COLUMN: Grading the NBA trades


AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving tosses the ball in the air just prior to tip-off in an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By Zachary Bertram, Sports Reporter

The 2023 NBA trade deadline was at 2 p.m. CT on Thursday, and it was nothing short of absolute chaos. The trade deadline is an exciting part of every NBA season, in which some teams look to get better and gear up for a playoff run, and some teams look to sell pieces off and focus on building for the future. 

This was one of, if not the craziest, trade deadlines in NBA history, highlighted by the Brooklyn Nets trading away superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. With quite a few big trades going down in the past few weeks, there were some big winners and losers. 

Phoenix Suns: A+

Who they got: Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren

Who they gave up: Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, first round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029


The Suns pulled off the biggest and most unexpected trade of the deadline, acquiring 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. After a disappointing second round exit in 2022, in which they had the best record in basketball, the Suns went for it all, adding arguably one of the best players in the world. 

Adding Durant would have been a great addition for the Suns for almost any price, but the fact that they got him while still holding on to Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton is truly impressive. Durant is also under team control until 2026

Letting go of young forwards Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges will indeed hurt the Suns’ depth, but getting Warren back, in addition to Durant, is a sneaky good pick-up as well to help with depth. 

It’s a return for Warren, heading back to the team that drafted him 14th overall in 2014. Giving up four unprotected first round picks definitely has its risks, but when one of the most talented basketball players of all time is on the table, you have to go for him. Adding Durant undoubtedly makes Phoenix a contender for the NBA championship.

Dallas Mavericks: B+

Who they got: Kyrie Irving, Markieff Morris

Who they gave up: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first round pick, two future second round picks


The Mavericks made a huge splash at the 2023 trade deadline, acquiring eight-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn. Dallas obviously got the best player of the deal in Irving, but the trade doesn’t come without a few risks. The risks include Irving being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and sending their unprotected 2029 first round pick to Brooklyn. 

Dallas gave up a great 3&D player in Dorian Finney-Smith, which will definitely hurt a Dallas defense that was already ranked 24th in defensive rating. 

Dallas also loses a key ball handler in Spencer Dinwiddie. Despite losing some depth, the backcourt pairing of Irving and Luka Doncic will be quite the headache for opposing defenses to deal with. This trade makes Dallas immediate contenders in a wide-open Western conference, and has the potential to be graded much higher if Irving re-signs with the Mavs in the off-season.

Brooklyn Nets: C

Who they got: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, 2023, 2025 and 2027 first round picks, two 2029 first round picks, seven future second round picks

Who they gave up: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, T.J. Warren, Markieff Morris


The Nets had their hands tied when it came to having to deal All-Star Kyrie Irving. Irving requested a trade on Feb. 3, leaving Brooklyn scrambling to find a deal less than a week before the deadline. With such little time to get a deal done, and with Irving being a free agent at the end of the season, it was hard for Brooklyn to find a great return for Irving. They were at least able to get something in return for him before it was too late. 

Dinwiddie returns to Brooklyn, where he had the best scoring season of his career in 2019-20, averaging 20.6 points per game. Finney-Smith will help an already strong Nets defensive unit that features Nicolas Claxton, Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neale, while also being a respectable three-point shooter. 

The Nets decided to go into rebuild mode, sending away the second of their two stars in Durant. Bridges is an excellent wing-defender and is an iron-man on the court, not missing a game since his high-school days. Johnson is an excellent three-point shooter and a solid overall scorer. 

When you trade guys of Irving’s and Durant’s caliber, you expect to get at least two or three young franchise cornerstones to build around. The Nets got some solid role players in return for Durant and Irving, as well as a ton of draft capital, but no  young promising players. Brooklyn should have been able to get more in return for two of the best players in the world.

Los Angeles Lakers: A-

Who they got: Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba

Who they gave up: Kendrick Nunn, Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant 2027 first round pick, (top four protected) 2028 second round pick, 2029 second round pick.


The Lakers were very busy at the trade deadline and did a great job improving their team with the limited assets that they possessed. Getting rid of Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn was a good move for the Lakers, as both players had been very disappointing in Los Angeles, playing much better for their previous teams. 

The same can be said about former All-NBA defensive guard Patrick Beverley. Guards Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell will help the shooting woes that have caused the Lakers to rank 26th in three-point percentage this year. Beasley is a 38% career three-point shooter and Russell is shooting a career best 39.1% from three this year. For Russell, this is a homecoming, returning to the team who drafted him second overall in 2015. The Lakers also picked up two stellar wing defenders in Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. Without giving up too much, the Lakers did a remarkable job acquiring some young, talented players who should fit in nicely around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. 

Utah Jazz: C-

Who they got: Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, 2027 first round pick (top four protected)

Who they gave up: Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mike Conley Jr., Nickeil Alexander-Walker


The Jazz are in the beginning stages of a rebuild after trading longtime franchise icons Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves over the summer. It makes sense why they would make the move for the Lakers’ 2027 first round pick. By 2027, who knows if guys like LeBron James and Anthony Davis will still be in Los Angeles? Their potential leaving could make the pick very valuable. 

But to give up two solid young role players in Beasley and Vanderbilt, as well as a great mentor and locker room guy in Conley, is a hefty price to pay for a deal centered around a draft pick.

Former MVP Russell Westbrook will likely be bought out by Utah, according to TNT’s Chris Haynes, and become a free agent, while Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson aren’t expected to play heavy minutes for the Jazz. I believe Utah gave up a lot of quality players for one solid draft pick, and if the pick doesn’t end up amounting to much, Utah will regret this deal.

Minnesota Timberwolves: F

Who they got: Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 2024, 2025 and 2026 second round picks

Who they gave up: D’Angelo Russell 


It’s unclear what the Timberwolves were thinking with this deal. D’Angelo Russell was not the best fit next to young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in Minnesota, but they could have gotten a better return for Russell. Russell is on an expiring contract, and the Timberwolves did not seem to want him back after the year, so it made sense to trade him. 

What they traded him for is the confusing part. Mike Conley is nine years older than Russell and not on the most team-friendly contract. Conley is owed $22.68 million this season and $24.36 million next season. If Minnesota did not want to bring back Russell long term, it would have made much more sense to keep him for the rest of the year and try to find a sign-and-trade partner in the off-season, or to trade him at the deadline for another expiring contract. 

New York Knicks: A

Who they got: Josh Hart

Who they gave up: Cam Reddish, 2023 lottery-protected first round pick


I love this deal for New York. Josh Hart is the perfect player for Knicks’ head coach Tom Thibodeau. Hart is a solid three-point shooter and a great defender. Hart is an excellent rebounder for his size, averaging 8.2 boards per game this year, while standing at just 6-foot-4. He is sure to see plenty of playing time with the Knicks under Thibodeau, which seems like a match made in heaven. 

23-year-old forward Cam Reddish wasn’t getting playing time under Thibodeau, not seeing action since Dec. 3 vs. the Mavericks, making him easily expendable. This is a low-risk high-reward type deal for the Knicks, sending away a guy in Reddish who clearly didn’t fit and getting a guy in Hart who seems like he will be a great fit. 

Portland Trail Blazers: B-

Who they got: Cam Reddish, 2023 lottery-protected first round pick

Who they gave up: Josh Hart


This is a good deal for Portland as they take a shot on a guy in Cam Reddish who showed enormous potential in high school, ranking third in the class of 2018, according to ESPN. This is Reddish’s third stop in the NBA, after not getting much of a chance to play in Atlanta nor New York. Reddish has shown flashes of the player that he was in high school and why he was drafted 10th overall in 2019, but has yet to become the player he was projected to be. 

Maybe a change of scenery in Portland can help Reddish tap into the potential that I believe he still holds. The slim possibility of Reddish still being able to become a star is enough of a reason to trade a guy like Hart who has most likely maxed out his potential. The draft pick is the cherry on top. 

Washington Wizards: D+

Who they got: Kendrick Nunn, 2028 second round draft pick, 2029 second round draft pick

Who they gave up: Rui Hachimura


This deal is a little puzzling for Washington; they gave up a solid young wing in Hachimura for guard Kendrick Nunn who missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season and has struggled so far this season. 

It seems the main attraction of this deal for the Wizards was the two second-round picks they received from the Lakers. The Wizards can use these picks to try and find a steal in the second round of the draft, or they may try to flip these picks in another trade to continue building around Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma. 

Los Angeles Clippers: D-

Who they got: Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland, Mason Plumlee

Who they gave up: John Wall, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard


I’m not a fan of the moves the Clippers made at the deadline. They shipped away their two best point guards in Jackson and Wall and only got back Hyland to fill the void. Hyland is a nice young player, but not necessarily the kind of guy you want starting at point guard for a team looking to compete. 

Letting go of Kennard is a little surprising as well, as he is one of the best three-point shooters in the league, shooting 44.7% from deep this year. Gordon looks to be Kennard’s replacement, but he is not the same player he once was when he won Sixth Man of the Year in 2017 with the Houston Rockets. 

I like the addition of Plumlee for L.A., as he will be a solid big man off the bench for them. But unfortunately for the Clippers, these additions do not outweigh the losses of ball handlers like Wall and Jackson, and three-point sniper Kennard.