The 2021 NBA trade deadline got busy real quick on Thursday, with a flurry of deals going down in the final hours. The Orlando Magic, sitting in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, were expected to see off both Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, but they began Thursday with a surprise, trading Nikola Vucevic (top three in franchise history in both points and rebounds) to the Chicago Bulls.
The Toronto Raptors held onto franchise icon Kyle Lowry, but did sell high on Norman Powell, sending him to Portland for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. The league’s top contenders stayed mostly quiet, though the LA Clippers (Rajon Rondo) and Philadelphia 76ers (George Hill) did deal for a pair of veteran point guards.
Here are some numbers to know regarding five teams that made upgrades at the deadline.
All stats are through Wednesday, Mar. 24.
1. Boston | Replacing Hayward four months later
Out: Jeff Teague, Daniel Theis, two 2nd round picks
In: Evan Fournier, Mo Wagner
The Celtics have missed Gordon Hayward. But they were able to use the trade exception created from Hayward’s departure to replace him. Fournier gives them somebody who can play on or off the ball and, most important, bumps a bunch of guys down one spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
Five numbers to know
- Fournier has shot 36-for-87 (41.4%) on pull-up 3s, the sixth best mark among 50 players who’ve attempted at least 75.
- Fournier has seen the ninth-biggest jump in free throw rate (from 23.7 to 33.3 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 204 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons.
- 68% of the Celtics’ games (30/44), the league’s highest rate, have been within five points in the last five minutes. They’re 11-19 in those games (with six straight losses going into the deadline) and 10-4 otherwise. They rank 28th in clutch offense, having scored just 98.2 points per 100 possessions with the score within five in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Kemba Walker (2-for-13) and Marcus Smart (1-for-9) have combined to shoot 3-for-22 (14%) on clutch 3s. Fournier finished his Magic career with a game-winning drive against Phoenix, but his 16-for-71 (22.5%) on clutch 3s over the last three seasons is the worst mark among 46 players with at least 50 attempts over that stretch.
- Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have played just 101 total minutes together this season.
- For the second straight season, Wagner leads the league in drawn charges per 36 minutes (1.1).
A bit of film: Fournier’s 1.36 points per possession on handoffs rank second among 36 players with with at least 50 handoff possessions. Here he sets his defender up with a little juke before using the screen.
2. Chicago | Getting serious
Out: Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison, Luke Kornet, Otto Porter Jr., two 1st round picks
In: Al-Farouq Aminu, Troy Brown Jr., Daniel Theis, Nikola Vucevic
The Bulls are fighting for a spot in the Play-In group in the Eastern Conference, but are only two games in the loss column behind the fifth-place Heat. They’ve seen the league’s seventh-biggest jump in offensive efficiency from last season, and they should take another step forward with the addition of Vucevic, the only 2021 All-Star dealt at the deadline.
Quick lesson for Zach LaVine & Coby White – Some of the easiest assists in today's NBA come from just drawing the attention of Vucevic's defender for a split second. pic.twitter.com/1wjoT9WLX6
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) March 25, 2021
Five numbers to know
- Vucevic is registering career-high marks in minutes per game (34.1) and usage rate (29.9%).
- Vucevic is one of five players who have shot 45% or better on at least 100 mid-range shots and 40% or better on at least 100 above-the-break 3s.
- Vucevic’s effective field goal percentage (54.5%) is above the league average (53.7%). But his true shooting percentage (56.5%) is below the league average (57.1%), because he doesn’t get to the free throw line much. His free throw rate of 12.1 attempts per 100 shots from the field ranks 167th among 191 players with at least 250 field goal attempts.
- The Bulls rank 29th in team free throw rate at just 21.1 attempts per 100 shots from the field. Carter had the highest rate (44.0) among the 10 Bulls with at least 100 field goal attempts.
- Theis has shot 103-for-149 (69.1%) in the paint, the sixth-best mark among 198 players with at least 100 field goal attempts in the paint
A bit of film: The bulk of Vucevic’s work is done in the the pick-and-pop, where he’s terrific at simply finding whatever space the defense provides.
3. Denver | Some size on the wing
Out: Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, Isaiah Hartenstein, 1st round pick, two 2nd round picks
In: Gary Clark, Aaron Gordon, JaVale McGee
Gordon’s best position is probably power forward, so he’s not necessarily a great fit on a team that already has Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green. And by trading both Harris (who’s played in just one game since January) and Hampton, the Nuggets lose some depth in the backcourt. The hope is that Gordon can help defensively, where the Nuggets rank 17th. He’s is in his seventh season, but is still just 25 years old and joining a team whose two stars are 26 and 24. In that regard, he fits well.
Five numbers to know
- Gordon has shot 27-for-62 (43.5%) on catch-and-shoot 3s, up from 32.5% last season, when he had the second worst field goal percentage (29.2%) and effective field goal percentage (39.1%) on shots from outside the paint among 190 players with at least 200 field goal attempts from the outside.
- Gordon has seen an increase in assist ratio in each of the last three seasons, from 11.3 per 100 possessions used in 2017-18 to 20.4 this season.
- The Nuggets have outscored their opponents by 10.0 points per 100 possessions (having allowed just 108.0 per 100) in 917 total minutes with just one of their power forwards (Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap or JaMychal Green) alongside Nikola Jokic. But they’ve been outscored by 0.6 points per 100 possessions (having allowed 118.7 per 100) in 493 total minutes with two of the three on the floor with Jokic.
- The Nuggets have seen a big jump in point differential (from +2.1 to +4.7 per game), but a drop in winning percentage (from .630 to .591). They’re 9-10 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 17-8 otherwise.
- Among 16 players who’ve defended Luka Doncic for at least 20 partial possessions this season, his second lowest field goal percentage (2-for-12) came against Gordon. Harris had the highest mark (11-for-17). In a recent matchup with Orlando, James Harden shot just 2-for-9 against Gordon.
A bit of film: Gordon’s athleticism can also be of use off the ball.
4. Miami | Taking a flier on a flier
Out: Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless, Kelly Olynyk, Chris Silva, Pick swap with Houston
In: Nemanja Bjelica, Victor Oladipo
Oladipo is seemingly still working his way back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in January 2019. He has shown flashes of his former self, like when he scored 34 points against Atlanta on March 16. But he hasn’t played in back-to-back games all season and he’s been neither consistent nor efficient.
The Heat didn’t have to give up much to see what Oladipo can do for the next two months, though. Olynyk was starting, but hasn’t shot well this season (see below). Neither has Bjelica (17-for-58 from 3-point range in a greatly reduced role for Sacramento), who’s also not the passer that Olynyk is.
Five numbers to know
- The Heat have seen the league’s third-biggest drop in offensive efficiency, from 111.9 points scored per 100 possessions (seventh) last season to 107.5 (25th) this season.
- Olynyk has seen the sixth-biggest drop in 3-point percentage (from 40.6% to 31.7%) among 164 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons. Tyler Herro (from 38.9% to 31.2%) and Duncan Robinson (from 44.6% to 38.2%) have seen the 7th- and 14th-biggest drops among that group, respectively.
- Oladipo’s 12.9 drives per game are a career-high mark.
- The Heat are 18-12 with Jimmy Butler and have outscored their opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. They’re 4-10 without him and have been outscored by 6.3 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor.
- Oladipo has an effective field goal percentage of just 37.6% on pull-up jumpers, a mark which ranks 95th among 102 players who’ve attempted at least 100. The two worst marks belong to new teammate Jimmy Butler (32.6%) and former teammate John Wall (32.8%). Two other Heat players — Bam Adebayo (39.6%) and Kendrick Nunn (39.7%) — are also in the bottom 15.
A bit of film: Given how often Adebayo switches ball-screens, Oladipo will be asked to defend in the post, which he can do.
5. Portland | Even more potent offensively
Out: Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr.
In: Norman Powell
The Blazers and Raptors made an interesting swap of wings-set-to-be-free-agents this summer. The 22-year-old Trent (who will be a restricted free agent) has done well with a big increase in playing time this season, but Powell (28 in May, unrestricted free agent in July) has been the more dynamic scorer and the better 3-point shooter (43.9% this season). And while he wasn’t the best defender in the Raptors’ rotation, he gives the Blazers some added quickness and instincts on the end of the floor where they need the most help.
Five numbers to know
- The Blazers have scored 13.2 more points per 100 possessions with Damian Lillard on the floor (118.7) than they have with him off the floor (105.5)
- Portland ranks 29th defensively, having allowed 116.8 points per 100 possessions.
- Powell has shot 49-for-92 (53.3%) on corner 3s, the fourth best mark among 60 players who’ve attempted at least 50. He’s shot better than 50% from both the left corner (29-for-53) and the right corner (20-for-39). The Blazers rank 26th with just 2.6 corner 3s per game.
- Powell has an effective field goal percentage of 75.2% in the first quarter, the second best mark among 228 players with at least 50 first-quarter field goal attempts.
- Powell is one of nine players who’ve averaged at least five points per game on drives (5.1) and at least five points per game on catch-and-shoot jumpers (6.0).
A bit of film: The Raptors had a favorite “hammer” play to get Powell a corner 3, with a guard taking a handoff and driving to the right baseline while Powell got a back-screen from a big (whose man was helping on the drive) to the left corner.
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