The winners and losers at the 2023 NBA trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline is almost always entertaining, and this year was no exception, with 28 teams making deals in the month leading up to Thursday’s cutoff. The NBA’s trade deadline certainly added some spice to an NBA season that was already so unpredictable.

It had everything, from league-altering blockbuster trades to marginal upgrades. Several teams that were heavily expected to make moves were instead static. The Lakers shuffled stuff around and tricked some people into thinking they got a lot better while approximately 4,500 second-round draft picks exchanged hands. What was expected to be a quiet NBA trade deadline was the most active in recent memory.

So as the dust settles on yet another busy deadline, it’ll be interesting to see where these teams’ title hopes are compared with the favorites, Boston Celtics, as we race toward the end of the season. With that said, here’s our look at some big winners and losers after the NBA trade deadline.

Phoenix Suns – Winner

If new owner Mat Ishiba was trying to make an immediate impact in Phoenix then he certainly succeeded with this move. In fact, I’m not sure there’s ever been a more obvious trade deadline winner in the history of the NBA than the Suns after acquiring Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets.

After the Kyrie Irving trade, Durant was faced with the prospect of being the lone superstar on a Nets team attempting to thread the needle between rebuilding and contention. Instead, he’s left that situation and now plays for a title favorite, and the team at the top of his list when he first requested a trade last summer. At 30-26, Phoenix has had a disappointing season, at least by their standards.

The Suns won 64 games last season and made a run to the finals the year before. While this might not have been the perfect time to make a huge acquisition, their front office saw an opportunity to contend in a wide-open Western Conference, and they took it, acquiring one the best players of our generation. With this move they turn from second-round hopefuls into full-blown title contenders.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Winner

D’Angelo Russell is a talented offensive player who occasionally tiptoes up to star-level production. But Russell is not a star, far removed from his one breakout season in Brooklyn where he actually made the All-Star team. Even during this ongoing career-best season, in all metrics that mark efficiency, he’s still a minus in pretty much every other way.

Seeing Russell moved at the deadline seemed inevitable, but the Wolves getting back a good return seemed extremely unlikely with D’lo having a downturn and in the last year of his contract. As Russell heads out the door, Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker come in and that’s a huge boost to this roster.

Minnesota got an arguably better player and inarguably better fit with the roster at point guard in Conley, along with a young prospect in Alexander-Walker to potentially take over the Wolves’ point guard mantle once Conley regresses out of that role. Nothing the Wolves do can redeem the Gobert trade, but it can still make the best out of a bad situation, and that’s what Minnesota did at this deadline.

10 Best NBA Coaches Of All Time: Who Are They?

Los Angeles Lakers – Winner

Aside from the Durant deal, the Lakers may have been the biggest winners of the deadline, acquiring D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba, and Rui Hachimura if you count him as a deadline addition. All this was done while only giving up one of LA’s tradeable first-round picks in 2027 and 2029.

Additionally, the one they did trade in 2027 is a top-four protected pick. The Lakers aren’t necessarily in a position to claim the title in large part due to the failure to land Irving, but they’re at least in a position to compete. LeBron has made it clear that he’s not interested in spending his waning NBA days on a bottom-dwelling team, and now with the record chase behind him he has a new set of teammates to attempt to climb the standings.

The Lakers’ business has ensured that their most valuable asset in James will be happy to stick around for a little while longer, and while the Celtics remain favourites  at +300 after the deadline according to betting sites listed here, boosting their prospects in the process from second-round fillers to conference finals contenders.

Toronto Raptors – Loser

Highly anticipated to be sellers, the Raptors instead traded a top-six protected first-round pick in 2024, along with two second-round picks for former Spurs’ Centre Jakob Poeltl. To be fair to the Raptors they desperately needed an interior presence on both ends, even if he isn’t the best fit next to Scottie Barnes.

Maybe this would have made more sense if Toronto were a title contender, but at 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 26-30 record, they’re not, and with this being the Raptors’ only move at the deadline, it doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon. To believe they can re-sign Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. this summer is a different matter.

The pair of backcourt starters have been in trade rumours for months and with an unrestricted free agency looming there are real concerns they could go elsewhere. Long story short, it was not a good trade deadline for the Raptors.

Chicago Bulls – Loser

With Brooklyn potentially dropping out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, perhaps the Bulls felt they could leave their roster as is and make a run after the All-Star break. Only time will tell, but there’s no debating they could have missed out on the opportunity to retool by dealing one or more of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

With that in mind, their inactivity feels like malpractice. There was reported interest in all three of them, along with guard Alex Caruso, but the Bulls decided to hold fire at the deadline. The Bulls feel like a middling organisation and this feels like a giant missed opportunity. They messed up by not bolstering their roster for the future before a deadline that was perfectly timed for them to do so.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports and Surprise Movies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here