NBA Trade Grades

Goodbye NBA trade season, it was moderately fun while you lasted. As per usual some teams made some shrewd moves, some made trades that left fans completely befuddled, and most stood pat. So, let’s look back on some of these deals and evaluate the six most important ones.

If there is one motif in these NBA trade grades, it’s that trading a decent first-round pick for a flawed player is a bad idea. I know that’s a crazy concept, but it’s the truth. Anyway, without further ado I present my NBA trade grades.

The Pistons trade G Brandon Jennings and F Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando for F Tobias Harris.

Detroit Pistons- B+

Orlando Magic- C-

Frankly, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this trade for either team, especially in regards to the Magic. I am not against the Magic trading Tobias Harris, but I would have thought they could have found a better package than Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings, even if it’s just a future draft pick(s). Neither player is a long-term solution for the Magic, and while this may improve them slightly this season and possibly allow them to slip into the Eastern Conference Playoffs, I don’t think a potential first-round drubbing by the Cavaliers or Raptors is worth giving up one of your best trade assets. Plus Brandon Jennings is unlikely to mesh well with Elfrid Payton and I do not think he wants to stay around for a rebuilding team unless the Magic are willing to pay him far over market value. It does give the Magic more cap flexibility in the future, especially if they choose to waive Ersan Ilyasova after this season, but lots of cap space is less valuable than ever since most of the league will have it soon.

Meanwhile the Pistons pay a relatively low price for a fairly risky acquisition. Tobias Harris is young and puts up relatively good stats, but he is a lackluster defender and a worse shooter than Ilyasova. Plus, it’s always an ominous sign when the vast majority of teams shy away from a player like most did from Harris during last year’s free agent signing period and apparently when the Magic put him on the trading block if this is the best return-on-investment the Magic could get. That having been said, the Pistons did a good job buying low and I trust that Stan Van Gundy can get Harris to buy into his system.

Charlotte acquires G-F Courtney Lee from Memphis for F P.J. Hairston. Memphis acquires F Chris Andersen and two second-round draft picks from Miami. Miami acquires G Brian Roberts from Charlotte.

Charlotte Hornets- A-

Memphis Grizzlies- C-

Miami Heat- B-

I don’t think it is good news for the Grizzlies that the Hornets declined to pick up P.J. Hairston’s very cheap option for next season a little over three months ago. That means the team that he was around everyday decided he wasn’t even worth a relatively tiny investment to see if he could become significantly better next year. He is a career 34% shooter with a checkered past, so I’m confused why the Grizzlies think he is an upgrade over Courtney Lee. P.J. Hairston makes less money, but acquiring Chris Andersen negates any savings. The latter has always been one of my favorite players, but he is 37 and has played 35 total minutes this season. Granted, he’s done relatively well in those minutes (18.06 PER), but that’s a miniscule sample size. Also, the chances of finding a decent player in the second-round of the NBA draft are so slim that I don’t think these picks are worth much So, unless the Grizzlies know something about Hairston and Andersen that we do not I do not know why they made this trade.

Meanwhile the Hornets get the best player out of this deal, so score this a win in the Bobcats’ everlasting quest to get swept in the first round every year! It’s not earth-shattering, but if you were a Hornets fan would you prefer trying to make the playoffs with Courtney Lee or P.J. Hairston playing next to Kemba Walker? Finally, the Heat manage to shed salary as they seek to avoid the luxury tax and don’t pay all that high of a price (two second-round draft picks) to do it. That’s not bad, although commending a team for minimizing its losses when trading away a former free-agent signing is not that high of a compliment.

Phoenix trades Markieff Morris to Washington for a protected 2016 first-round draft pick and Fs Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair.

Phoenix Suns- A+

Washington Wizards- D-

I spent much more time than I should have looking for articles about this trade because I wanted to read a persuasive argument why the Wizards would trade a real asset for Markieff Morris. Needless to say I did not find anything worthwhile sharing. The best I saw was the recurring argument that an engaged Markieff Morris provides good value on his current contract. That may be true, but then you remember that he is facing felony assault charges, spent almost the entire first half of the season bricking shots and playing lackluster defense, and got into tussles with his teammates and head coach. Even prior to his twin being traded he was a good role player, but nobody thought he was a future superstar.

If the Wizards wanted to take a risk, and trade DeJuan Blair (already waived by the Suns) and Kris Humphries for an upgrade that is understandable. An engaged Markieff Morris is undoubtedly better than Blair or Humphries. However, the pick the Suns got is only protected 1-9, which means unless the Wizards start really tanking, it will most likely be conveyed to the Suns. So, congratulations to the Wizards buying as high as possible when the price was low (or at least should have been).

Houston trades Fs Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit for a protected 2016 first-round pick and F Joel Anthony.

Detroit Pistons- D

Houston Rockets- B+ 

Speaking of buying high when the price should be low, let’s trade a first-round draft pick for an injury-plagued role player about to get a huge payday in free agency! Yes, I know it was rescinded after Donatas Motiejunas’ failed physical, but I think it has to be commemorated in some way. Motiejunas is 25 years-old, is going to be a restricted free agent this summer when the cap skyrockets and a bazillion NBA teams have major cap room, and has had an injury-plagued and generally lackluster season. So, why on earth would the Pistons agree to trade a first-round pick for him, especially since they just acquired Tobias Harris. Once D-Mo hits restricted free agency the Pistons would basically have been forced to match any offer for him by virtue of the unwritten NBA law that “If You Trade For Somebody Who Is About To Enter Restricted Free Agency You Have To Match Whatever Crazy Offer He Gets.” I know it’s dumb, but it’s the law!

Even if they had broken the law, the Pistons would have traded a first-round draft pick to rent D-Mo for half a season, which is most definitely not worth it. Marcus Thornton would have been an interesting addition, but undersized shooting guards who are high volume scorers, but don’t shoot a very high percentage aren’t that hard to find. Sorry Daryl Morey, better luck ripping off other NBA teams next trade deadline.

Memphis trades F Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers for G Lance Stephenson.

Memphis Grizzlies- B

Los Angeles Clippers- C

If this trade doesn’t work out somebody in Clippersland needs to significantly curb Doc the GM’s power to acquire his former players, and guys who had random good games and series against him in the playoffs. I think Jeff Green can be a real asset, but I don’t think he makes the Clippers significantly better, especially because I don’t think his skill set meshes very well with Blake Griffin once the latter returns from injury. My biggest concern is that now that the Clippers have traded away yet another plus defender after jettisoning Matt Barnes last summer, they are going to try to play teams like the Warriors and Thunder with Jeff Green, J.J. Reddick, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, etc. trying to lock down some of the best perimeter scorers in NBA history. I don’t think that’s a formula for success.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies seem to be punting on this season and got a decent haul for Jeff Green. Of course, Lance Stephenson is Lance Stephenson, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable gamble to see if he can become a decent rotation player again and a potential first-round pick is a pretty good haul for a player who has frustrated multiple NBA coaches.

Cleveland acquires F Channing Frye from Orlando. Cleveland sent G Jared Cunningham and a future second-round draft pick to Orlando and C Anderson Varejao and 2018 first-round draft pick to Portland

Cleveland Cavaliers- C

Orlando Magic- B

Portland Trailblazers- A+

I think Channing Frye is a fine player and deadly three-point shooting big men can be dangerous assets when used correctly. However, I fail to see what the point of acquiring him is when the Cavaliers already have one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league in Kevin Love. Again, I don’t think giving away a first-round draft pick, even a conditional one, is worth it.

Meanwhile, the Magic get a second-round pick for dumping a veteran player they did not want.  I’m not sure what their long-term vision is, but this isn’t a bad trade for them.  Finally, the Trailblazers, who have done a remarkably good job weathering the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge get rewarded for not blowing their cap space chasing a sub-par replacement for him last summer.

Chris Linnan is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia, who has a life-long basketball and politics addiction.  If you want to receive an alert every time CLT publishes an article please send an email to with the subject Mailing List.


One thought on “NBA Trade Grades

  1. Pingback: March NBA Power Rankings | CLT

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