Blockbuster Trades Shake Up NBA Playoff Picture

Kyrie to the Mavs

The Brooklyn Nets received Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 first-round pick, and 2027 & 2029 second-round picks while the Dallas Mavericks received guard Kyrie Irving and forward Markeiff Morris. Irving wanted a fully guaranteed max contract ahead of the trade deadline, which the Nets were unwilling to do. So, Irving got his wish in a move to the Mavs, a long-awaited breakup between Irving and his hometown Nets. Irving is without a doubt one of the most talented guards in the league with eight all-star appearances, but it is hard to deny his issues at this point in his career. Through controversies surrounding his anti-vax and antisemitic rhetoric, Irving has been a distraction to his teammates and the front office. Irving’s inability to stay controversy-free helps explain the low trade cost for a star guard. It will be exciting to see him play alongside superstar guard Luka Doncic, but I am not sure it puts the Mavericks over the edge given Kyrie’s shaky history in recent years.

Durant to the Suns

The Phoenix Suns received forward Kevin Durant and forward T.J. Warren in exchange for forward Cameron Johnson, forward Mikal Bridges, forward Jae Crowder, four first-round picks, and a 2028 pick swap. Talents like Kevin Durant are rarely available on the trade market. When it is all said and done, Durant will be regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Once Kyrie had been traded, it seemed more likely that the Nets would move on from Durant as well and start their rebuild. Now, KD joins a Suns roster with Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton that made the finals in 2021. Given Durant’s history as a proven champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP, the move was certainly worth the four unprotected first-round picks. And the Suns get Durant through the 2025-2026 season. The Suns should be contending for championships with Kevin Durant: anything less is frankly a failure.

Lakers move Russ

The Los Angeles Lakers received guard D’Angelo Russell, guard Malik Beasley, and forward Jarred Vanderbilt, the Minnesota Timberwolves received guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, guard Mike Conley, and 2024, 2025 & 2026 second-round picks, and the Utah Jazz received guard Russell Westbrook, forward Juan-Toscano Anderson, center Damian Jones, and a 2027 first-round pick. Westbrook now joins the Los Angeles Clippers after a contract buyout from Utah. I love this move for the Lakers, who have now added more offensive firepower and three-point shooting with D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. Vanderbilt is a solid defender and rebounder. It had become apparent early on that Westbrook did not fit on the Lakers given his lack of shooting – averaging only 30.4% from three. Westbrook showed more promise as a sixth man this year, but his payroll did not justify the more limited role. Now, the Lakers have exchanged Westbrook’s minutes for three solid players. LA should be better off this season, but only time will tell if they will become a serious playoff contender once again.

Hart to the Knicks

The New York Knicks received guard Josh Hart and the Portland Trail Blazers received guard Ryan Arciadano, guard Svi Mykhauliuk, forward Cam Reddish, and a 2023-first round pick. Josh Hart has now reunited with his former University of Villanova teammate Jalen Brunson in a solid move for the Knickerbockers. Hart has come more into his own after being drafted by the Lakers in 2017 and offers the Knicks size on the wing. If Hart can put together more 27-point games as he did against the Nets in his second game with the Knicks, then he will be a tremendous addition to help the Knicks in their playoff push as the current sixth-seed in the standings. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had clearly resigned from playing Cam Reddish, so the trade does not come at too much of a loss for the Knicks. The first-round pick is also protected so that NY will not have to give up a lottery pick if they miss the playoffs.