Another Chaotic NBA Trade Deadline: Should NBA Fans Worry?

On Friday, Feb. 10 at 3 pm EST, the doors closed on the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) trade deadline. This year’s deadline was not a quiet one, with big-name players like James Harden, Ben Simmons, CJ McCollum, Tyrese Haliburton and Kristaps Porzingis all being moved. Let’s recap the biggest moves from the deadline, why they may signal a change in the NBA, and whether or not this is cause for concern for fans of the league. 

Let’s start with the granddaddy of them all: the blockbuster trade between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. Sixers GM Daryl Morey has been showcased in the media during this past NBA season for his lofty, and at times egregious, trade offers to other organizations. Reports came out that he was asking for top tier, elite players in return for disgruntled point forward (or whatever you’d like to call his position) Ben Simmons. These reports were accompanied by criticism from analysts, league executives and media members alike, who felt that Simmons was not worth giving up an elite player. According to Sixers insider Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, one executive described Morey’s offers as “outlandish.” This was following the news that Morey had rejected an offer from the Golden State Warriors which included All-Star forward Andrew Wiggins, promising young center James Wiseman and future draft picks for Simmons. At the time, the basketball world thought a deal involving Simmons would never get done, and especially not for the costly asking price that Morey had in mind. 

However this past week, with the NBA trade deadline looming and Sixers fans restless, Morey got his guy. In a deal that sent Simmons, sharpshooting guard Seth Curry, veteran center Andre Drummond and a pair of future first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets, Morey and the Sixers received superstar guard James Harden and veteran power forward Paul Millsap. Whether or not you think the Sixers won or lost the trade, there is one conclusion that can be agreed upon: Morey’s asking price was not a bluff. Both the Nets and Sixers will now have to shift their focus to entering their new pieces into the fold and trying to create chemistry before the playoffs begin in April as they have their sights set on hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy when all is said and done. 

In other news from the deadline, Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was traded to the Washington Wizards; Wizards big man Montrezl Harrell is going to the Charlotte Hornets; Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans; Sacramento Kings guards Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield are part of a shocking deal that sends them to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for forward Domantas Sabonis and others; and the Trail Blazers and LA Clippers made a deal headlined by LA’s addition of guard Norman Powell, with Eric Bledsoe going the other way. These were not even all of the deals that were completed prior to the deadline on Feb. 10 at 3 pm. 

And so the big questions that arise are these (and they are not novel): should NBA fans worry that their favorite teams’ players may leave at any given moment? Should fans of the game worry about the lack of loyalty amongst the league’s elite? And does the dynamic nature of free agency and the trade window help or hurt the league in comparison to more player-stagnant leagues, like the National Football League (NFL) for example? 

For comparison’s sake, the NFL’s average viewership for regular season games was 17.1 million this season, while the NBA’s hovers around 1.5 million. For playoffs, the difference is even bigger, with the NFL pulling in over 37 million viewers on average for this year’s playoff games compared to the NBA’s average of about 4-5 million. However, the NBA has had a massive increase in viewership from last season to this one, and the hope is that the game is growing overseas with the additions of global superstars like the Milwaukee Bucks “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Dallas Mavericks Slovenian maestro Luka Doncic and the Sixers MVP-candidate center Joel Embiid from Cameroon. And while there are arguments on both sides of the spectrum revolving around loyalty and team chemistry, only time (and television ratings) will provide basketball fans with answers to these questions.