The 2021 NBA trade deadline has passed, and the league is still trying to catch its breath. With the introduction of the play-in tournament deciding the last two seeds in the postseason for each conference, more teams than ever saw the trade deadline as an opportunity to load up for a run this season. It led to one of the most active deadlines in recent memory.
All-Star center Nikola Vucevic was arguably the best player to get traded, going from the Orlando Magic to the Chicago Bulls for two first round picks and young center Wendell Carter Jr. The Bulls also acquired Troy Brown from the Washington Wizards for Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison.
The Vucevic deal was the first big trade of the day, but there were plenty of other notable names dealt. Aaron Gordon is going from the Magic to Denver Nuggets, Norman Powell is going from the Raptors to Portland Trail Blazers, and Evan Fournier is going to Boston Celtics.
We’re here to grade every deadline deal. Let’s get it.
Nikola Vucevic traded to the Chicago Bulls
Chicago gets: Nikola Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu
Orlando gets: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., Chicago’s first round picks in 2021 and 2023 (1-4 protected)
Bulls grade: B
The Bulls have a new front office led by Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, and this trade finally lets them put their fingerprints on the team. Vucevic is having the best season of his career at age 30, becoming an All-Star for the first time and blossoming into a 40 percent three-point shooter. Chicago already had one All-Star in place in Zach LaVine, and the two should complement each other well. Vucevic will provide some much needed interior scoring for Chicago while also spacing the floor. LaVine just got that much more dangerous in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations.
It’s a steep price to pay for a player who turns 31 years old in Oct., but the Bulls were able to get 1-4 protections on the draft picks and will expect them to be in the late teens or 20s moving forward.
Magic grade: A
The Magic had snuck into the bottom end of the playoffs the last two years until to get eliminated quickly once there. This season, Orlando has been one of the worst teams in the league from the very start, entering the trade deadline at 15-29 overall, the second worst record in the East. The move to trade Vucevic signals a total rebuild, and the Magic were able to cash in by getting two lightly protected first round picks from Chicago.
Carter, the No. 7 overall pick from the 2018 draft, remains an interesting prospect even after an underwhelming start to his career with the Bulls. The Magic add him to a rotation with Mo Bamba, the No. 5 overall pick from the same draft, at the center spot. This trade is mostly about the first round picks, and being able to get two of them from a Bulls team without a championship ceiling as presently constructed is a nice prize for Vucevic.
Aaron Gordon traded to Denver Nuggets
Denver gets: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
Orlando gets: Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a first-round pick
Nuggets grade: B+
The Nuggets wanted to add more athleticism to the front court and find a replacement for what they lost when Jerami Grant decided to sign with the Detroit Pistons in free agency. Gordon fills both of those needs. The 25-year-old forward never fully capitalized on his potential within a crowded Orlando front court, but his two-way versatility makes him a nice fit next to Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.
Gordon is under contract for one more season after this year. The Nuggets are hoping to capitalize on Nikola Jokic’s MVP season right now, and traded a future first plus their most recent first round draft pick in Hampton to get a deal done. The Nuggets won’t have a ton of flexibility left in remaking the team, but they think they have their big four pieces now in place.
Magic grade: B+
The Magic were tearing it down from the moment they traded Vucevic, so getting a first round pick and an intriguing young guard for Gordon makes for a nice return. Hampton is only 20 years old and has barely played this year, but he has nice size and an aggressive scoring mindset that could help him eventually develop into a rotation piece. The Magic will view Hampton as another lottery ticket to pair with Markelle Fultz in the backcourt long-term. It never hurts to add another first round pick, either, even if it’s expected to be in the mid-20s.
Evan Fournier traded to Boston Celtics
Boston gets: Evan Fournier
Orlando gets: Two second round picks
Celtics grade: B+
The Celtics were able to absorb Fournier into the trade exception they acquired in Gordon Hayward’s decision to join the Hornets. Boston badly needed another guard with shot-making ability, and to only send out two second round picks in this deal makes it a nice move.
There’s also the opportunity cost of the players the Celtics did not go after with their trade exception, most notably Myles Turner, who was rumored to be available this summer. The Celtics had to do something with that exception, and Fournier should bolster what has been a disappointing team ahead of the playoff run.
Magic grade: B
Orlando stocked up on all of the picks at the trade deadline. What’s see what the Magic can do with it.
Norman Powell traded to Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr.
Portland gets: Norman Powell
Toronto gets: Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood
Trail Blazers grade: B+
Powell is in the midst of a career-season and is set to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. The 27-year-old guard is is averaging 19.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from three-point range this year. Portland has always been looking for another dynamic shot-maker on the perimeter next to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and Powell can be that.
It’s a blow to lose Trent, who will be an unrestricted free agent next season and had turned himself into a nice player since his red-hot run in the bubble. Still, Trent didn’t fit as well next to the two Blazers’ stars in the backcourt, and Powell offers more immediate help for this year.
Raptors grade: A-
Toronto has bottomed out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture this year, and needs to reload with young talent. Trent Jr. is only 22 years old and is making 40 percent of his threes both this season and for his career. The Raptors will have to pay him in restricted free agency, but he gives the team a solid young shooter who can be part of their next good team.
George Hill traded to 76ers in three-team deal
Philadelphia gets: George Hill, Iggy Brazdeikis
Oklahoma City gets: Tony Bradley, Philly’s second round picks in 2025 and 2026, and Austin Rivers
Knicks get: Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier, 2021 2nd round pick from Philly
76ers grade: B+
The Sixers needed another guard who could shoot, defend, and handle the ball, and Hill still checks those boxes even at age 34. He’s played in a ton of big playoff games to this point in his career, and should add a stabilizing veteran presence to a Sixers backcourt that needed an infusion of talent.
Thunder grade: A
The Thunder had no use for Hill during their rebuild. Bradley, a former first round draft pick, had looked good in his minutes recently and could be a solid big for them over the next few years. The Thunder always love adding draft picks, and now they have two more second rounders. This seems like just about the best deal OKC could have gotten for Hill.