The 2023-24 NBA trade deadline has come and gone without too much activity, although that doesn’t mean there weren’t moves that changed the trajectory of the season. Some teams many thought would make a move stood pat, while others who weren’t expected to be big players shook things up.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers after the trade deadline, along with how their moves shape the rest of the season.
Winner: New York Knicks
These aren’t the underachieving, scared Knicks you thought you knew. New York is sensing a path to the Finals through the Eastern Conference and has made a play without much risk. Adding Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from a Detroit Pistons team that has no chance of doing anything this season without giving up a significant asset is a big coup for a franchise hoping to build off last season’s playoff series win.
The Knicks have stopped chasing big-time stars and they may have gotten lucky landing one ahead of his time in Jalen Brunson, but they are making good moves around him. Trading for OG Anunoby first before adding Bogdanovic and Burks makes New York a legitimate Finals threat as long as everyone is healthy. If the Knicks can find some interior depth through the buyout market, this team is ready to roll.
Winner: Gordon Hayward (and Xavier Tillman)
Hayward has been stuck on a directionless team since he left the Celtics, attempting to find his form as he recovered from a major leg injury. The Hornets were likely to give him a buyout if he wasn’t traded but the Thunder have provided him with a great opportunity. Hayward not only gets to play for a contender, but he has a chance to showcase his value ahead of free agency. The Thunder can certainly bring him back at a decent number if he wants to stay but there’s always a market for veteran wings who can shoot.
In a similar vein, Tillman gets to play for a contending team instead of rotting away on the Grizzlies in a meaningless season. He will also get to showcase his value ahead of free agency.
Loser: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors didn’t make a move at the deadline and I do understand their thinking. Internal improvement from Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins coupled with the return of Chris Paul and Gary Payton II should be enough to stabilize Golden State’s rotations. However, that doesn’t mean something wasn’t lost here.
Golden State’s defensive metrics are bad. The Bay Area fortress is no longer an automatic win. And whether or not the front office wants to admit it, the trio of Stephen Curry, Thompson and Green are not enough to win a title. That group was capable of carrying nine headless chickens to the postseason in the late 2010s but that’s no longer the case. The Warriors needed help in some form, even if it meant sacrificing a younger body to do so. There are going to be some hard conversations in the summer, largely centered around Thompson’s free agency and Jonathan Kuminga’s future.
Loser: Milwaukee Bucks
The moment Giannis Antetokounmpo applied a little bit of pressure, the Bucks got to work. They started by trading for Damian Lillard, which meant giving up Jrue Holiday. This is the same Holiday they traded for years ago to make a Finals run, one that resulted in a championship largely thanks to Holiday’s defense. The Bucks made a coaching change despite a 30-13 record, showcasing their belief that every decision will be made with a title-or-bust mindset. And then they decided to do nothing at the deadline.
Adding Pat Beverley doesn’t do anything material for this team. Khris Middleton’s injury may have thrown a wrench into Milwaukee’s plans but that’s besides the point. There were rotation players available across the league, and the Bucks could’ve used a great deal of them. Half of Milwaukee’s rotation isn’t cutting it defensively and while the coaching change is supposed to solve some of that, Adrian Griffin doesn’t play all five positions on defense. The Bucks aren’t obligated to make a move but staying put goes against their MO.
Winner: Phoenix Suns
The Suns landed Kevin Durant at last year’s deadline and followed it up with acquiring Bradley Beal in the offseason, so why stop now? Phoenix made a quietly good move for Nets forward Royce O’Neale, who has been in some big-time playoff battles with Durant and rounds out the bench. O’Neale is a versatile defender and his three-point percentages should normalize. All the Suns had to give up was a package of second-round picks. The Nets could’ve done more shopping and gotten a better deal but I guess they still feel some love towards Durant and wanted to help him out.
Loser: Dejounte Murray
I don’t know that staying in Atlanta and trying to get this turned around with Trae Young is necessarily a bad move for the young point guard. After all, he’s under contract and his team is still in the play-in mix. However, being in trade rumors for months and then being forced to essentially sit out Wednesday’s game to protect the team in the event a trade was on the table isn’t really fun. And this doesn’t necessarily even mean Murray is part of Atlanta’s long-term plans.
Remember when the Hawks wanted to trade John Collins? It took them more than a few months to finally get around to doing that, after they had done several other things with Collins that would suggest they had no intention of trading him. This has the potential to turn into another circus, one Murray shouldn’t be subjected to.
Not Winning or Losing: Toronto Raptors
The Raptors shed some future salary and got a nice future prospect in Ochai Agbaji, so it’s hard to call this deadline a total loss. However, Toronto could’ve definitely found suitors for Jakob Poeltl and Gary Trent Jr. to get some additional assets. Neither player is considered a cornerstone for the rebuild, although Poeltl’s salary number isn’t too bad. This was not a win or loss for Toronto.
Not Winning or Losing: Los Angeles Lakers
There will be many Lakers fans who are upset about the team staying put. There will be a segment of fans who will applaud the team for putting the onus on this group to rediscover its magic from a season ago. Ultimately, the Lakers did enough ahead of the deadline for the front office to give this roster another chance. However, Los Angeles is going to be a luxury tax and second-apron team if LeBron James decides to continue his career. The restrictions on second-apron teams are strict, and it’s going to be harder for the Lakers to make deals because of it. The idea of getting an additional future pick to chase a star is nice but that’s tough to balance against the current season where a playoff run is still very much a possibility.