The Boston Celtics put themselves in prime position to make a playoff push at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Unfortunately for them, they weren’t the only ones to do so.
Of the seven teams that entered the NBA All-Star break ranked sixth through 12th in the Eastern Conference, five made at least one deal at the deadline, completely reshaping what already was a wildly unpredictable race for the East’s final few playoff bids.
With most of the dust now settled, let’s take a look at how each playoff hopeful handled itself on what was the busiest deadline day in NBA history. (Underlined teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today.)
6. Milwaukee Bucks
It might not be fair to label the Milwaukee Bucks a “bubble” team, seeing as how they enter the season’s unofficial second half a full 7 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-place Hornets and eighth-seeded Heat. Milwaukee made a curious deadline decision, however, trading away their top scorer and assist man in point guard Brandon Knight (17.8 points, 5.4 assists per game).
No Buck comes close to Knight in either category, either: Up-and-coming big man Giannis Antetokounmpo leads all others with 12.0 points a game, and backup point guard Jerryd Bayless is the new leader in the dimes column with 3.1 per game. Head coach Jason Kidd — likely the front-runner for Coach of the Year — will need to hope ex-Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael-Carter Williams is capable of filling the void.
7. Charlotte Hornets
Amid Thursday’s craziness, the Hornets did … exactly nothing. Charlotte did swing a trade less than two weeks ago, though, acquiring Mo Williams to hold down the fort at point guard until Kemba Walker returns from knee surgery.
The Hornets entered the All-Star break having dropped three straight but actually have fared relatively well since Walker went down, going 7-5 in the UConn alum’s absence.
8. Miami Heat
Miami scored the biggest trade win of the bunch when it pried Goran Dragic away from the Phoenix Suns. Dragic was the best point guard available at the deadline, and he should fit right in at what was the Heat’s weakest position.
The elation of landing Dragic quickly was tempered by the news that center Chris Bosh was hospitalized with what doctors believe could be a blood clot in his lungs. Bosh, who’s averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 rebounds through 44 games, is expected to miss the rest of the season, according to the Miami Herald.
Couple that with Dwyane Wade’s injury issues (he’s missed the last seven games), and what appeared Thursday to be the strongest of the bubble teams now looks a whole lot shakier.
9. Brooklyn Nets (one game back)
The Nets were one of the deadline’s biggest losers. The widely reported Brook Lopez-to-Oklahoma City trade crumbled at the last minute, keeping the underperforming big man in Brooklyn and leaving the Nets with the bloated contracts of Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
The Nets did land Thaddeus Young from Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Garnett, which could turn out to be an upgrade given Garnett’s age-imposed production restrictions.
10. Boston Celtics (1 1/2 games back)
Danny Ainge has been celebrated in most corners for his deadline deals, bringing in a scoring point guard in Isaiah Thomas and freeing up some extra cash in the Tayshaun Prince trade. Similar to the Heat, though, the Celtics quickly were hit with the bad news that forward Jared Sullinger would be out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his foot.
Sullinger is Boston’s leading scorer and rebounded this season, and his absence clearly will hinder what appeared to a promising playoff push.
11. Detroit Pistons (two games back)
The NBA’s most surprising team in January has fallen back into mediocrity of late, losing seven of its final 11 games before the break. The loss of point guard Brandon Jennings to an ACL tear was a major blow, but the Pistons snagged an upgrade at the position in Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson.
Even though his role dwindled during the later days of his OKC tenure, Jackson still is averaging more points per game this season (12.8) than any healthy Pistons guard.
12. Indiana Pacers (two games back)
The Pacers were another deadline no-show, choosing not to make a single trade Thursday. There’s a possibility Indiana could have All-Star Paul George back by mid-March, though. If George can in fact return and play up to his potential after his broken leg, he could be a game-changer in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images