Nothing teaches you about regret quite like playing daily Fantasy sports. You debate between two players with the same salary for hours and finally decide on one, only to watch the other one go off for career highs across the board while the one you picked goes 0 for 12 from the field. You curse yourself and putter around the house, wondering what could have been.
Now imagine how excruciating it must be for the front office executives who actually make these deals in real life.
We in the NBA media love to pass judgment on trades as soon as they’re made — grades, winners and losers, analysis. With the 2022 NBA trade deadline just a few days away, we’ve already begun engaging in the yearly ritual of editorializing. It’s the reason we cover the sport, to look at deals from every angle and try to decipher how things will play out, but the truth is we can’t fully evaluate a deal until some time has passed.
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Did that difference-making player actually make a difference? Did the lottery pick turn out to be No. 1 or No. 14? Did the “can’t-miss prospect” actually pan out?
With that in mind, we decided to reevaluate all the biggest deals of the last two trade deadlines to see how they look with the benefit of hindsight. We’ve included the original grades assigned by various members of our CBS Sports NBA team, and then re-graded them through the lens of 2022. As you can see, quite a few of them have evolved significantly from the original consensus.
New Denver grade: A
This was widely considered the most significant deal of last year’s deadline, and it affected the Western Conference power structure almost immediately. Denver won its first seven games with Gordon in the lineup, and looked like one of the favorites to come out of the West. Lineups featuring Gordon, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were absolutely smashing opponents, boasting a net rating of plus-19.2. Unfortunately, that all came crashing down when Murray tore his ACL just two weeks after Gordon joined the team.
There’s certainly hope, however, that once Murray and Michael Porter Jr. return, the Nuggets will re-enter the championship discussion. Gordon has been excellent on both ends of the floor this season, averaging 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds on career-high 52 percent shooting. The Nuggets have outscored opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions this season with him on the floor.
Harris is serviceable, Hampton has potential and that 2025 pick could end up being juicy if things go horribly wrong in Denver. But even if that happens, the trade will have definitely been worth it for a shot at the title with the MVP at the peak of his powers.
New Orlando grade: B
When the Magic made this deal as part of their 2021 fire sale, they probably didn’t envision Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz missing the better part of two seasons with injuries. That being said, Harris has been solid in a much larger role than they probably expected him to play, averaging 11.8 points this season on 38.5 percent 3-point shooting. Hampton has been up and down in just under 19 minutes per game this season, averaging 7.2 points while shooting just 38 percent from the field (although he is shooting 36 percent from 3-point range), and has shown glimpses of special talent. That 2025 draft pick has the potential to be very good, but it doesn’t appear likely given the Nuggets’ young core of Jokic, Murray, Gordon and Porter.
All told, the Magic probably got exactly what they expected out of this trade, so the grade will remain unchanged.
New Miami grade: A
Oladipo got injured almost immediately after joining the Heat, which under most circumstances would make this a horrible deal. But Miami gave up absolutely no assets to get him, plus they were able to re-sign Oladipo this offseason for the minimum. Therefore any contribution, no matter how small, the Heat get from Oladipo when he returns is just icing on the cake. Even if he doesn’t ever play for the Heat again, the deal was worth making 100 times out of 100.
New Houston grade: F
This was considered an awful trade at the time, considering the Rockets acquired Oladipo in the James Harden deal when they could have chosen Caris LeVert and/or Jarrett Allen instead. It looks even worse now, as Allen has blossomed into a borderline All-Star and LeVert was just traded for a first-round pick. Instead, Houston got two players who left in free agency, and the pick swap that gives it the more favorable first-round selection between the Nets and Heat is basically useless since it looks like Miami will finish ahead of Brooklyn in the standings. Yeah, not great.
New Boston grade: B
The logic was sound at the time, adding a spot-up shooter and secondary playmaker to a versatile offensive attack, and Fournier actually performed well as a Celtic, averaging 13 points on 46 percent 3-point shooting in 16 games. It didn’t work out so well for Boston, however, which exited the postseason after a first-round loss to the Nets and then chose not to match the Knicks’ offer for Fournier in the offseason. He was eventually part of a sign-and-trade that required the Celtics to send a 2023 second-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick to the Knicks for cash. The sign-and-trade also gave the Celtics a trade exception, which they have yet to use.
Fournier didn’t work out in terms of the Celtics’ long-term future and they wound up sending out a few second-round picks in the process, but they could still use the trade exception for something that benefits them. Overall it was a swing and a miss, but not a very costly one.
New Orlando grade: B
There’s not a whole lot to analyze for the Magic here. They wanted to start their rebuild and couldn’t get a first-round pick for Fournier, so they collected a couple of seconds without taking on any long-term, bad money. Solid move, but nothing that has yielded any long-term positives as of yet.
New Chicago grade: A
With her “A” grade, our Jasmyn Wimbish was a little kinder to the Bulls on this deal than most analysts, who thought two first-round picks was too steep a price for Vucevic. Well, Jasmyn’s analysis is looking pretty good right now. The Bulls wanted to become a solid playoff team, and Vucevic was the first piece they added to make that a reality. Without him, perhaps they don’t entice DeMar DeRozan to join the team in free agency or convince ownership to spend money on Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to beef up the defense. The goal was to make the playoffs, and now the Bulls are flirting with the No. 1 seed in the East. That means this deal was a home run, even if Vucevic got off to a rough start to this season. His shooting is coming around, and his averages of 17.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists seem about where they should be given the talent surrounding him. He’s also averaging a career-high 1.2 blocks per game.
New Orlando grade: A
The Magic’s grade in this trade was contingent on the performance of Carter, who was inconsistent with Chicago, and the quality of players they got with the two first-rounders. So far, the 22-year-old Carter has looked good in a Magic uniform, averaging a double-double of 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds this season while shooting a career-high 32 percent from 3-point range on over three attempts per game. The Bulls’ 2021 pick ended up being No. 8, with which the Magic selected Wagner, who has averaged 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range as a rookie. He and Carter already look like more than an adequate return for Vucevic, and the Magic still have the Bulls’ 2023 first-round pick in hand.
New Portland grade: F
In another desperate attempt to get Damian Lillard some help, the Blazers swapped Trent for Powell last year in a move that didn’t make a whole lot of sense on paper at the time. An undersized, score-first wing with questionable defense predictably didn’t do much for Portland, which lost to the Jamal Murray-less Nuggets in six games in the first round. If things ended there, you could chalk the move up to a failed risk and move on. Instead, the Blazers doubled down on Powell, signing him to a five-year, $90 million deal this offseason.
Even though Powell has pretty much performed as expected, interim general manager Joe Cronin, who took over for the fired Neil Olshey, decided to dump Powell’s salary along with Robert Covington — one of their few trade assets — in a move with the Clippers before this year’s trade deadline that netted Portland Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, rookie Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick.
No matter how high the Blazers are on Johnson, the No. 21 pick in the 2021 draft, this seems like cents on the dollar for Powell alone, let alone he and Covington combined. The goal was clearly to get out of the luxury tax — a problem they created when they signed Powell to the contract in the first place — and potentially commence a rebuild that.
When your prized trade deadline acquisition is being sold for spare parts less than a year later, that’s the definition of a failure.
New Toronto grade: A+
It sounded like the Raptors weren’t interested in paying Powell $90 million, so they did well to get Trent, who is averaging career highs in points per game (18.1) and 3-point accuracy (40 percent) this season. He’s also fit right into Toronto’s long, switchy defensive ethos, and become a crucial member of the starting unit. Now the Raptors have Trent under contract at least through next season (he has a player option for 2023-24) at a more affordable — and tradeable — price than Powell. Well played, Masai Ujiri.
New Golden State grade: A+
At the time of the trade, Wiggins was viewed as negative value — hence, the Wolves attaching valuable draft capital in the swap for Russell. Well, now Wiggins is an All-Star and the No. 7 pick turned into Kuminga, who, at 19 years old, has already shown brief flashes of tantalizing, two-way potential. Considering Russell’s poor fit in Golden State’s system and his positional redundancy with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, this deal was a 540-foot, out-of-the-stadium, walk-off grand slam for the Warriors, who have forcefully reclaimed their spot atop the Western Conference hierarchy. As an added bonus, the move also opened up more opportunity for Jordan Poole, one of the leading candidates for Most Improved Player this season.
New Minnesota grade: B
Look, it was pretty clear that Wiggins wasn’t going to blossom in Minnesota, so we can’t blame the Wolves for what he’s become. And the fact is, Russell has been good for the Wolves, averaging almost 19 points and over six assists per game on 37 percent 3-point shooting over the last two seasons. He’s also been a crucial part of the starting lineup alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley, which has the highest net rating in the league (plus-30.7) for any five-man unit that has played at least 200 minutes.
The only thing that might give Wolves fans regrets is the draft pick that turned into Kuminga. Maybe they could have fought a little harder to lottery-protect the pick with such a strong draft class, but there was certainly some urgency to get a difference-maker to Minnesota with Towns’ contract clock loudly beginning to tick. As it stands, Minnesota is in position to make the playoffs for just the second time in the past 17 seasons, so it can’t complain too much about the fine print.
New Miami grade: A+
Many contenders were in on the Iguodala sweepstakes, and Miami won out while simultaneously picking up Crowder and shedding the bloated contracts of Waiters and Johnson. The reason the Heat received a “B” at the time was mostly due to the potential of Winslow and the Heat’s limited ceiling, even with the additions. It turns out that Iguodala and Crowder helped get the Heat within two games of winning the NBA championship in the bubble, and Winslow’s development appears to have stagnated. Any time a trade gets you to the Finals, it’s an “A.” The cap maneuvering takes this move into the category of perfection.
New Memphis grade: C
Memphis has made some spectacular roster moves over the past few years, but this wasn’t one of them. There were plenty of suitors for Iguodala and the Grizzlies decided to invest in Winslow, who just never panned out for them. It’s fair to look back and say they could have gotten more out of the asset, but with the Grizzlies’ rapid ascent to the top of the Western Conference — and the League Pass rankings — they’re probably not giving it a second thought.
New Minnesota grade: A
Originally the Wolves’ involvement in this deal was strictly that of an intermediary, but they ended up using Johnson in the deal that sent Aleksej Pokusevsi to the Thunder in exchange for current rotation player Jaden McDaniels and veteran Ricky Rubio — who they eventually dealt for Taurean Prince and a second-round pick. So ultimately Johnson helped land them a solid two-way prospect in McDaniels, a rotation player in Prince and the Wizards’ 2022 second-round pick, which could end up being pretty close to a first-rounder. Not bad for being considered an afterthought two years ago.
Hawks acquire Clint Capela in four-team deal (2020)
New Atlanta grade: A
The Hawks needed to get serious about defense if they were going to get to the playoffs, and the Capela move certainly did that. It paid off last season in particular, when Atlanta had a defensive rating of 108.2 with Capela on the court, compared to 113.2 with him on the bench. He also led the league in rebounding last season, while helping lead the Hawks to a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals. Both Capela and the Hawks have been underwhelming this season, but that doesn’t make the trade any less successful, especially considering the Nets pick they gave up ended up being No. 17.
New Houston grade: B-
The Rockets went all-in on legitimate small-ball by trading Capela and bringing in Covington, a move that yielded positive results in the regular season but failed to get Houston past the second round in the playoffs. Eventually the Rocket commenced their rebuild, trading away Russell Westbrook, and later James Harden. They sent Covington to Portland in exchange for the first-round pick that eventually became Usman Garuba, a 19-year-old prospect with elite defensive potential who has already had success on the international level. Considering the Rockets would have eventually had to get rid of Capela to rebuild anyway and the pick they included in the deal ended up being No. 22, Garuba isn’t a bad chip to be holding when all’s said and done.
New Minnesota grade: A+
The Wolves gave up Covington and took on the remainder of Turner’s salary, and in exchange they got their current starting power forward (Vanderbilt), their sixth man (Beasley) and perhaps their best defensive player (McDaniels), who happens to be 21 years old. They also ended up getting Rubio in exchange for the Nets pick they received in this deal, and eventually flipped him for Taurean Prince and a second-round pick. Overall, the Wolves couldn’t have asked for much more from this trade.
New Denver grade: B
Not much has changed for the Nuggets in terms of this trade. As expected, none of Napier, Vonleh, Bates-Diop and Green made a significant long-term imprint on the roster. The Rockets first-rounder they received turned into Zeke Nnaji, who has already developed into a rotation big with solid potential on both ends, but he’s about what you’d expect to get at No. 22.