Because we are a competitive species, everything gets ranked and graded in perpetuity. There is no “just being,” things need comparison against each other — especially in basketball. As such, the NBA trade deadline comes with winners and losers.
Parsing out which teams won and lost with their moves at the trade deadline comes with inherent quandaries. The present tense is the only place we exist, but the ramifications of these trades will echo throughout NBA eternity. Thus, it’s difficult to determine the victors in the here and now, but let’s try our best.
Winner: Top of the Eastern Conference
The Bucks, Raptors and 76ers all raised their ceilings while adding pieces to combat the Warriors in possible finals matchups. It’s still the lesser conference from top to bottom, but the East’s likely final four projects to be ridiculously entertaining.
Without giving up any rotation pieces, Milwaukee got a versatile big in Nikola Mirotic, who provides an alternative if Brook Lopez’s concrete-footed defense becomes a liability.
Toronto knows their window to win is tenuous. Kawhi Leonard could flee Toronto in the summer and if he does, they’ll be left with a crater at the top of their roster. Marc Gasol represents a well-rounded veteran upgrade over Jonas Valanciunas. It’s a win-now move for a win-now team.
The 76ers took the biggest swing, landing Tobias Harris and filling out a long, switchable starting five that has the chance to be the best lineup in the league. Sure, Philadelphia mortgaged their future, but they now have a legit shot at a title. If they can keep their new big-4 intact past this season, their gamble will be worth it. Banners fly forever.