The NBA trade deadline finished with a flurry of activity this year. Once the smoke cleared last Friday, the league’s complexion had drastically changed. The 2021 league championship race looks much different now.
Which club improved their chances the greatest? Here is a rundown of major moves made by the NBA’s current title contenders. In addition, how they could impact the playoffs.
Brooklyn Nets (33-15, 1st East)
Brooklyn added skilled stretch four LaMarcus Aldridge following his recent split with San Antonio. He joins ex-Clippers star Blake Griffin in the Nets’ newly revamped front court. Aldridge’s game has surely slipped at age 35, except from long distance. Still he can be a defensive presence down by the basket, adding both size and smarts. Superstar Kevin Durant is expected to return soon from a lingering hamstring injury. Does head coach Steve Nash put it all together at playoff time?
Denver Nuggets (29-18. 5th West)
Denver likely did the best in addressing its most pressing needs. The Nuggets greatly enhanced an already good supporting cast. They acquired dynamic forward Aaron Gordon, a multi-faceted threat in his athletic prime. Also rim protector JaVale McGee, surrendering two second round picks in the process. Each brings a new dimension to Denver’s defense. The Nuggets are in a far better position today to hunt for gold. Add MVP hopeful in the middle Nikola Jokic along with electric lead guard Jamal Murray, they appear locked and loaded.
Los Angeles Lakers (30-18, 4th West)
The defending champs are limping toward the finish line. Leader LeBron James may miss up to six weeks after he sustained a high right ankle sprain vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Plus Lakers’ star Anthony Davis remains on the shelf as well. Davis suffered a calf strain and aggravated the Achilles tendinosis in his right leg back in February. No official return date has been set. Meanwhile they drop to fourth seed in the Western Conference. On a positive note, Los Angeles inked low post anchor Andre Drummond, who received a buyout of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Will they be ready to go next month?
And smallest ones
Los Angeles Clippers (32-17, 3rd West)
L.A. rolled the dice on well-traveled point guard Rajon Rondo. The Clippers landed him in exchange for scorer Lou Williams and a pair of future number two picks. That move really doesn’t address the question of team rebounding. Big man Serge Ibaka remains out, unavailable since mid-March. Could he make a difference? Clippers’ boss Tyronn Lue must get more in that column.
Milwaukee Bucks (30-17, 3rd East)
The Bucks scored swingman P.J. Tucker from Houston. Milwaukee hopes Tucker can help get them over the hump and advance to the NBA finals. As the competition only gets stiffer. Is this year’s roster enough to win?
Philadelphia 76ers (32-15, 2nd East)
Philly picked up veteran guard George Hill in a three way deal. The Sixers have struggled without franchise center piece Joel Embiid. As Embiid is reportedly recovering after a bone bruise on his left knee. Hill is currently sidelined as a result of surgery on his right thumb. Though should provide the Sixers with depth and some play making abilities.
Who wins the Larry O’Brien trophy?