Jordan Nwora

Atlantic Notes: Morris, Maxey, Embiid, Hartenstein, Celtics, Nwora

Marcus Morris, who has already been traded once this season, recognizes that his expiring $17.1MM expiring contract makes him a candidate to be dealt again by next Thursday, but the Sixers forward – and Philadelphia native – isn’t let his uncertain future faze him, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Honestly, to be real with you, like I’m a pro, man,” Morris said on Monday. “So I just go into it with the same (stuff), man, to keep my body the same, because regardless of where I go, I’m still going to be able to help the team win if I’m going somewhere.

“I just hoop. … It’s part of a business. I understand it. I’ve been around. So if I go into it and act, like, sorry for myself or feel like it should never happen or anything, I’m being naive to the game. Being here 13 years gets you prepared for (stuff) like this. I’ve been on seven different teams. I’ve been traded a few times. I would be naive to act like I’d been surprised to get traded.”

Morris has played regular minutes for the 76ers since being acquired from the Clippers in the James Harden trade, so the team would likely only move him in a deal that clearly improves the rotation. It’s unclear whether that sort of opportunity will arise at the trade deadline or whether the Sixers’ front office will have to wait into the offseason to pursue more serious upgrades.

“I’m not 100% sure,” Morris said. “This is my hometown. I love it here. I’m just not sure, but I’m prepared for it.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey (left ankle sprain) will miss a third consecutive game on Tuesday, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT. Star center Joel Embiid may also be out for a third straight contest — he’ll be a game-time decision in Golden State, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Every potential missed game looms large for Embiid and his awards eligibility.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein was in the Knicks‘ starting lineup on Saturday and Monday after missing two games with an Achilles issue, but only logged 32 total minutes in those games. According to Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link), Hartenstein is on a minutes limit, but could have played up to about 25 minutes on Monday — with New York up big, he only ended up playing 16.
  • The Celtics could benefit from adding one more big wing to their roster, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who considers which players around the NBA might be logical targets for the club. Naji Marshall, Saddiq Bey, and Thaddeus Young are among the players Forsberg mentions.
  • After playing in Milwaukee for his first two-and-a-half NBA seasons, Jordan Nwora has been traded in each of the past two winters. Part of Indiana’s package for Pascal Siakam, Nwora is hoping to stick in Toronto and is looking forward to the opportunity he has with the Raptors, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s a new situation, new opportunity, and in my head, I’m just going to just make the most of it,” he said.

Raptors Notes: Poeltl, Deadline Primer, Trade Tiers, Quickley

Raptors center Jakob Poeltl was able to go through portions of Wednesday’s practice but he still hasn’t been cleared for contact work, tweets Josh Lewenberg of Head coach Darko Rajakovic said Poeltl is working on his conditioning after being out since January 7 with a left ankle sprain, and the Austrian big man is considered day-to-day.

Toronto reacquired Poeltl last February, when the team sent out its 2024 first-round pick (top-six protected) to San Antonio. Poeltl, who has averaged 10.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.5 APG and 1.4 BPG in 36 games this season, re-signed with the Raptors on a four-year, $78MM deal last summer.

The roster looks a lot different now than it did last year, with veterans Fred VanVleet (signed with Houston in free agency), OG Anunoby (traded to New York) and Pascal Siakam (traded to Indiana) all on new teams. Poeltl said it was difficult to see Siakam go, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link).

“It was tough because he was the guy I was closest to on this team,” Poeltl said of Siakam. “… I guess I was mentally prepared for it a little bit already because there were so many rumors… but it’s still really sad for me to basically lose my best friend on the team.”

With Toronto now focused on developing its young players rather than competing for a playoff spot, Lewenberg asked Poeltl if the team’s change of direction made him question the decision to re-sign or ponder his future with the Raptors (Twitter link).

Not necessarily,” Poeltl said. “The only thing that was important to me is that I was on a team that could play competitive basketball. As long as it’s not a team that was really actively trying to tank, I guess, was the thing for me. Like, I want to play on a team that’s trying to win every night.

So, for me, even though had some changes and we lost some really good players, I think we’re still on a course where we’re trying to build around this team right now and were not hunting for a No. 1 draft pick, you know what I mean? So as long as that’s the case, I think I’m going to be happy here and I’m hoping to contribute to this new Raptors team, this new project that we’re starting.”

Here’s more on the Raptors, who are currently 16-28 after dropping seven of their past eight games:

  • On a related topic, Michael Grange of wonders if fans should be cheering for the Raptors to lose for the remainder of 2023/24 in order to keep their first-round pick. As previously mentioned, Toronto will only keep the pick if it lands in the top six of the upcoming draft; in that scenario, the Spurs would be owed the Raptors’ 2025 first-rounder, with the same top-six protection. On the other hand, Grange notes that the 2025 draft is viewed by scouts and executives as having more top-end talent compared to 2024; the No. 7 or No. 8 pick in ’25 could be end up being quite a bit more valuable than a top-six pick this year.
  • Blake Murphy of recently released a trade deadline primer that covers Toronto’s cap situation, draft assets, player assets, exceptions, restrictions (newly acquired players can’t be aggregated with other salaries), and more.
  • The only “untouchable” player on Toronto’s roster is Scottie Barnes, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who believes the third-year forward will sign a rookie scale max extension this summer. Koreen also thinks “it would be aggressively weird” if RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Gradey Dick, Jordan Nwora or Kira Lewis were traded. Veterans like Bruce Brown, Gary Trent Jr., Dennis Schröder, Chris Boucher and Poeltl fall into Koreen’s “Selling with hopes of a return” trade tier, though he doesn’t think Poeltl will actually be moved.
  • Starting guard Quickley has been ruled out for Friday’s contest with the Clippers due to a thigh bruise, Murphy tweets. Quickley, acquired from New York in the Anunoby deal, is averaging 16.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 6.1 APG through 12 games (31.8 MPG) as a Raptor. The 24-year-old will be traveling on the upcoming six-game road trip, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star (Twitter link), which suggests it may be a short-term injury.

Raptors Notes: Brown, Rebuilding, Barrett, Quickley, Boucher

Bruce Brown‘s life has been a whirlwind over the past week and it might not slow down for a while, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. After picking up his championship ring January 14 in Denver, Brown arrived at Pacers’ practice on Wednesday and learned he had been traded to Toronto. He took his physical a day later and played that night. On Friday, he was on a plane with his new teammates for Saturday’s game in New York.

Brown may be on the move again, as he’s still a popular trade target ahead of the February 8 deadline. He told Grange that he expected to remain with Indiana all season, but he knew the contract he signed last summer, which includes a $23MM team option for 2024/25, made him a candidate to be dealt.

“Did I think I was gonna be [in Indiana] the whole year? Yes,” Brown said. “But obviously, the second year is a team option. But signing the deal I knew it was going to be maybe I stay, maybe they get off the deal. I knew at some point, something would happen. But when the season started I knew something would happen just because of how good [the Pacers] were doing and how they’re trying to maximize [Tyrese Haliburton’s] time there. I was told they weren’t trying to move me, but I was a big part of the deal [for Pascal Siakam], so …”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • The Raptors will need to be patient after trading Siakam for what amounts to future assets, observes Blake Murphy of Sportsnet. While Brown has immediate value, there’s no guarantee he’ll be with the organization past the deadline. Jordan Nwora and Kira Lewis provide bench depth, but they’re both young and will need consistent minutes to develop into reliable players. Murphy adds that while the organization isn’t embarking on a traditional rebuilding process, the 2025/26 season is probably the earliest that it will be playoff relevant again.
  • RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and OG Anunoby all seem to be in better spots in the wake of last month’s trade with the Knicks, observes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. After the teams met Saturday in New York, Koreen noted that Anunoby’s three-and-D skills fit best on a contender, while Barrett and Quickley can take on a larger role in the offense without having to accommodate Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.
  • Toronto is exploring trades involving Chris Boucher, who is the last player remaining from the 2019 title team, Murphy said on “The Raptors Show” pocdast (Twitter link from Evan Sidery of Forbes Sports).

Raptors Notes: Brown, Trent, Schröder, Siakam, Barnes, Lewis

After a hectic 30-plus hours that saw him fly from Sacramento to Indiana to Toronto, Bruce Brown was available to make his Raptors debut on Thursday night vs. Chicago, per Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter links).

While newcomers Jordan Nwora and Kira Lewis were also cleared to play, Brown was the only one of the three to see any action and he responded in impressive fashion, scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds off the bench. Toronto lost the game 116-110, but Brown was a +11 in his 25 minutes.

Thursday’s performance showed how Brown could fit on the Raptors’ new-look roster, but it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll finish the season with the club. Exploring that subject on the latest episode of FanDuel’s Run it Back show (YouTube link), Shams Charania of The Athletic suggested that Toronto could probably net a first-round pick or a “boatload” of second-rounders for Brown in a pre-deadline deal, adding that there will be “no shortage of suitors” for the 27-year-old guard/forward.

According to Charania, Brown, Gary Trent Jr., and Dennis Schröder are among the Raptors veterans worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks, since they may not be part of the team’s plans beyond this season and they’d appeal to playoff teams on the trade market.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Following his trade to Indiana, longtime Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who spent the first seven-and-a-half years of his career with the franchise, wrote in The Players’ Tribune about how much his time in Toronto meant to him and why it’s hard to say goodbye.
  • As long as Siakam was on the roster, the Raptors were able to hedge their bet on Scottie Barnes‘ ascent to franchise cornerstone, letting Siakam take the reins while the former Rookie of the Year grew into that role, Lewenberg writes at Now that Siakam is a Pacer, there will be increased pressure on Barnes to develop into the type of star Toronto envisions, Lewenberg notes. “The goal is to help Scottie improve and get better every single day, every single night as a leader, as a franchise player and to build a roster around him that’s going to help him to grow,” head coach Darko Rajakovic said.
  • Turning the Raptors’ roster from its current state into one capable of contending for a title may be Masai Ujiri‘s biggest challenge since he was hired by the organization, says Michael Grange of The Raptors president acknowledged that he won’t be able to skip steps during the process. “I don’t know if to call this a rebuild or a reset or however we want to put it,” Ujiri said. “But a normal rebuild with other teams takes five [or] six years. Do we have the patience for that? You know? Like do we have the patience for three-to-five years building of our team? Some way, somehow we are going to have to have patience.”
  • After he traded popular Raptor DeMar DeRozan and fired head coach Dwane Casey following a Coach of the Year season, Ujiri earned a reputation for being a cold and calculated decision-maker. However, he hasn’t necessarily operated that way in recent years, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who considers whether the club would benefit from Ujiri being “a little colder” in his roster decisions.
  • The Raptors have assigned the newly acquired Lewis to the G League, tweets Blake Murphy of A player with at least three years of NBA service must give his consent to be assigned to the NBAGL, but Lewis approved multiple assignments to the Birmingham Squadron earlier this season in order to get more frequent playing time and it appears he’ll do the same with his new team.

Raptors Trade Pascal Siakam To Pacers, Waive Christian Koloko

The Raptors have traded star forward Pascal Siakam to the Pacers for Bruce Brown, Kira Lewis, Jordan Nwora, two 2024 first-round picks, and a top-four protected 2026 first-rounder, Indiana announced in a press release.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Pascal to Indiana,” said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. “As a two-time All-NBA selection and two-time NBA All Star, Pascal is a player that our organization has long admired and respected. We feel that his unique offensive skillset will complement our style of play, while his defensive versatility will be a valuable asset to our team.”

The Raptors also announced the trade is complete in their own press release.

Pascal is a champion, an integral part of winning teams and an example of what can be achieved with dedication, perseverance, hard work and tenacity,” said Raptors vice chairman and president Masai Ujiri. “We’re lucky to have seen Pascal develop into the man and player that he is today – and we are grateful for everything he has done for our city and for our franchise. We wish him all good things.

This is a time of change for our team, and we welcome Bruce, Jordan and Kira to the Raptors and to Toronto. Bruce is a world champion, and we look forward to his two-way play and added toughness on the court. We continue the work of getting better every day, and continue moving forward in our quest to win here in Toronto.”

The Raptors needed to release a player to complete the deal, and that roster casualty was second-year center Christian Koloko, who has yet to play this season due to a respiratory issue. Assuming he clears waivers, Toronto will be on the hook for Koloko’s full 2023/24 salary, which comes in at $1,719,864. His salary for next season was non-guaranteed.

As a rookie last season, Koloko showed promise as a rim protector, averaging 3.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.0 BPG in 58 games, including 19 starts (13.8 MPG).

According to Blake Murphy of (Twitter link), the Raptors are still “very high” on Koloko, but since there’s no timeline for his return to action, he was the odd man out. Murphy wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto signs Koloko to a G League contract or re-signs him to an NBA deal in the future.

Echoing that last point, Michael Grange of believes there’s “a good chance” Koloko will remain with the Raptors in some capacity (Twitter link). Grange also hears Koloko has been ramping up his activity lately, but it’s unknown when the Cameroonian big man will be cleared to play again.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, all four players involved in the deal can be traded again prior to the February 8 deadline but cannot be aggregated with other salaries. The Raptors also created a $10.2MM traded player exception in the deal, per Marks (Twitter link).

The Raptors now have a full 15-man roster, while the Pacers have 13 players on standard deals. Teams aren’t permitted to carry fewer than 14 players on standard contracts for more than 14 days at a time, so Indiana will have two weeks to re-add a 14th man.

For more details on the blockbuster trade, check out our story from earlier in the day, before it became official.

Pacers Finalizing Trade For Pascal Siakam

The Pacers and Raptors are finalizing an agreement on a trade that will send star forward Pascal Siakam to Indiana, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

The deal, whose framework was previously reported by Shams Charania and Jake Fischer, will send Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, and three first-round picks to Toronto, according to Wojnarowski. The Pelicans will also be involved, Wojnarowski notes, with fourth-year guard Kira Lewis headed to the Raptors.

Earlier reporting indicated that Indiana would likely include either Jalen Smith or Obi Toppin in their package for salary-matching purposes. However, by acquiring Lewis from New Orleans using their cap room, the Pacers will be able to immediately aggregate his salary with Brown’s and Nwora’s, making him the missing matching piece. As a result, the “three-team” deal will technically consist of two separate trades, ESPN’s Bobby Marks confirms (via Twitter).

The three first-rounders going to Toronto will be the Pacers’ own 2024 pick, a second ’24 first-rounder (via Oklahoma City), and Indiana’s 2026 pick, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The 2024 pick from OKC will be the least favorable of the Thunder’s, Clippers’, Rockets’, and Jazz’s first-rounders. The 2026 pick will include top-four protection, according to Charania (Twitter link).

In the Pelicans/Pacers swap, New Orleans will receive cash from Indiana and will send a second-round pick to the Pacers, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez and Wojnarowski (Twitter link). That will be a 2024 selection, tweets Christian Clark of, which means it’ll be the least favorable of the Pelicans’ and Bulls’ second-rounders.

The blockbuster deal is the culmination of several months of trade rumors involving Siakam. He was also at the center of speculation over the 2023 offseason, at which time the Raptors reportedly spoke to the Hawks and others about the two-time All-Star. The Mavericks, Warriors, Pistons, and Kings are among the teams that have been linked to him in recent weeks.

After getting a limited return for Kyle Lowry in a sign-and-trade deal in 2021 and then losing Fred VanVleet for nothing in 2023 free agency, the Raptors were more proactive this season in moving key players on expiring contracts ahead of February’s trade deadline. Toronto sent OG Anunoby and two other players to New York at the end of December in exchange for Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, and a second-round pick.

The Pacers reportedly made an effort to acquire Anunoby before the Knicks landed him, but Siakam had been at the top of their wish list for over six months, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. While the Raptors were believed to be seeking a return headlined by a young player or two – like the one they got from the Knicks for Anunoby – Indiana was able to get the deal done with a pick-heavy package that didn’t include recent lottery selections Bennedict Mathurin or Jarace Walker.

By virtue of being traded, Siakam will no longer be eligible for a super-max contract in the event he makes an All-NBA team for a third time this season. Additionally, he won’t be able to sign an extension of more than two years with Indiana prior to free agency, since a longer-term extension deal isn’t permitted for six months after the trade.

However, the 29-year-old is excited to join the Pacers and is expected to be “eager” to figure out a new contract with the team this summer, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Pacers will hold his Bird rights, giving them the ability to offer up to five years once he becomes a free agent. They’ll have plenty of financial flexibility to make Siakam a part of the long-term core alongside star point guard Tyrese Haliburton.

“I’m excited that Pascal is getting a first class opportunity with the Pacers, being paired with Tyrese and Myles (Turner) and being coached by a great coach in Rick Carlisle,” Siakam’s agent Todd Ramasar said in a statement to Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link). “His future there looks bright there.”

The Raptors will now control at least two first-round picks in the 2024 draft, along with an early second-rounder from the Pistons that currently projects to be 31st overall. They traded their own ’24 first-rounder away to the Spurs in last season’s Jakob Poeltl deal, but it has top-six protection, so it’s not a lock to change hands — Toronto’s 15-25 record is tied for the sixth-worst mark in the NBA.

It’s unclear what Toronto’s plans are for Brown, who played an important role on the Nuggets’ championship team last season and could be a popular target for contenders on the trade market in the coming weeks.

Brown is on a pseudo-expiring $22MM contract — he has a $23MM club option for 2024/25, so if he remains a Raptor, the club could create in excess of $30MM in cap room by declining that option, notes Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Nwora ($3MM) and Lewis ($5.7MM) are also on expiring deals.

While the Pacers’ 2023/24 team salary will increase beyond the cap once they officially acquire Siakam, the Raptors and Pelicans will gain significant cap relief. After being only slightly under the luxury tax line prior to the trade, Toronto will have about $9MM in breathing room below that threshold, tweets cap expert Yossi Gozlan.

New Orleans, meanwhile, will move from above the tax line to about $2.8MM below it, Gozlan adds (via Twitter). That will give the Pelicans – one of two NBA teams to never pay the tax – more room to operate on the trade market or in free agency in the coming weeks.

The Pacers will have to waive a player in order to acquire Lewis from New Orleans. Veteran forward James Johnson will be that roster casualty, per Tony East of (Twitter link). The Raptors, who currently have one open spot on their 15-man roster, will also need to make a cut in order to accommodate their three-for-one deal with Indiana.

Both the Pacers and Pelicans will end up with 13 players on standard contracts once the two trades are completed. Teams aren’t permitted to carry fewer than 14 players on standard deals for more than 14 days at a time, so both clubs will have two weeks to re-add a 14th man.

Raptors, Pacers Engaged In Serious Talks On Possible Siakam Trade

JANUARY 17: Several parties familiar with the negotiations between the Raptors and Pacers were surprised that the two teams didn’t finalize an agreement before Tuesday’s games begin, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

One sticking point, per Fischer, has been Indiana’s unwillingness to include either of their two most recent lottery picks – Bennedict Mathurin and Jarace Walker – in a package for Siakam. Charania has also stated that the Pacers aren’t interested in giving up either of those young players (Twitter video link).

According to Fischer, the other pieces that would be sent to Toronto along with Brown in the latest framework of the proposed deal are Jordan Nwora and either Obi Toppin or Jalen Smith. Buddy Hield hasn’t been a part of the recent discussions between the two teams, says Fischer.

Fischer adds that two of the first-round picks in in Indiana’s proposal are 2024 selections (the Pacers’ own pick and a least favorable pick from Oklahoma City).

JANUARY 16: The Raptors and Pacers are engaged in serious talks about a potential trade that would send power forward Pascal Siakam to Indiana, The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick report.

Indiana’s package would be built around swingman Bruce Brown, other salaries and three first-round draft picks, according to The Athletic’s duo.

The Raptors have discussed potential deals involving Siakam with several teams, but the talks with the Pacers have gained traction in recent days. They have yet to finalize or agree to a deal, although they are far along in the process, with proposals being made back and forth.

The Kings had pulled out of the Siakam sweepstakes in recent weeks, in part because the two-time All-NBA forward reportedly isn’t interested in re-signing with them after the season. The Warriors and Mavericks are among the other clubs that have expressed interest in the 29-year-old.

Siakam has an expiring $37.9MM contract and any acquiring team would want to have a strong indication if he’d commit to their organization beyond this season. Siakam is known to be seeking a max-salary deal and extension talks between the Raptors and his reps have not progressed in recent months.

Brown’s contract features a $22MM cap hit this season with a $23MM club option for 2024/25. Although Brown’s salary is well below Siakam’s, the Pacers have over $8MM in cap room and would only need to send out about $7.6MM in additional salary to make a deal legal, notes cap expert Yossi Gozlan (Twitter link).

As for the draft picks, the Pacers control all of their own future first-rounders, as well as a 2024 pick from Oklahoma City that includes “least favorable” language — it will almost certainly be either the Thunder’s or Clippers’ first-rounder.

The potential acquisition of Siakam would strengthen a Pacers starting lineup that also includes star guard Tyrese Haliburton — currently injured — and center Myles Turner and would make them a more dangerous playoff team.

Indiana reportedly made an effort to acquire OG Anunoby from Toronto before he was sent to New York.

Scotto’s Latest: Suns, Pacers, Knicks, Wright, Hornets, More

The Suns, Pacers and Knicks recently had exploratory trade talks on a deal that would have sent Cameron Payne to New York, T.J. McConnell to Phoenix, and Evan Fournier and draft picks to Indiana, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Other iterations of the deal included Jordan Nwora, according to Scotto, though it’s unclear where the Pacers forward would have ended up in that framework.

However, the talks on the three-team trade have stalled, Scotto reports. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports was first to report the Suns and Pacers discussed a deal involving Payne and McConnell, and suggested the Knicks may have been involved as well.

Here’s more from Scotto’s latest article for HoopsHype:

  • League sources tell Scotto that the Hornets are on the hunt for a backup point guard after Dennis Smith Jr. signed with the Nets in free agency. As Scotto previously reported, Charlotte had interest in Aaron Holiday, but he wound up signing with the Rockets. According to Scotto, one player on Charlotte’s radar is Wizards guard Delon Wright, who will make $8.2MM next season in the final year of his contract. The Wizards traded for Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole, and Wright was signed by the previous front office regime. The 31-year-old has already seen his name pop up in a few other trade rumors this offseason.
  • Scotto recently spoke to a handful of second-round picks at Summer League about their goals entering their rookie seasons. Those players are Nuggets guard Jalen Pickett, Celtics forward Jordan Walsh, and Mouhamed Gueye and Seth Lundy of the Hawks. Walsh, the No. 38 pick of the 2023 draft, has high expectations for himself, he told Scotto. “If I get a chance to play with these guys and help the team, I want to be on the All-Defensive First or Second Team or Defensive Player of the Year,” Walsh said. “My goals are defensively oriented and winning a championship, which is No. 1. If I’m able to accomplish any of those things, I’d feel my rookie year went pretty well.”
  • In case you missed it, we passed along some Raptors rumors and free agent rumors from Scotto as well.

Trade Breakdown: Kevin Durant To The Suns (Four-Team Deal)

This is the ninth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the biggest blockbuster of the year, a four-team deal between the Suns, Nets, Bucks and Pacers.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Suns acquired Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren.
  • The Nets acquired Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, the Suns’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), the right to swap first-round picks with the Suns in 2028, the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick, the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Pacers).
  • The Bucks acquired Jae Crowder.
  • The Pacers acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, a 2023 second-round pick (likely the Cavaliers’ second-rounder; from Bucks), the Bucks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick (from Bucks), and cash ($1.36MM; from Nets).
  • Note: The Bucks acquired the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick in a prior trade.

The Suns’ perspective:

After posting a losing record for seven straight seasons – and missing the playoffs for 10 straight – the Suns had a remarkable turnaround in 2020/21, going 51-21 and reaching the NBA Finals, ultimately losing in six games to the Bucks. Last season, the Suns held the league’s top record at 64-18, but had a meltdown in their second-round loss to Dallas, getting blown out at home in Game 7.

Phoenix was reportedly high on Durant’s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade this past offseason, but there were rumors of low-ball offers from rival teams and Brooklyn was said to be disinterested in obliging his request.

A few weeks later, there were questions about Deandre Ayton’s eagerness to be back in Phoenix after he signed a four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet from the Pacers over the summer amid tensions with head coach Monty Williams. The Suns quickly matched, however, signaling they still valued the former first overall pick, even if his role sometimes fluctuates.

In mid-September, former owner Robert Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM for workplace misconduct, including racist and misogynistic comments, following a lengthy investigation. He subsequently decided to sell his controlling stake in the franchise to Mat Ishbia, which was finalized shortly before last month’s deadline.

Finally, right before training camp opened, Crowder said he wasn’t going to participate, as he was reportedly unhappy with Williams after being told he would come off the bench (he had started the previous two years). The Suns then made an announcement saying the two sides would work together to find Crowder a new team.

Despite all the turmoil, ‘22/23 started out pretty well, with Phoenix going 15-6 over its first 21 games. Unfortunately, Johnson tore his meniscus during that span, and Chris Paul was sidelined by a foot injury until early December. The Suns lost five straight shortly thereafter, with star guard Devin Booker going down with a groin injury in mid-December.

Obviously, Crowder being away while Johnson was hurt didn’t help. Torrey Craig did an admirable job filling in, as did Ish Wainright, who was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last month. But ideally, neither player would be logging heavy minutes on a championship-caliber team.

Paul is 37 years old (38 in May), and he is not the same player he was when the Suns made the Finals a couple years ago. He’s still good, just not on the same level, particularly from a scoring standpoint. That’s a huge deal, because he was Phoenix’s second-best player during the previous two seasons.

The Suns reportedly offered up Paul in an effort to land Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn shortly before Durant made his own request. I don’t know if those rumors are true, but either way, CP3 stayed put.

By mid-January, the Suns were just 21-24, and the season was slipping away. They recovered well leading up to the trade deadline, going 9-2 over that span to sit with a 30-26 record prior to February 9. Still, the damage had been done. I don’t think the Suns make this trade – specifically the way the deal was structured – if they still believed they were a real championship contender without acquiring Durant.

Ishbia played a major role in the deal. Even before he was officially approved by the league’s Board of Governors, a report came out saying the Suns were willing to make win-now moves, and he talked about being aggressive just before the deadline. He was also quickly willing to sign off on the extra $40MM the deal cost the Suns in salaries and tax penalties, a stark departure from the previous ownership group.

A report from ESPN indicated that president of basketball operations James Jones wanted to negotiate the inclusion of Bridges or add protections to the first-round picks, but the Nets held firm in their demands. The Suns also may have had another deal lined up for Crowder, but he ultimately was included in this trade as well.

Durant is in the first season of a four-year, $194MM extension. Booker, Durant and Ayton are all under contract through at least ’25/26. If healthy, those three alone make up a very strong (and expensive) core. It remains to be seen how long Paul will be around – his $30.8MM contract for next season is guaranteed for $15.8MM, and it is fully non-guaranteed in ‘24/25.

Durant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a former league MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA member and four-time scoring champion.

In 981 career regular season games (36.7 MPG), he has averaged 27.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .499/.384/.886 shooting. In 155 career playoff games (40.4 MPG), he has averaged 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .476/.356/.866 shooting. He is the definition of a superstar.

Despite being 34 years old and tearing his Achilles tendon four years ago, he continues to play at an incredibly high level. In fact, when healthy, you could easily make a case for Durant being the best player in the league this season.

In 42 games (35.7 MPG), he has averaged 29.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.5 BPG on .566/.386/.931 shooting, good for an absurd .681 true shooting percentage. The FG%, FT% and TS% are all career highs. He is shooting 62.9% on twos, which is ridiculous considering the majority of his shots are mid-range jumpers.

Durant is also playing very motivated and strong defense in ‘22/23, which surprised me a bit because he had coasted on that end at times the past couple seasons. His teams have gone 29-13 this season when he has played, which is the equivalent of the second-best winning percentage (69.0%) in the league, only trailing the Bucks (71.8%).

Durant can do everything on the court at a high level. He’s 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan, but he possesses guard-like skills, with elite shooting and excellent ball-handling. His passing has improved throughout his career, and when he tries, he is a top-tier defender. He is a matchup nightmare.

After playing in just four games from 2020-22 due to a couple of left foot surgeries, Warren finally returned to the court for the Nets in December, averaging 9.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .510/.333/.818 shooting in 26 games (18.8 MPG).

He clearly wasn’t at his best physically or from a production standpoint (he averaged a career-high 19.8 PPG on .536/.403/.819 shooting the season before getting injured), but he was still contributing off the bench. Warren has hardly played in his second stint with Phoenix, however, averaging just 6.4 MPG in eight games. He’s on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, so he might not be back next season.

A few weeks after the trade was completed, Ishbia claimed the move carried “no risk.” That, of course, isn’t true.

Durant has gone down with a sprained MCL a few seasons in a row. You could say that’s a fluke, since it has involved players falling into his knee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s played 35, 55 and 42 games over the past three seasons after missing all of ‘19/20 with a torn Achilles.

His ankle sprain on a routine layup while warming up prior to his fourth game with Phoenix was concerning. I could very well be wrong, but to my eyes, it didn’t look like he slipped; it looked like his ankle just gave out and rolled.

Durant is in his 16th season, has made several long playoff runs, and has also played in the World Cup (once) and the Olympics (three times) for Team USA. He’s still incredible, but the tread on his tires are pretty worn.

Giving up Bridges and Johnson stings. They were key role players for Phoenix who both improved tremendously throughout their Suns tenures, which we’ll get into more shortly.

Anytime you give up an unprotected pick in a future season it’s a risk. The Suns gave up three beyond 2023 — four if you count the 2028 pick swap, which will only be exercised if Phoenix is worse than Brooklyn.

Those picks from 2027-29 in particular could be extremely valuable. Durant will be 37 when his contract expires after ’25/26. Will he still be playing at this level, and will the Suns want to keep him if he’s not?

The Suns knew the risks. But the West is seemingly up for grabs, and they had faltered in their quest to make it back to the Finals.

I can’t say adding Durant made Phoenix the favorite in the West, but he nearly carried the Nets to the Finals with both Irving and James Harden injured a couple years ago. If healthy, this team will be extremely dangerous.

The Nets’ perspective:

The Nets were literally an inch or two away from sending Milwaukee home in Game 7 of their second-round series in 2021, which saw the Bucks prevail in overtime after Durant’s foot was on the three-point line on a potential game-winning buzzer-beater. The Bucks went on to win the championship.

Read more

Central Notes: Nwora, Turner, Dragic, Green

Jordan Nwora was acquired by the Pacers from the Bucks at the trade deadline and coach Rick Carlisle has been impressed by the reserve forward, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star writes. Nwora, who is signed through next season, is averaging 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 20.2 minutes in six games with Indiana. “Nwora’s a skilled player,” Carlisle said. “Positionally, he does a better job defensively than a lot of people might think. …  He’s getting better and better for us.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Myles Turner, a prime trade candidate before last month’s deadline, is thrilled he signed a two-year extension with the Pacers, he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. “I’m glad that we got it done. I think it was a win-win for both sides,” Turner said. “I think I have a good relationship with (Pacers owner) Herb Simon, and I think he has a big belief in what I’m capable of as well. I’m glad that we were able to come to terms on an agreement. Behind the scenes, for me personally, I was open to the idea of free agency, but I also wanted to at least give Indy a fair chance, and both sides came to an agreement.”
  • The Bucks were interested in Goran Dragic because he gives them a pure point guard off the bench, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Dragic could bring the ball up the floor and get the Bucks into their offense for 10 minutes per night during the postseason, Nehm speculates, which could ease the burden off their other play-makers. Current backup Jevon Carter has more impact on the defensive end and doesn’t typically bring the ball up the floor. Dragic signed on Saturday after clearing waivers.
  • Javonte Green was supposed to return to action by now after undergoing an arthroscopic debridement on his right knee in January. However, his recovery has gone more slowly than expected, Bulls coach Billy Donovan told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago and other media members. “Different stuff that they try to push him towards, they have to go off of his tolerance,” Donovan said. “We’ve been kind of at the same thing where I think the linear, straight-ahead running has been pretty good. But they’ve not been able to progress him yet to any lateral stuff.” A free agent after the season, Green has only appeared in 28 games.