It was a wild trade-deadline week across the NBA, but most of the major win-now additions were made by Eastern Conference clubs. The Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors all completed significant trades at the deadline, while Western Conference contenders like the Warriors, Thunder, Nuggets, Jazz, and Spurs didn’t make a single move.
The result? A four-team group of East contenders looks even more dangerous than it did a week ago, creating the potential for a tantalizing pair of matchups in the Eastern Conference Semifinals this spring.
The Bucks were already the conference’s No. 1 team heading into this week and they added Nikola Mirotic without sacrificing a rotation player or a first-round pick. A sharpshooting power forward who can spread the floor and hold his own on the glass, Mirotic should fit right into Mike Budenholzer‘s system, which has allowed Brook Lopez to thrive this season.
The No. 2 team in the East, the Raptors, responded to Milwaukee’s move by making a deal for former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. While Gasol is 34 and may not be as dynamic a player as he once was, Toronto won’t ask him to do as much as Memphis did, and he figures to be an upgrade on Jonas Valanciunas, given his shooting and passing ability. The Raptors gave up some depth pieces in Delon Wright and C.J. Miles, but neither of those players was likely to be a difference maker in a playoff series.
The Sixers, meanwhile, made the splashiest move of any of the East’s top contenders, acquiring Tobias Harris from the Clippers in a trade that involved six players and multiple first-round picks. Harris had been enjoying the best year of his career in Los Angeles, and his shooting ability (.496/.434/.877) should be a great fit for a Sixers lineup that has struggled to spread the floor, despite J.J. Redick‘s best efforts. Philadelphia also acquired James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons in minor deals, adding depth on the wing.
As for the Celtics, their deadline was quiet, but they were the Eastern Conference favorites coming into the season and remain confident that they have the pieces necessary to make a run to the Finals. Boston has gone 25-10 since getting off to a slow 10-10 start, and has won 10 of its last 12 games as the team starts to get comfortable with its rotation.
What do you think? Which of these four teams do you believe will come out of the East this spring? Or do you think there’s a dark horse out there capable of making an unlikely run to the Finals?
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