• I’m sure you’ve all had your fill of the trade deadline winners and losers, but what about the teams who did nothing at all? There were a few rumors that had been cycled through media reports en masse that ultimately lead to nothing. What are the ramifications of some of those non-moves?

    The first and biggest one is obviously Kevin Love staying in Cleveland. The big man was vocal both in how he spoke and in his body language on the court, about his discontent with Cleveland’s direction. While most predicted that this would lead to Cleveland giving up on him and seeing what little they could trade him for, the Cavs swung the other way and beefed up their front court by swinging a deal for fellow trade-block big man Andre Drummond. Love’s days as a primary power forward have certainty dwindled as the NBA has gone smaller and smaller, but this move almost assures that he will be slotting back into that four spot for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen how this move will affect his attitude towards Cleveland’s rebuild moving forward.

    Another surprising non-move was the lack of action in Oklahoma City. Talks between them and the Miami Heat to send Danilo Gallinari to South Beach fell apart in the 11th hour, and OKC had no other pivots to turn to. Perhaps more surprising was that there was little to no action on Steven Adams in pretty much any way. The Celtics were rumored to be interested in making a play for him, but that never emerged as anything but a rumor. The Thunder wound up standing pat with their collection of journeymen and young dudes, a result that ultimately is fine considering they have every draft pick under the sun for the next 10 years. They now get to make a very realistic run to the postseason and will likely be a dreaded first round matchup for anyone who encounters them. RIP to those who were hoping Nerlens Noel would get a chance to shine as a starter. He’s still rolling as a mid-to-late round fantasy asset though.

    And then of course, The Los Angeles Lakers were relatively quiet as the deadline passed. They were in talks for Marcus Morris and perhaps a few unnamed others as well, but ultimately made no deals. Free agent guard Darren Collison was not so subtly caught on camera attending the Lakers game later that day with owner Jeanie Buss, so it seems likely that we’ll see something on that front materialize soon. 

    Adds of the Night

    Josh Hart, G/F, New Orleans Pelicans

    Hart has been stellar over his last 8 games, posting top-50 value and maintaining virtually the same role that he had before Zion Williamson made his debut. He could become even more appealing now that Brandon Ingram (right ankle sprain) could miss a few games here. He’s worth owning either way, and time is running out before he’s scooped up for good.

    Elfrid Payton, G, New York Knicks

    Payton has been cruising at standard league value for a while now, and the Knicks’ sole move of getting Marcus Morris out of New York and not bringing in another PG not only guarantees his role as a rest of season starter, but may even create a few more offensive opportunities for him. He’s a great guy to have for punt-FT teams.

    Drop Zone

    Danuel House, F, Houston Rockets

    House figures to see a decent reduction in opportunities now that Robert Covington is in the fold. That didn’t exactly happen tonight, but he figures to be the guy to lose the most once Covington starts seeing minutes in the mid-30’s. 

    Matisse Thybulle. G/F, Philadelphia 76ers

    Another loser post-trade deadline, Thybulle will likely lose enough minutes to newcomers Alec Burks and Glen Robinson III to sap him of most fantasy value. He’ll still have a role as a defensive juggernaut, but it’s hard to imagine him playing enough to do enough to warrant a roster spot in most league settings.

    Injury Report

    Brandon Ingram rolled his right ankle and was unable to return to New Orleans’ game against the Bulls. He should be re-evaluated later today.

    Anthony Davis (shoulder, finger) was able to play Thursday, and return from a brief finger injury in Thursday’s game against the Rockets

    Russell Westbrook (rest) played Thursday but will sit on Friday

    RJ Barrett (ankle) returned from a 9 game absence on Thursday

    Kemba Walker (knee) will play on a minutes limit on Friday while Jaylen Brown (ankle) Gordon Hayward (foot) and Daniel Theis (ankle) have all been ruled out for Friday’s game against the Hawks.

    Jimmy Butler (shoulder) is doubtful for Friday’s game. Tyler Herro (ankle) has been ruled out,

    Kristaps Porzingis (nose) is listed as questionable for Friday’s game

    Richaun Holmes (shoulder) is optimistic he can return to the court for Friday’s game.

    Victor Oladipo (rest) and T.J Warren (concussion) are considered questionable for Friday 

     

    Big Win for the Small Team

    The Houston Rockets inspired more conversation around their trade deadline decisions than perhaps any other team (save for, perhaps, the hapless Detroit Pistons). The decision to lean all the way into small-ball basketball was reminiscent of their open-armed acceptance of the 3-ball movement, and obviously still influenced by the latter. Darryl Morrey and Co. made the decision halfway through this season that they were not a team that could realistically contend for the championship in their current form, and opted to do something so against the grain that it would perhaps create as many advantages as it creates presumed disadvantages. 

    On Thursday night, we got to see the first real taste of what the Rockets were prepared to be after their Capela-for-Covington trade from a few days earlier, getting to go blow-to-blow with the Western Conference leading Lakers. The Lakers, specifically, were a team most brought up when trying to figure out how Houston could reasonably compete in ball games. LA plays exclusively big, with either JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard playing the majority of center minutes with equally large human Anthony Davis slotting in at PF. The initial returns were very encouraging from Houston’s perspective.

    The Rockets won the game 121-111, and they did so by forcing the Lakers to adapt to their style of basketball. The Rockets ran with guys under 6’7 all game long, each player aside from Russell Westbrook capable of splashing at will from deep. The Lakers were taken out of their element, forced to limit McGee and Howard to a combined 20 minutes so they could defend Houston’s perimeter onslaught. This had a profound impact on the aforementioned Westbrook, who had crystal clear driving lanes all night long to do what he does best, slash and maneuver inside the 3-point arch to get whatever look he wants. New addition Robert Covington looked right at home as well, hitting four 3-pointers while playing invaluable defense in critical moments of the game. 

    Another interesting facet was how the Lakers tried to take advantage of Houston’s lack of interior defense,but were ultimately unsuccessful. There was a six minute stretch in the 4th quarter where the Lakers did nothing but pound it inside, hoping to score at will against the smaller P.J tucker and Robert Covington frontcourt. While LA was successful inside, The Rockets kept their foot on the gas, continuing their 3-point barrage, and ultimately setting themselves apart just enough to where the Lakers were unable to pull themselves back in in the closing minutes. I don’t bring this up to say that teams can’t score at will against Houston by playing in the post, the Lakers obviously can and did in this game. It does, however, represent a stark reminder at how much of a tactical advantage those three points are compared to the two you get in those plays. The Rockets will not stop shooting their shots, and if teams aren’t careful they could put themselves behind if they aren’t matching the deep-threat they will be bringing as you work your way inside on them. 

    All of this is to say, the first true iteration of the new look Rockets provided fascinating results to match the fascinating conversation that took place before this game, and they will surely be one of the more interesting teams to match up against as the season heads into it’s second half.

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