This NBA season has not been great. For one thing, big chunks of it were shredded by COVID-19. Players seem exhausted and ornery. Basically one team has been both healthy and non-neurotic all season, and that plus some solid pick-and-roll defense has been good for an .815 win percentage. Just about every team in the Eastern Conference has now occupied the top seed long enough for their fans to feel duped and devastated when they settle back into familiar mediocrity. Somehow the All-Star break has not yet happened, despite the season feeling as though it commenced one million years ago. A shake-up of some sort is urgently required.
The NBA’s trade deadline arrives this very afternoon, at 3:00 p.m. ET. This should provide the drama needed to juice-up what’s left of the regular season, but unfortunately all the good teams are so far refusing to do big moves. Possibly this is because the NBA’s new play-in round has made it harder to separate the league into distinct Good and Bad tiers, and thus into Buyers and Sellers. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reported Wednesday that the eternally foundering Washington Wizards, fresh off of news that their only genuinely good player will miss the rest of the season due to injury, intend to continue pursuing in earnest a shot at play-in glory. The Sacramento Kings, 14 games below .500 and just four games ahead of the very bottom of the Western Conference, just dealt away their most exciting young player in a dubious win-now trade, banking that the second-best big-man on a miserable 19-win Pacers team will help them climb the conference standings. On the one hand, it’s cool that a trade happened! On the other hand, this pretty clearly demonstrates the level of derangement afflicting the teams occupying the league’s bottom rungs right now, who for better or worse would traditionally be shopping their useful veterans and invigorating the trade market.
This will not do. We’ve gotta see some trades. The clock is ticking. Ben Simmons must finally be dealt, so that fans can be reminded of his genuinely sublime suite of non-scoring basketball skills, and of how hilariously unimportant those skills become in the playoffs when you grade out as an F in all scoring areas. James Harden must be dealt, so that the 76ers and Nets can face off in the playoffs with betrayal and hurt feelings as additional motivation. Russell Westbrook must be released from the hell of disappointing LeBron James in a trade for, why not, John Wall. Surely the Knicks must improve their backcourt by acquiring someone like Eric Gordon or Malcolm Brogdon, someone who will make them just good enough to get absolutely nuked in a playoff series. The resurgent Celtics must fortify for a deep playoff run by pushing all their draft assets forward in a trade for Kyle Kuzma. Simply do not tell me that Jerami Grant is not worth an intense and costly bidding war between the West’s four through seven seeds.
The Bucks might be the only team in the East that can feel particularly good about their chance of winning a title, and they’re still hoping that Brook Lopez maybe will return by the end of the regular season. Do a trade! Thomas Bryant is right there for the taking; if you squint so hard that your eyes shut and you fall asleep and slip into a strange dream, Bryant is not so different from Lopez. The Bulls haven’t been the same defensively since Grayson Allen wiped out Alex Caruso and broke his wrist. Gary Harris can be had for a song! The Raptors are flying up the standings. Wouldn’t Myles Turner make them an immediate conference finals favorite? I am quite literally just looking at the standings and then searching “[bad team] roster” in my browser, and look how I have already spiced up the stretch run. Wow!
The trade deadline is perfectly placed so that a stagnating NBA regular season is refreshed just in time for the sprint to the finish line. However tense the play-in games were last season, it would suck big time if giving an extra game to the ninth and tenth best teams in each conference confused the landscape and sucked some of the drama out of the annual mid-season shuffling of rosters. We need some big honkin’ trades! Please, let us have a few big trades.