Chris Paul to the Warriors. Bradley Beal to the Suns. Marcus Smart to the Grizzlies. Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics. Which team benefited the most from the two biggest trades of the offseason so far?
Marilyn Dubinski: I’d have to go with Smart to the Grizzles, followed by Porzingis. Memphis needs a starting point guard to replace Ja Morant while he’s suspended (not to mention, they also traded away his backup in Tyus Jones), plus Smart has that dog in him that the Grizzlies value and will be losing by releasing Dillion Brooks (not that I blame them). While like Brooks, Smart can have his moments, he’s usually more level-headed and also brings some leadership qualities the Grizzlies lack.
As for the Celtics, with Jaylen Brown’s future up in the air, they get another player in Porzingis who can score and should be more willing to play second fiddle to Jayson Tatum if it means winning. He also gives them the ability to stretch the floor more compared to someone like Robert Williams, who attempted (and missed) one three all of last season.
Mark Barrington: I have no idea what the Suns are doing. I don’t think they improved at all with the Beal trade, unless you’re betting on the former Wizard being more available in the playoffs than Paul was. He will be, but he’s not as good as a healthy CP3, and he doesn’t make the Suns better.
The Warriors got better with their trade, but I’m not sure that having CP3 for 15 minutes a game off the bench a game is enough to get a team with an aging core into contention, especially with Klay being a shadow of his former self. Steph is still great, but he can’t drag them to a title by himself, and a 39-year-old Chris Paul isn’t enough to overcome that.
The Grizzlies got better by adding Smart, a stabilizing veteran presence for a team that really needs one at the moment, and maybe he can add some accountability to the locker room to keep Ja Morant from undermining the team again when he comes back from his suspension.
The real winner is the Celtics, who have come close to title contention in the last couple of years, but need another scorer to become a real contender. The conventional wisdom is that Porzingis has issues with durability, but he just came off his best season ever and played in more than 75% of the games. It sounds funny to say this, but he’s underrated at this point in his career, and a Celtics lineup with him is going to cause problems for the rest of the Eastern Conference. I’m not too worried about the Celtics losing Smart, because Derrick White is set up to take over the role as the tough-as-nails defensive guard on the court, and White is a much better offensive player than Smart. The Celtics are the clear winner in the trade-o-rama among the mentioned teams.
Bruno Passos: I like Golden State and Memphis’ moves the most, but I’ll go with the latter. The Warriors performed what seemed to be some essential addition by subtraction by exorcising some chemistry demons and improving their long-term financial picture with the Jordan Poole-Chris Paul trade. I don’t quite know how the on-court product works in the playoffs, and my concerns with Paul’s body perennially breaking down won’t wane with him turning 39 next season, but I get the move nonetheless.
The Grizzlies cover themselves during Ja Morant’s absence but more importantly bring the kind of locker room presence that their young group, including Morant, desperately needs. It all still rides on how Morant gets his act together, but that could be the type of move that rights the ship both next season and in the long run.
Jesus Gomez: I don’t really get Paul to the Warriors and Beal to the Suns, so that leaves Smart to the Grizzlies and Porzingis to the Celtics, which are completely different trades. For Memphis, the transaction basically only covers a hole. Smart will have to start in place of Morant early, back him up when he comes back now that Tyus Jones is gone and take the toughest matchup on defense to cover for the departure of Brooks. If it works and he can do all that, it will be a fantastic trade, but if there are any hiccups, the team will take a step back.
Boston, on the other hand, didn’t take that big of a risk. They made sure to have depth at guard before losing Smart, as Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White should be able to give them quality minutes at point guard on both ends. Porzingis gives the Celtics, a team that often likes to play big, another seven-footer with range who at his best can be the only big on the floor or he can share it with either Robert Williams or Al Horford. The move seemed to balance out the roster without putting too much pressure on anyone, so I have to go with them.
John Collins was traded on a salary dump to the Jazz. Did the Spurs miss out on a chance to add talent or did they make the right call by staying away?
Dubinski: The Spurs certainly don’t need him now that they have Wemby, but the asking price was always too high for a guy who seemed “one season away” from reaching his true potential. He got a lot of mention here a few years as a potential fit should the forward-less Spurs try and rebuild through free agency, but once he signed a max deal with the Hawks, any notion of acquiring him was off the table, and his production has since waned.
Barrington: I was one of the people that thought the Spurs should have traded for Collins as part of the package when they sent Dejounte Murray to the Hawks, but at this point I realize that would have been a bad decision. The guy is overpaid, and the Hawks are showing that by dumping him for a trade exception, a second-rounder, and Rudy Gay. Sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make.
Passos: There was a time when Collins and the Spurs made sense, but that’s likely passed after initiating the rebuild and spending their last 2 lottery picks on players who both might be best suited at the position he plays. The salary dump itself is as much a product of the new CBA realities that didn’t exist until recently, so it’s not like any move such as the one that took place was ever on the table for them before.
Either way, San Antonio’s focus now is on Wembanyama’s development and, from a team-building perspective, less on pieces like Collins and more on seeking out a long-term center and playmaking partner to complement the Frenchman.
Gomez: The asking price was so cheap that it does kind of feel like a missed opportunity, but the fact that no one else wanted Collins suggests that flipping the athletic power forward — which is what the Spurs should have tried to do — would have been extremely hard to accomplish. He could have helped if the idea was to win now simply because he’s more athletic and talented than whoever San Antonio will get as forward depth, but the front office seems willing to be more patient with the cap space available, which is probably the right call.
The Trail Blazers used the third pick instead of trading it for veteran help. Is this the summer Damian Lillard leaves?
Dubinski: If he is going to leave, this is the time to do it while his value is still relatively high, and the Blazers might feel a little better about it now that they have another potential point guard of the future in Scoot Henderson. That being said, the signals from Lillard are as mixed as ever. One day, he wants to stay loyal to the Blazers and isn’t hunting rings, then the next he wants to contend right away. They could always see how he gels with Scoot, but at this point it’s pretty clear he isn’t going to win a ring in Portland baring a miracle trade for a current superstar (and that opportunity likely passed when they kept the pick, even if it was likely the right move for the franchise).
Barrington: I just don’t know anymore. It seems like he’s the cornerstone of the franchise, and it would be a mistake for the team and the player to end that relationship when he could become one of the few hall-of-fame players who have spent their whole career playing for one franchise. If he would sign one more contract with the Blazers, he’d be on his way to becoming even more of a legend in the Northwest than he is already. He’s put in 12 years in Portland, and he’s really the face of NBA basketball there, and it just wouldn’t be the same if he went somewhere else. But after the Wizards got rid of Beal to trigger a complete teardown of the Wizards, maybe that’s not something that happens anymore.
The Blazers are in a different situation than the Wizards, Portland has too much talent to tank, and the addition of Scoot Henderson makes them better, even though he’s not a perfect fit for the roster as currently constructed. The Blazers can go a couple of different ways with this, and one of the ways would be to send Lillard to a contender for pieces to build around Scoot. Or they could send Scoot or some of their other assets to build a win-now roster around Damian. One thing is for certain, they are going to have to make some deals to balance out the roster before the season begins, so watch this space.
Passos: God, I hope so.
Gomez: The Lillard situation has been one of the hardest to read for a while, so it’s impossible to know. It’s completely understandable for him to just be happy in Portland but at this point it seems like the franchise is basically telling him to move on. The third pick was the biggest chance to add another star but apparently, no one was willing to trade one. Now even if they bring Jerami Grant back and make another addition by trading Anfernee Simons, the Trail Blazers won’t be close to being contenders. What’s the plan? Again, it will all depend on whether Lillard actually asks out, but it seems like the best for everyone would be to split at this point.