NBA

The biggest takeaways from the 2020-21 NBA trade deadline

Just like that, the trade deadline has come and gone.

It wasn't clear how busy this season's trade deadline would be in the days leading up to it, but it turned out to be ... interesting. Although Kyle Lowry wasn't traded, the Orlando Magic were active and three contenders made moves that could improve their chances in the playoffs.

With that in mind, here are some key takeaways from this season's trade deadline.

The Chicago Bulls aren't messing around

The Bulls made one of the biggest moves of the day, reportedly acquiring Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu from the Magic for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks.

The deal is headlined by Vucevic, a two-time All-Star who is having the best season of his career, averaging 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago's leadership wanted to get a "serious-minded veteran player to be a cornerstone for the Bulls." They get that in Vucevic, and he and Zach LaVine have the potential to form one of the better one-two punches in the Eastern Conference.

Vucevic leads the league with an average of 6.1 points per game as the roll man this season, giving LaVine both a pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop threat. He's also an excellent spot-up shooter, knocking down 40.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, as well as a capable post-up scorer and solid facilitator.

The Bulls were already in the mix for the playoffs with a 19-24 record entering Thursday's trade deadline, placing them 10th in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic should provide a tremendous boost to a team that currently ranks 18th in offensive efficiency and could be the piece that gets Chicago over the hump as it looks to return to the postseason for the first time since 2017.

The Bulls gave up a decent amount to get Vucevic, but he still has two more years remaining on his contract. His salary declines in each of those seasons, from $26.0 million this season to $24.0 million in 2021-22 and $22.0 million in 2022-23.

The Denver Nuggets got what they needed

The Magic weren't done.

Not long after trading Vucevic to Chicago, they reportedly traded Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a first-round pick.

This was the one trade I wanted to see happen at this deadline. Defensively, Gordon is perfect for the Nuggets, giving them a versatile wing they can throw at the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic in the playoffs, much like they did with Jerami Grant last season. (That's not to say Gordon will single-handedly shut them down, but he's far better equipped to match up with them than anyone else currently on Denver's roster). How he fits offensively is a bit more of a question mark, but he's having a career year from the 3-point line, is an underrated passer and is a tremendous athlete who should thrive next to Nikola Jokic as a cutter.

The only real concern is that there is some overlap with Gordon and Michael Porter Jr., with both of them being at their best playing power forward. Time will tell how that dynamic works out, but acquiring Gordon is a big-time pickup for the Nuggets that could impact this season's title race.

The Orlando Magic are changing course

Orlando's final move? Reportedly trading Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics for two second-round picks.

That means the Magic turned three of their four leading scorers into three first-round picks and two second-round picks at the trade deadline, plus salary filler and some young prospects in Hampton and Carter. They haven't completely stripped things down to the studs - not only do the Magic still have Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, Carter is a versatile centre with a good amount of upside - but they have clearly shifted their focus to the future.

Of note: Orlando entered the trade deadline with some of the best odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The moves it made should only increase those odds.

The buyout market is alive

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, both Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge are expected to be bought out, paving the way for them to be unrestricted free agents.

Earlier this month, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Los Angeles Lakers are optimistic that they will get "strong consideration" from Drummond if he does get bought out. Say what you want about Drummond, but he'd make for a fascinating addition to a Lakers team that could do with a boost at centre.

Additionally, Stein reports that the Miami Heat are viewed as the favourite to sign Aldridge should he be bought out.

Speaking of the Heat...

The Miami Heat got a steal

The Heat were reportedly one of the teams in the running to acquire Lowry. It didn't work out for them, but they managed to get Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets at the eleventh hour for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and a pick swap.

That's quite the deal for the Heat.

Oladipo hasn't been the same player since suffering a ruptured quad tendon in the 2018-19 season, but the Heat have long been interested in him and now get a chance to evaluate him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the season's end. If he fits in well and helps them make another deep run, they should be in a strong position to re-sign him. (The Heat could have a decent amount of cap space to work with in the offseason and they own Oladipo's Bird Rights, which will allow them to go over the cap to re-sign him). If he doesn't, it wouldn't be the end of the world for them if he walks in free agency because the Heat didn't give up that much to get him.

The biggest on-court loss for Miami is Olynyk, who started in 38 games this season. However, the Heat should be able to replace his production between Trevor Ariza, Nemanja Bjelica, who they reportedly acquired from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline, and Aldrige should they pick him up.

All in all, it's a worthwhile gamble for the Heat.

Kyle Lowry stays put

After all that, Lowry is still a Raptor.

While the Heat, Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly interested in the six-time All-Star, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Masai Ujiri "didn't find a package that compelled him" to trade Lowry.

Wojnarowski added that Lowry had "always been fine" completing the season with the Toronto Raptors.

You know what that means: Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

He might not be the best player available in free agency, but he will certainly be one of the best available. It'll be interesting to see if the Raptors look to re-sign him and what the market looks like for him if they don't.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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