.
Is there a better team in the league on paper?
I have long thought that Durant would be a great fit on the Suns, who seemingly keep getting in their own way. Not only is Durant one of the greatest players in the league, but he knows how to win. The two-time champion could finally help the 37-year-old Paul and the Suns get over the hump.
After blowing a 2-0 lead over Milwaukee in the Finals in 2020, the Suns’ championship window has seemingly been closing rapidly. They finished last season with the best record in the league, but then had an epic collapse in the playoffs, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the second round by an embarrassing 33 points.
Having someone with Durant’s experience, know-how and determination could make all the difference for the Suns in the playoffs this time around.
Durant plays best in big games, as evidenced by him winning back-to-back Finals MVPs in 2017 and 2018, the years he helped lead the Golden State Warriors to consecutive rings.
This was a huge swing for the team’s new governor Mat Ishbia. Sure, the Suns had to give up some proven young talent in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to acquire Durant, but this was a great move for a team that needs to figure out a way to win now.
Falling: Miami Heat
It’s clear that Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo need some help, but the Heat stood pat at the trade deadline, other than shipping Dewayne Dedmon to San Antonio in exchange for cash considerations.
The Eastern Conference is incredibly competitive right now and most of the top teams have improved their rosters since the summer.
The Heat need a boon in the outside shooting department, where they rank 28th in the league. And they definitely need more offensive firepower considering they’re 26th in offensive rating (111.0).
For a team that was one win away from reaching the Finals last season but has struggled all season long, it’s very surprising that they were so inactive.
Rising: Dallas Mavericks
Kyrie Irving is such a wild card that I hesitated whether to put his new team in this category.
But, simply put, Luka Dončić needed help ever since the Mavericks lost Jalen Brunson in free agency. And in Irving, the Mavericks have acquired one of the league’s top talents.
For the Mavericks, the success of this deal hinges on whether Irving has learned anything from his disastrous last three seasons with the Nets.
Is he going to keep being the drama-filled, oft-injured, controversial superstar who has a hard time staying on the court, not playing more than 54 games in a season for the Nets over the last three seasons?
Or is he going to put his head down, play basketball and be the eight-time All-Star who is an artistic scorer and playmaker?
Irving requested a trade after his relationship with the Nets soured. Now, he has a fresh start. Here’s to hoping he has learned a thing or two.
Meanwhile, it makes sense that the Mavericks took this risk. They definitely needed to acquire another superstar to play alongside Dončić, who has the second-highest usage rate in the NBA so far this season at 38.3%.
The Mavericks had to part ways with Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and three draft picks, a hefty load. There’s a chance this could be a disaster. But there’s also potential for a huge reward here.
Falling: LeBron James
The Lakers got better at and before the trade deadline, adding six new players. They now have a solid shooter and playmaker in D’Angelo Russell. Both Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba can hit from beyond the 3-point line. Jarred Vanderbilt is a solid defender. And Rui Hachimura gave them increased length at the wing.
It was an improvement. But was it enough?
The Lakers could eke their way into the play-in tournament considering they’re in 13th place in the Western Conference, only two games behind the 10th place Utah Jazz for the final play-in spot.
But it’s highly doubtful that this team has a championship roster, which is a giant shame for LeBron James, who has been playing MVP-caliber basketball at age 38 and recently became the league’s all-time leading scorer.
James, of course, made a huge push for the team to acquire Irving, saying it was a “duh” question when asked could Irving help them go all the way. But after missing out on that deal, the Lakers are going to have an uphill battle to reach the postseason. And, if they make it there, it’s hard to see them competing with some of the stacked teams atop the Western Conference.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka recently referred to the trade deadline as “pre-agency,” and the moves he made might very well put the team in a good position when free agency arrives in July.
But what about May and June?
Don’t hope to see the James and the Lakers have a miracle comeback to reach the later rounds of the playoffs. Not with this roster.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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