2019 offseason trades
(Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Revisiting the NBA 2019 Offseason trades

We’re 6 weeks from the end of the NBA regular season, so it’s safe to say we can start to pass judgement on the majority of the off season transactions.

This week, we’ll look at the major trades that went down between seasons. Next week, we’ll look at the free agency additions.

Memphis received: Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, rights to Darius Bazley, 2020 1st round pick

Utah received: Mike Conley

The Jazz, as they were constructed, had reached the end of their journey. The defense first squad led by the Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors twin towers alignment was a juggernaut at one end of the court, but anemic at the other. Utah’s brains trust of Justin Zanek and Dennis Lindsey saw their team fall apart on offense against the Rockets in back to back playoff series defeats and knew they had to pivot.

In amongst other moves, Conley was brought in for veteran backup Jae Crowder, draft picks and depth players. The move was designed to give Utah an elite pick and roll ball handler to take control late in the game, who was capable of playing off ball to complement Donovan Mitchell. Whilst on the small side, Conley was also a surefooted on ball defender.

The move was met with near universal acclaim, with The Ringer’s Hayley O’Shaughnessy and ESPN’s Zach Lowe amongst many proclaiming the Jazz as Finals contenders without even a preseason game having been played.

Conley started the season proper in an almighty slump – 3 of 20 from the floor over his first 4 games. He also failed to click with Rudy Gobert, who for sure rolls to the bucket at a different cadence to his former buddy Marc Gasol. Conley’s addition also moved Joe Ingles to the bench. Without an elite roll man to open up the lane for his crafty passing and finishing, Ingles’ production plummeted. In short, Conley threw out the whole equilibrium of the team. It was no coincidence that the team (and Ingles especially) went on a tear with Conley injured.

Since his return, Conley has certainly played to a standard much closer to his Memphis best. However, Coach Quinn Snyder has struggled to find the right pieces to put around him.

The Jazz are flat-lining. If they’re to make any noise in the playoffs the team needs to get Conley up to speed as well as finding a way for the point guard and their existing pieces to dovetail.

As far as Memphis is concerned, the trade comes down to the upcoming draft pick, Brandon Clarke (brought in for Bazley) and Justice Winslow (brought in for Crowder). If any of those players turn in to solid starters, then (assuming Conley’s form doesn’t improve) the trade is a win for Memphis. Three bites at the apple mean that this trade could be a long term steal for the Grizz.

Miami received: Jimmy Butler, Myers Leonard

Philadelphia received: Josh Richardson

LA Clippers received: Mo Harkless, 2023 1st round Pick (via Miami)

Portland received: Hassan Whiteside

How quickly we forget, but the rarely seen 4 team mega deal at the deadline isn’t even the only 4 teamer this season.

At the time, this deal seemed to have something for everyone whilst also posing some serious questions. That has proven to be the case, but in ways we hadn’t anticipated.

Miami were without doubt getting the best player in the deal, but how would Butler’s manic personality and lack of shooting fit in Miami? How would the Heat cope without Richardson’s ability from deep? Was Bam Adebayo capable of being a starting centre?

Fair to say it’s all worked out. Butler’s personality is perfect for the Heat DNA – he’s relentless and his coach loves him. The emergence of Kendrick Nunn and Spurs wet dream Duncan Robinson has more than covered for Richardson’s shooting, whilst Butler has taken over his playmaking duties. Adebayo isn’t ready to be a full time centre of defence, so the re-emergence of Myers Leonard to bang bodies at one end and space the floor at the other has been low key vital for Miami. It appears that literally everything else Bam touches turns to gold.

For Portland, Hassan Whiteside has been great, giving them a physical presence as they await the return of sharp dressed man Jusuf Nurkic, although Mo Harkless was missed once Rodney Hood went down with an Achilles.

The Clippers gave up nothing of note and got a 1st rounder for their trouble – they’re happy to get a pick after giving up every other pick for all eternity to bring in Paul George.

The Sixers picked up a very good young complimentary piece in Richardson for the price of Jimmy Butler. Whilst his ability to close a game has been missed, would Simmons and Embiid have been able to grow with the overbearing Butler in their grills every day?

Despite the Sixers struggles, this trade remains a win for all involved.

Milwaukee received: 2020 1st round pick, 2021 2nd round pick, 2025 2nd round pick

Indiana received: Malcolm Brogdon

Let’s make this fairly short and sweet: the Pacers are over the moon with this trade. Brogdon has gone from a wonderful role player to a borderline All Star in his first go around in Indiana. Averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 assists per game, Brogdon and newly anointed All Star Domantas Sabonis have kept the Pacers in contention at the top of the conference whilst Victor Oladipo returned to health. This is a no brainer – it’s a win for Indiana.

All is not lost for Milwaukee, however. The 2020 pick will likely fall in the late teens, where value can be had. The Bucks have traditionally found value in the 2nd round. In the past 20 years – a long sample size – they’ve drafted: Michael Redd, Flip Murray, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jodie Meeks, Jon Leuer and Norman Powell in the 2nd round. They also traded for a young former 2nd rounder in Khris Middleton and that seemed to work out pretty well.

San Antonio received: DeMarre Carroll

Washington received: Davis Bertans

Brooklyn received: Draft rights to Aaron White (!) and Nemanja Dangubic (!!)

The Spurs have already waived Carroll. It didn’t go well for them.

Brooklyn got out from under Carroll’s salary for the ‘rights’ to a pair of players that I may have just made up. They’re happy.

Washington have perhaps the best sniper in the league (non injured Warrior division). Bertans has averaged 3.6 makes from deep at 42.4% for a depleted but incredibly fun Wizards squad. He’s an expiring contract, but the team steadfastly refunded to entertain deals for the Latvian, suggesting they’re more than happy to pay him in the off season. This trade is all sorts of thievery for Washington.

Boston received: Kemba Walker, 2020 2nd round pick

Charlotte received: Terry Rozier, 2020 2nd round pick

This is a weird transaction. At the time, it was seen as yet another Danny Ainge orchestrated robbery, yet it has to be acknowledged that the oft maligned Rozier has been really good for Charlotte. Head to head, the stats are surprisingly close:

Kemba vs Rozier
Kemba Vs Rozier

Records matter, and Walker holds a huge edge, here. Of course, while the Celtics are playing winning basketball, pushing for top honours in the conference, Rozier is a part of a rebuilding effort in Charlotte – it’s not really fair to hold that against Rozier.

Despite the relative parity in production, no reasonable observer could conclude that Kemba isn’t a far superior player. Walker was brought in to raise the Celtics playoff ceiling. With the ascendancy of Jayson Tatum, Walker can now slide comfortably into his natural role: the #2 option on a contender. In Charlotte, Rozier gives the Hornets a young piece to build with.

This was supposed to be a steal, but I think that both teams will be happy with their handiwork.

Los Angeles Lakers received: Anthony Davis

New Orleans received: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, 2021 and 2024 1st round pick, 2023 1st round pick swap.

This is the quintessential win-win trade. The Lakers, being on LeBron time, needed to find The King an elite running mate. Unfortunately, years of ineptitude meant they were stocked with a series of high draft picks that had yet to actualise their potential. New Orleans had a want-away superstar in his prime, but – Jrue Holiday aside – little to no support around him. The clubs put 2 and 2 together and came up with a trade that suited the other perfectly.

The Lakers got their superstar. Anthony Davis is arguably the most talented teammate LeBron has ever had (I’ll still plump for Dwyane Wade, but it is at least debatable). The marriage has worked, with the Lakers storming to the best record in the Western Conference.

Despite a shockingly slow start due to a slew of injuries and an inevitable bedding in period after turning over 75% of their roster, the Pellies are coming home with a raging gale behind them. The pieces they’ve received from Los Angeles have slotted in wonderfully. Brandon Ingram has blossomed into an All Star. Lonzo ball is shooting the ball better than ever, and continues to play excellent defense. His passing remains elite. Josh Hart is the perfect junk yard dog off the bench. And that’s before we even acknowledge that there are draft picks to come.

No matter what way you slice it, both teams are very satisfied with the outcome, even if the process left a bitter taste in a lot of mouths.

It’s looking increasingly likely that New Orleans can steal the 8th seed. As much as I love the Grizz and what they’re building, I’m so desperate to see a Lakers vs Pelicans 1st round match up.

LA Clippers received: Paul George

Oklahoma City Thunder received: (deep breath) Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 2021 and 2023 1st round picks (via Miami), 2022, 2024 and 2026 1st round picks (via Clippers), 1st round pick swaps in 2023 and 2025 (via Clippers)….and exhale.

It’s like the Clippers were Oprah Winfrey for a day: ‘YOU HAVE A DRAFT PICK! AND YOU HAVE A DRAFT PICK! AND YOU HAVE A DRAFT PICK!’……and the audience was made up entirely of Sam Presti’s.

That’s the price of doing business when Kawhi Leonard is at stake. As you likely know, Kawhi’s condition to signing with LA was that they get him another star and his nomination was fellow SoCal native Paul George. Presti knew that, and played his hand perfectly.

Gallo was supposed to be a rental; brought in to be traded to a playoff contender come February. The plan was to build around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and all of the the 6’7” uber athlete’s with shaky jumps shots that Presti would inevitably draft. What wasn’t expected, was for the team to be competitive right away. To be fair, a large part of that is due to a man we’ll mention in the next section, but Gallo and SGA have become integral to Thunder’s run to a potential top 4 seed.

From the Clippers point of view, they’ll say public ally that nothing matters until the post season and that’s where Playoff P will have the greatest influence (unless he’s matched up with Joe Ingles). And the Clippers would be absolutely correct. Privately however, they can’t be totally pleased with what they’ve gotten out of George thus far.

Exuding his broken leg season of 2015, Paul is scoring less than he has since his age 22 season, his rebounding, assists and steals numbers are hovering around their lowest levels since his rookie campaign. Injuries (23 games missed so far) haven’t helped. PG’s campaign has been stop/start and that hasn’t aided his acclimatisation into a Clippers ecosystem that hasn’t quite found it’s balance.

Still, whatever concerns exist right now, a strong playoff run on both a personal and team level will cure all ills.

After that trade, I can imagine Sam Presti standing on a mountain of 1st round draft picks, muttering to himself: ‘Y’know…..it’s still not enough’. Which leads us to….

Houston received: Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City received: Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 1st round picks, 2021 and 2025 1st round pick swaps.

Doing the right thing at the wrong moment, is doing the wrong thing.

In trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, Rockets GM Daryl Morey did the right thing. His team needed an edge; a point of difference for those moments when James Harden was stifled and his teammates went cold. Westbrook is nothing if not an edge. Even though Harden and Westbrook are tight (Harden and CP3, not so much), Morey didn’t have the team to best accommodate Westbrook’s particular gifts. In trading Clint Capela and going all in on a 5-out offense, Morey belatedly improved his team. That doesn’t hide the fact that the Westbrook for Paul trade was doing the right thing at the wrong time.

For Sam Presti, he had a franchise icon that had read the rebuilding tea leaves and quietly asked the team to explore trade options. In getting Chris Paul, Presti acquired a superior player to the man he was letting go (Paul’s age and contract can’t be ignored. What makes up for those tertiary factors, is the hatful of picks Morey threw in). CP3 has undoubted been the catalyst in making the Thunder a fringe contender. His presence has allowed Oklahoma City to win the present of this trade, as well as the future.

Sam Presti did the right thing, at exactly the right time.