Breaking Down the Biggest Deals from the NBA Trade Deadline: Part 1

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Portland Trailblazer guard Norman Powell, Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon

After a rather slow few days leading up to the NBA trade deadline, teams got the trade bug on deadline day. The trades started at 8 AM PST, with center Nikola Vucevic traded to the Chicago Bulls, and will continue for the next few days as the trades become official and players begin to join their new teams. Here are the breakdowns and team-by-team analysis from some of the biggest deals that went down before the NBA trade deadline.

*All stats accurate as of March 25th, Contract values via Spotrac

Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) drives past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the fourth quarter of a game at Amway Center.
Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Bulls Receive: C Nikola Vucevic, F Al-Farouq Aminu

Magic Receive: C Wendell Carter Jr., F Otto Porter, 2021 First-Round Pick (Top-4 Protected), 2023 First Round Pick

The first NBA trade deadline deal of the day may have been the most impactful of the bunch. In what would quickly become a firesale for the Orlando Magic, the team flipped Vucevic for a solid young player in Wendall Carter and two valuable first-round picks.

One of the most underrated players in the league, Vucevic, was named an All-Star this season for just the second time in his career. The Magic’s constant mediocrity has overshadowed his versatility on the offensive end. Vucevic is one of just four players to average 24 points and 10 rebounds this season. The other three players are Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.

The most valuable part about Vucevics’ game is his perimeter shooting. For his first six seasons in the league, Vucevic was a non-factor from beyond the arc. However, since the 2018-19 season, Vucevic has attempted 808 threes, burying 299 for a 37% clip. This season, Vucevic is converting nearly 40% of his perimeter shots on over six attempts per game. His ability to stretch the floor is one of the best traits in his game.

What This Deal Means For the Bulls

As mentioned above, there is a lot to like about Vucevic if you are the Bulls. Star guard Zach Lavine now has an elite pick and roll partner who can space the floor for him. Vucevic ranks 4th in points per possession as the pick and roll man (minimum 4 possessions per game). A lineup of Vucevic, Lavine, Lauri Markennan, Patrick Williams, and Garrett Temple gives the Bulls the ability to play 5-out. This will work wonders for Lavine, who will now have ample room to operate in the paint.

Aminu is a rotation player at best. The league veteran has stepped in and played meaningful minutes for the Magic in the last two months after Orlandos’ rash of injuries. On a modest contract that pays him $9.7 million and $10.2 in the next few years, he will provide good veteran leadership for a relatively young Bulls team. However, rookie Patrick Williams will likely remain as the Bulls’ current and future small forward.

What This Deal Means for the Magic

With a look at Orlando’s other moves today, it isn’t hard to see what the Magic are doing. After years of being the 8th seed and getting knocked out in the first round, the team needed a complete reset. The assets and players received in the deal were a step in the right direction.

Wendell Carter Jr. is simultaneously the biggest asset in the deal and the biggest wildcard. At just 21 years old, Carter Jr. was the 7th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, his first few years in the league have been a struggle health-wise. Carter has yet to play over 50 games in a season as he has dealt with thumb, ankle, and quad injuries. With the being said, when he is on the court, he has been a versatile, two-way big man.

Carter Jr. ranks inside the top-15 in the NBA in post-up points per possession. He has no real jump shot but is a presence in and around the basket. His defense leaves something to be desired but still has a lot of potential given his size and athleticism.

The Bulls included Porter Jr. in the deal to match salary. The Magic now owes him $28 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent in the 2021 offseason. The two first-round picks will almost certainly convey despite the top-4 protection on the 2021 pick. With Vucevic expected to push the Bulls to the next level, both picks will likely fall in the 15-20 range.

Norman Powell Traded to the Portland Trailblazers

Toronto Raptors forward Norman Powell (24) drives to the basket against the Utah Jazz during the third quarter at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blazers Receive: SG Norman Powell

Raptors Receive: SG Gary Trent, SF Rodney Hood

The second NBA trade deadline deal is Norman Powell. This was a curious move from both teams, as it doesn’t significantly improve either team. Powell is having a career year and, with the Blazers trying to maximize their potential with Lillard and McCollum in their primes, they jumped on the opportunity to get Powell.

Since the Raptors drafted Powell in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, Powell has been a mediocre role player at best. He averaged just 7.1 points per game. In his first four seasons, and shot a below-average 34.5% from beyond the arc. However, Powell has found his rhythm in these last two years and has developed into one of the game’s best sharpshooters.

In his last two seasons, Powell has attempted more threes than his previous three years combined. Not only is he shooting more often, but he is also hitting at a higher clip. Over the last two seasons, Powell is shooting 41.9% from beyond the arc on 5.8 attempts per game. He excels on corner threes, hitting at well above the league average from both sides.

What This Deal Means For the Blazers

The Blazers have made it very clear that this is the year for them to make a run at the championship. From the offseason additions of Robert Covington and Derrick Jones to Powell’s aggressive trade, Portland is selling out.

Powell is an interesting fit in the team compared to Gary Trent Jr. Powell is listed at 6’3 and 215 pounds compared to Trent’s 6’5, 209 pounds frame. While both are undersized to guard wing players, Trent’s slight height advantage and overall tenacity meant that the Blazers could play him in a lineup next to Lillard and McCollum. Given Powell’s size, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which he, McCollum, and Lillard are all on the floor simultaneously and not exposed defensively.

Powell is under contract for the next two seasons with a player option for $11 million after this year. He will likely decline that and look for a long-term deal with higher annual pay. It will be interesting to see how Trents’ and Powells’ next contract compares, given both players will be up for extension in the next year.

What This Deal Means for the Raptors

This was an interesting move from the Raptors but not necessarily a bad one. Trent and Powell are very similar players, with defense and frame being their primary difference.

Toronto must believe that Trent would command less on his next contract than Powell. Trent is younger and averaging fewer points per game but is shooting at a similar clip from three (39.7%). He will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Raptors will see what he is offered on the open market and decide from there.

Rodney Hood is essentially dead weight in this deal. Since his season-ending Achilles injury a year ago, Hood has struggled to regain his form. He is averaging a career-low in points and has the worst shooting splits of his career. His next season’s salary is non-guaranteed, and the Raptors are unlikely to retain him once he hits free agency the following year.

Aaron Gordon Traded to the Denver Nuggets

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) dribbles during the fourth quarter of a game between the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic at Amway Center.
Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Nuggets Receive: PF Aaron Gordon, F Gary Clark

Magic Receive: SG Gary Harris, PG R.J Hampton, 2025 1st round pick (Top-5 protected, conveys to 2026 and 2027 with same protection)

The third NBA trade deadline deal is Aaron Gordon. This deal is the rich getting richer. Denver continues to load up in their quest to make it out of the Western Conference. Despite being rumored with a move to the Celtics, Gordons’ fit with the Nuggets works as well.

Gordon fills a need on both sides of the ball, a gap left by Jerami Grant’s departure in the offseason. Similar to Powell, Gordon has long been a non-factor from the perimeter, as he is a career 32.3% shooter from the outside. However, this year, he has stepped up with more efficiency on higher volume. Fordon is shooting 37.5%f from three on 4.5 attempts per game. With Paul Millsap being a more traditional, back-to-the-basket player, the Nuggets will rotate Gordon and Millsap based on the opposing teams’ personnel.

Gordon can also step in and match up with the opposing team’s most athletic wing. With good size at 6’8 and stellar athleticism, he perfectly fits what Denver needs on the defensive end.

What This Deal Means for the Nuggets

The Nuggets are making a run at the championship and will do anything to get there. Gordon is a major upgrade, no matter how the Nuggets use him. Denver’s depth at forward with Gordon, Millsap, Will Barton, and Michael Porter Jr. is a fantastic rotation. Losing Harris is also a positive, as he has failed to live up to the large contract he signed in 2017.

Losing Hampton hurts for the future, but clearly, that is not a concern for the Nuggets right now. Especially with the emergence of Facundo Campazzo as their backup point guard, the Nuggets could not afford to wait for Hampton to develop as a player.

What This Deal Means for the Magic

This deal yielded less return than the Vucevic deal by a large margin. However, with Gordon recently requesting a trade, the Magic had little leverage and did a good job maximizing their return.

The agreement to bring in two backcourt players as the centerpiece of the deal is curious. With Harris, the Magic get a defensive specialist but limited offensive ability. Harris will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022, and he has a lot to prove to the Magic before then.

Acquiring Hampton is also curious, given the Magics’ current depth chart at point guard. Next season, the team will have Markelle Fultz (returning from ACL injury), Cole Anthony (returning from a rib injury), and Hampton. It is possible to play two of them in a lineup at once, but then where does Harris fit in? The Magic will have some decisions to make surrounding their backcourt in the next few months ahead.

The first-round pick likely won’t convey in 2028, with the top-5 protection lasting three years after the pick becomes viable. While that is a ways off, a first-round pick is a first-round pick. With the pick not conveying for a good seven years, the Magic may have a valuable asset on their hands when we arrive at the draft.

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