Biggest Questions After the NBA Trade Deadline

This year's trade deadline won't exactly go down as the most exciting period of player movement. With the salary cap explosion of a half-decade ago now leveling out for the foreseeable future and coming out of a summer of 2019 where it felt like half the league's players were free agents or changed teams, this trade deadline was never going to compare to the wild nature of some recent past years.

There were still some pretty significant moves, however, and ones that will undoubtedly affect playoff seedings and the crowning of a champion in the spring.

Here are four of the league's biggest questions as we look towards the last two months of the regular season and playoffs.

1. Is Miami now the top threat to Milwaukee in the East?

Andre Iguodala had to end up somewhere, right? The rumors of him sitting out the entire season after Memphis refused to buy his contract out always felt like smoke and mirrors.

Now Iguodala heads to Miami in one of the trade season's biggest surprises. Since Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia didn't make as significant a move, it has to be asked if Miami jumped to second in line in the East pecking order.

And I don't think they did.

We do remember that Iguodala wasn't exactly at his peak the last two seasons he was with the Warriors juggernaut, right? Now, he'll be healthy from having not played in eight months, but it takes time to get up to game speed, even for someone with 1,200+ games of experience.

However, the trade unquestionably gave Miami a lot more salary cap flexibility going forward, as the Heat were able to dump the bad contracts of James Johnson and Dion Waiters on the Grizzlies. But that's not relevant to this year and, in my opinion, Boston and Toronto have better playoff rotations ready to go to challenge the Bucks.

2. Is anything stopping an all-Staples Center West Finals?

Utah and Denver have played fantastic basketball in stretches, but it's becoming more and more likely that the Staples Center will host NBA Finals games in June.

The Lakers have been the class of the West all season long. They didn't improve at the deadline, probably because they didn't want to trade Kyle Kuzma. They've also had some shaky performances of late, but it's hard to imagine LeBron James and Anthony Davis losing before the Conference Finals with the top seed (which is not a given as I write on Feb. 8) and home-court advantage for at least two rounds (which is more of a given).

The Clippers, on the other hand, did improve by acquiring Marcus Morris from the Knicks. By effectively bringing Morris in for Mo Harkless, the Clips made a big upgrade at a spot that will be key in their playoff rotation. I would go so far as to say that it makes the Clippers the West favorite above the Lakers.

So, what team could possibly stop the collision course in late May for the conference title? The Nuggets are in third, but don't have a second star to take the load off Nikola Jokic, didn't make a significant move at the deadline and don't have a backcourt to inspire a lot of confidence currently.

The Jazz feasted on a pretty favorable schedule most of December and January but have been shakier since Mike Conley's return. Utah's size, defense and a more mature Donovan Mitchell make the team a bigger playoff threat than Denver in my mind, but there's still an L.A.-sized gap between 2 and 3.

The Rockets (for reasons we'll discuss shortly) are a complete wild card, and Dallas and Oklahoma City don't have the horses to win two playoff rounds.

3. Is the Rockets' new supercharged small ball plan crazy enough to work?

Center? What center? The Rockets, by trading away Clint Capela and netting Robert Covington in a three-way deal before the deadline, have now become the NBA's super-small ball test case. I don't think it's an exaggeration at all to say that we've never seen these types of lineups in the modern NBA from a team with title aspirations.

And the memes on Twitter and Instagram came thick and fast afterwards. P.J. Tucker playing the five at 6-foot-5 for 40 minutes a night? In a conference with possible playoff matchups against bigs like Davis, Jokic, Montrezl Harrell, Kristaps Porzingis, and Rudy Gobert? What the hell is Daryl Morey thinking?

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to being vaporized in the paint by big men: Houston beat the Lakers at Staples on Thursday in Covington's first game, played impressive defense, had great spacing on offense, and looked more like a team that knows how to pass than the kings of hero ball. And this signature win came as James Harden went 3-for-10 from the floor.

I still have my doubts. After all, despite all the changes in the league over the last 10 years, you still need to protect the rim, and players shoot their highest percentages in the restricted area. In the familiarity of a seven-game series in the playoffs, there's going to be a team that will find a way to get to the tin against the Rockets defense.

But the other way certainly wasn't working for Houston, either. Small ball might at least get them into the second round and cause a headache for the Lakers or Clippers.

4. How does Andrew Wiggins work in Golden State?

In most years, a deadline day trade between the worst two teams in the West wouldn't have been particularly significant, but nothing about the Warriors' 2019-20 season has been to plan, either.

Now, the most successful team of the last decade has Andrew Wiggins, perhaps the most disappointing player of the past 10 years. Maybe being around future Hall of Famers like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will rub off on Wiggins. But it's a bit hard to see how that happens. The hallmarks of the Canadian's career to this point have been inefficient volume shooting and bad defense, which are just about the antitheses of what the Warriors do. And then there's the fact that his contract might be the worst in the sport.

No matter what, though, he'll be the fourth most important player on the team next year, which is a far cry from being second most important on a team with limited historical success.

On the other end of the deal, it's hard to imagine a better outcome for Minnesota. Not only did they get a former all-star guard to run high pick and roll with Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves got off of Wiggins' money and only had to attach one first-round pick to it. It's tough to see an immediate path to contention within the next 12-18 months, but things look a lot better than they did a week ago.

This NBA trade deadline certainly wasn't the flashiest or most exciting, but it did see several significant moves made by contenders and rebuilding teams alike.

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