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2024 NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

From the New York Knicks doing the impossible to the Los Angeles Lakers doing absolutely nothing, we run down the biggest moves and non-moves from a surprisingly furious deadline

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The 2024 trade deadline wasn’t as star-studded as last year’s version, when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving changed teams in dueling blockbusters. But plenty of players were still on the move, with a flurry of deals before Thursday’s horn. So let’s take a look at the most important trades that were—and weren’t—completed and the biggest winners and losers from another deadline full of activity.

Winner: New York Knicks (Again!)

At what point will it stop being surprising that the Knicks front office knows what it’s doing? We might already be there, after another successful set of transactions that continues a winning streak ever since they signed Jalen Brunson in free agency two summers ago.

New York started its deadline shopping early, acquiring OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa from the Raptors on December 30. That move catalyzed a surge up the standings: New York was the NBA’s best team in January and now stands as the best Knicks team in 30 years.

But a rash of injuries—including to Julius Randle and Anunoby—has since infected Madison Square Garden, stretching Tom Thibodeau’s rotation and forcing high minutes totals on the Knicks’ healthy options. Fortunately, the front office wasn’t done dealing: On deadline day, New York acquired Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from Detroit, adding two veteran wings who are both shooting at least 40 percent on 3-pointers this season. Quentin Grimes headlines the collection of players and second-round picks headed to Detroit in return.

New York’s trade acquisitions fit two key themes that should pay dividends in the playoffs: They can shoot, and they have size, which is critical for a roster that was previously overpopulated with talented yet small guards. It remains to be seen how much Thibodeau will trust Bogdanovic, given that the 34-year-old’s defensive ability has declined precipitously since the days when he was a semi-viable option to defend LeBron James in a playoff series. But the defensive talent around Bogdanovic should be strong enough to cover for him in that area.

The Anunoby addition has already been sufficiently analyzed and celebrated, but Bogdanovic and Burks should also help in the short, medium, and long term. In the short term, while the likes of Anunoby and Randle are injured, Bogdanovic and Burks will be a vital source of points and playmaking, giving Brunson the support he needs to run the offense. In the medium term, the duo will give a healthy Knicks roster tremendous depth and lineup flexibility in the playoffs. And in the long term, while Burks is slated for free agency this summer, Bogdanovic has a $19 million team option for next season, meaning he’ll either make the Knicks’ 2024-25 roster better or provide them with salary ballast in a star-hunting trade.

Notably, New York also managed to add its four new players without surrendering a single first-round pick, meaning it retains the ability to participate in blockbuster discussions going forward. And why wouldn’t a disgruntled star want to force his way to New York now? We’ve come a long way since 2019, when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving preferred to sign with the Nets rather than the chaotic Knicks. A half decade later, the Knicks, believe it or not, look like a model franchise.

Loser: LeBron James

Forget your hourglass emojis and cryptic comments: The Lakers ultimately stood pat at the deadline, having determined that “any feasible trade would be a marginal upgrade, at too steep a cost,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. They didn’t just fail to add Klutch teammate Dejounte Murray; they didn’t add anyone.

Read between the lines, and it seems clear that the Lakers front office decided the team isn’t close enough to contending for the 2024 championship to warrant trading future draft capital for quixotic win-now upgrades. This wasn’t the 2023 deadline, when LeBron’s Lakers swapped out Russell Westbrook for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley and reached the conference finals as a result. Nor was this the 2018 deadline, when LeBron’s Cavaliers rearranged half their roster en route to the Finals.

Instead, the Lakers, who have two of the best players in the world, both healthy and playing at an All-NBA level, will likely be a play-in team bound for an early playoff exit, at best. This mediocrity isn’t anything new for the Lakers, who, since winning the 2020 title, have:

  • Earned the no. 7 seed and lost in the first round in 2021
  • Finished 11th, missing even the play-in tournament, in 2022
  • Won a play-in game for the no. 7 seed in 2023

But it still registers as a profound disappointment for LeBron in particular, as the 39-year-old is running out of chances to win championships five and six and match Michael Jordan’s trophy count. A long-term outlook might have been the best decision for the Lakers’ future, but not for LeBron, who’s at the tail end of his extended prime.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

As is his tendency, Sam Presti didn’t make any blockbuster trades at this deadline. But Gordon Hayward is an excellent backup plan and the best player that any of the teams at the top of the Western Conference acquired at the deadline. And he didn’t cost the Thunder any more than some depth pieces and a pair of second-round picks.

Hayward hasn’t played since December 26 due to a calf injury, but once he returns to the court, he’ll be exactly the sort of jack-of-all-trades contributor that Presti prizes. At age 33, he has no standout skills, but no real weaknesses, either. He’s a decent playmaker (4.6 assists per game this season, his highest mark in a decade). He’s a decent shooter (37 percent from 3 over his career, 36 percent this season). And at 6-foot-7 he’s a decent defender, though he’s slowed on that end as age and injuries have taken their toll.

Hayward might not start in Oklahoma City, but he could very well close games, replacing Josh Giddey and his shaky jump shot to play alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Lu Dort, and Chet Holmgren. That’s a quintet with a real chance to win the West.

Loser: Chicago Bulls

Chicago’s inactivity feels like malpractice. It’s unclear how the Bulls let this deadline go without making any moves. Wait, sorry, those aren’t my words—they’re Michael Pina’s … from his winners and losers column at the 2023 deadline.

But it’s not just two deadlines in a row the Bulls have slumbered through. They haven’t made a trade involving a player since August 2021, 30 months ago. (They swapped future second-round picks for a current second on the night of the 2023 draft.) In other words, the Bulls have gone through the entire DeMar DeRozan era without making any trades involving a player. And I know I’m using a lot of italics, but that sort of inactivity really is unfathomable in the modern NBA.

It makes some sense that the Bulls couldn’t find a trade partner for Zach LaVine, given his hefty contract and injury history. (LaVine is now out for the season due to foot surgery.) But Chicago could have landed multiple first-round picks for Alex Caruso, an elite defender on a team-friendly contract. It could have landed multiple second-round picks for Andre Drummond, a reserve big man set to reach free agency this summer. It could have landed some sort of draft capital for DeRozan, a strong scorer whose contract will also expire at the end of the season.

But Bulls majordomo Arturas Karnisovas reportedly didn’t want to pivot toward the future. “They’re not looking to get draft assets and expirings,” Adrian Wojnarowski said on his podcast this week. “They want to reboot this on the fly. They want to stay competitive.”

Competitive is one word for the team that’s in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, with a 24-27 record and a negative point differential. Play-in tournament, here they come!

Winner, With a 7-Foot Injury Asterisk: Philadelphia 76ers

Buddy Hield is a one-note player—but that note is as pure as any in the league. Hield is one of just four players in NBA history, along with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard, to average at least three 3-point makes per game, and he’s made all those 3s at a career 40 percent clip.

That profile makes Hield a perfect fit for a team that quietly lacks shooters beyond Tyrese Maxey. (Nicolas Batum has made 47 percent of his 3s in Philadelphia but at a low volume.) Much has been made of the Lakers’ lack of “lasers”—but the 76ers rank 27th in 3s per game, only one spot ahead of L.A.

Hield will also be a free agent after this season, so his addition abides by Daryl Morey’s plans to enter this summer with copious cap space. And Morey didn’t have to sacrifice any rotation players or first-round picks for this upgrade, instead sending three seconds, Furkan Korkmaz, and Marcus Morris to the Pacers.

Of course, Hield’s singular strength won’t matter if Joel Embiid doesn’t return from his knee injury; the 76ers have no chance of winning the 2024 title without their MVP in the middle. Maybe, then, the more important part of this trade for 76ers fans isn’t Hield himself, but rather the fact that Morey is acting like his team still has a chance to make a deep playoff run this spring. If Morey knew with 100 percent certainty that Embiid is done for the year, he wouldn’t have completed a win-now move.

Loser, Surprisingly: The Dallas Mavericks’ Quest for a Two-Way Wing

On the surface, Dallas should be a deadline winner. The Mavericks traded Grant Williams, the seldom-used Seth Curry, and a 2027 first-round pick (with top-two protections) for P.J. Washington. Just about every other team that added a good player at the deadline received a winner’s grade in this column; why not Dallas?

Well, it’s unclear just how good Washington is. His scoring is mostly empty calories; he doesn’t rebound, draw free throws, or create open shots for teammates. Advanced stats loathe the former Hornet. DARKO thinks he makes his team 1.5 points worse than average, per 100 possessions. Estimated plus-minus rates him worse, at minus-2.2 per 100. And box plus-minus hates him most of all, at minus-3.0 per 100 this year, one of the worst marks in the league.

Washington has the promise of a positionless 3-and-D contributor. But in reality, he doesn’t fulfill his potential in either part of that formula: His 3-point percentage has declined for four straight seasons, down to 32 percent this year, and his defensive effort has waned as a victim of Charlotte’s broader malaise. At the very least, it’s difficult to imagine that Washington will do much to boost Dallas’s 22nd-ranked defense.

There are important contextual caveats that color Washington’s performance to date and that could push this trade more into the winners column for the Mavericks. Maybe Washington will perk up once he plays in games that matter? Maybe he’ll score more efficiently with Luka Doncic setting him up on the perimeter?

But acquiring this context-dependent, hypothetical upgrade cost Dallas what is essentially its last valuable trade chip: its 2027 first. This move comes after the Mavericks traded 2030 swap rights to the Spurs in the offseason, as part of the Williams sign-and-trade. To Dallas’s credit, the front office recognized that Williams didn’t fit on this roster and didn’t treat him as a sunk cost. (Williams’s play had clearly declined on both ends; given that Joe Mazzulla didn’t trust him in Boston, either, this means that Williams has worn out his welcome two seasons in a row.) But this transaction sequence means the team essentially traded a first-round pick and a swap for a player with uncertain ability on both ends.

Dallas also traded 2028 swap rights to the Thunder on deadline day as part of a three-team deal that brought Daniel Gafford to town. Gafford is a good player signed to a reasonable contract, but he can’t share the court with Dereck Lively II—neither center has made a 3-pointer this season—so Dallas effectively gave up even more draft capital for a backup center.

If Washington and Gafford don’t make the Mavericks contenders—and they’re still probably the sixth-best team in the West, maybe, right now—Dallas could rue the opportunity cost when it’s unable to make future moves to surround Luka with talent.

Some teams go all in for stars like Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant. Others, apparently, do it for the third-best players on the Hornets and Wizards.

Winner: Western Conference Roster Depth

I’m not sure when, but at some point this spring, either Royce O’Neale will help Phoenix win a playoff game or Monte Morris will do the same for Minnesota. Rotation depth is always important in the postseason, especially for teams like the Suns and Timberwolves, which have such strong starting lineups.

Notably, another Western Conference contender with a similarly top-heavy roster didn’t add to its bench at the deadline, as the defending champion Nuggets stood pat. Denver’s young reserves might be ready for the spotlight—second-year Peyton Watson has especially excelled on both ends in recent weeks. But there’s a marked difference between the Nuggets’ approach at the deadline and that of their closest competitors.

Winner: The Pat Bev Pod

Who needs Woj and Shams to break news when Patrick Beverley is on the case?

It probably doesn’t say much about Beverley’s potential as a difference maker for the Bucks’ dreadful defense that Philadelphia was willing to gift him to an Eastern Conference rival. But his trade is undoubtedly a great promo for his podcast.

Loser: The 2024 Draft Class

Draft analysts have warned for months, if not years, that the 2024 class is flawed. A year after Victor Wembanyama went first as the best prospect in decades, the group of 2024 prospects might be the worst in more than a decade, since Anthony Bennett was a surprise no. 1 selection in 2013.

But you don’t need to blindly trust what the public draft experts are saying to lose faith in the 2024 draft class; you can come to the same conclusions by analyzing general managers’ actions as well.

In a vacuum, the Pacers might have overpaid by sending three first-round picks to the Raptors in exchange for free-agent-to-be Pascal Siakam—but we’re not in a vacuum, and because two of those picks are likely non-lottery picks this spring, Indiana was content to give them up for the All-NBA forward.

The Raptors then turned around and traded one of those selections to Utah on deadline day, in a deal that brought Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji to Toronto. Again, in a vacuum, this would seem like an overpay—and frankly, it still might be—but the Raptors, too, didn’t seem enthused about making multiple picks late in this year’s first round.

After all, this pick won’t be particularly valuable, as first-rounders go: As the least favorable of the selections for the Thunder, Clippers, Jazz, or Rockets, it will likely land in the late 20s. Agbaji hasn’t shown much in his NBA career thus far, and he’s deceptively old for a prospect—after spending four college years at Kansas, he’ll turn 24 in April—but maybe Toronto believes in him more than whomever it could pick at that point in a weak draft.

(On the other hand, Utah has had a close look at Agbaji for two years now, and Danny Ainge evidently decided the pick would be more valuable. It’s not as if Agbaji is a sure thing.)

Winner: Pre-Agency

“Pre-agency” means exactly what it sounds like: when a team trades for a player before they reach free agency to build rapport and start negotiating a new contract (and, crucially, gain financial mechanisms like Bird rights).

One theme of this year’s deadline was the widespread adoption of this tactic, for everyone from stars to back-of-the-rotation guys. OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and James Harden were the three best players traded since the start of the season, and all three will be free agents this summer. And on the lower end, the likes of Simone Fontecchio, Xavier Tillman, Monte Morris, Buddy Hield, and Kelly Olynyk were all traded with little time remaining on their contracts.

As Danny Leroux noted in The Athletic, “While there are no binding obligations between the Knicks and Anunoby or the Pacers and Siakam, both acquiring teams sacrificed enough resources to make it clear they do not envision their new forward as a rental.” The same seems true for players traded this week, like Olynyk to the Raptors and Fontecchio to the Pistons, whose new teams won’t make the 2023-24 postseason and thus would have had no incentive to give up picks for players if they weren’t planning to re-sign them this summer.

TBD: Masai Ujiri

The busiest dealmaker of the past six weeks was the Raptors’ lead executive. Toronto’s final trade ledger after four deals stands as such:

  • Out: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn, Otto Porter Jr., Dennis Schroder, Thaddeus Young
  • In: Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, Jordan Nwora, two first-round picks, one second-round pick

That seems like a broadly underwhelming return for the final vestiges of the Raptors’ contending era. Ujiri might have waited too long to rebuild and reorient his roster around a younger star in Scottie Barnes. Much will depend on the development of Quickley and Barrett, whom Ujiri targeted instead of a massive haul of picks.

Loser: Excitement About Offseason Additions

Remember when the Lakers looked like offseason winners, thanks to new contracts for Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Rui Hachimura, Christian Wood, and Cam Reddish? Now they’re the West’s no. 9 seed, with no realistic path to contending this spring.

Or remember when folks thought the Mavericks did well in their sign-and-trade for Grant Williams? He seemed like a great candidate to fill in the gaps around Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Now he’s gone.

And remember when analysts praised the Suns front office for adding so many high-quality players on minimum contracts and using its only remaining lever to add depth around their three stars? Now Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, and Chimezie Metu are out, as part of a trade for an elevated 3-and-D option in Royce O’Neale.

So maybe all my opinions in this column are wrong, too! Sports are wonderful in part because of their unpredictability.

Winners: Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, and Marcus Sasser

Note: I am not calling the Pistons winners. They held on to Bojan Bogdanovic for too long, so they couldn’t land a future first-round pick in return. They had to trade their own picks to get rid of Marvin Bagley III, whom they re-signed to an expensive, ill-fated contract last summer. And they have, it’s worth remembering, a 7-43 record, though better play of late means they’re no longer on pace to set the worst record in NBA history.

But the Pistons accomplished one key outcome this week: In trading Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and Monte Morris, plus releasing former no. 7 pick Killian Hayes, Detroit’s front office cleared out the positional logjam that was allowing coach Monty Williams to shrink his young prospects’ playing time. Now Williams has to give his young guys more minutes to develop. As writer Jared Dubin noted, the process is similar to Billy Beane’s maneuvers in Moneyball, when the legendary Oakland A’s GM traded Carlos Peña to ensure that Scott Hatteberg (played by Chris Pratt in the movie!) would face no opposition to claim the first base position. One suspects there won’t be a similar Hollywood production about this Pistons campaign.