The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to tell their side of the story in the ongoing disagreement over Ben Simmons.
The Lakers said in a statement Monday that it was the Philadelphia 76ers who first reached out to the Lakers asking if it would be possible for Simmons to talk with Magic Johnson. The Lakers said they contacted the Sixers and informed them that their approval would be required, and “that was the end of the matter.”
Statement from the Lakers on the Magic Johnson/Ben Simmons intrigue: pic.twitter.com/pSiEQ0u6hD
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 11, 2019
The story continues to evolve depending on who’s telling it. 76ers general manager Elton Brand said earlier Monday that the Lakers had originally reached out to the 76ers to approve such a meeting, and Brand had refused to authorize it. That’s pretty much the total opposite of what the Lakers are now saying.
The NBA has begun investigating this entire situation, and will be looking to settle this as quickly as possible before the rumor mill gets out of control.
The Philadelphia 76ers made a big move before the trade deadline to acquire Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers, but it puts the team in the position of having to try to find ways to reetain both him and Jimmy Butler this offseason.
According to general manager Elton Brand, Philadelphia’s ownership has given assurances that the team will be able to re-sign both players when they hit free agency, despite the fact that it’s bound to be an expensive proposition.
Elton Brand on whether it's possible to bring back both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris this summer: "Absolutely. I've gotten all assurances from the managing partners that we can bring them back and sign them." #sixers
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) February 8, 2019
In other words, the 76ers are setting in for the long haul and trying to build a core around a big four of Harris, Butler, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. The Harris deal was one of the biggest of the deadline and a clear statement of intent, indicating that Philadelphia has moved completely into full-on contender status and aims to remain there for years to come.
The 2019 NBA trade deadline was an exceptionally active one with multiple big names changing teams, even if the biggest name on the market ended up staying put. That doesn’t change the fact that the action, especially in the Eastern Conference, was fast and furious, and that isn’t even factoring in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.
Here are ten big takeaways from all the moves that took place prior to Thursday’s deadline.
1. The Anthony Davis saga will drag on into the summer, and the Lakers look worse for it
It didn’t seem like the New Orleans Pelicans ever had any real intention of negotiating with the Los Angeles Lakers in good faith on an Anthony Davis trade. The Pelicans have every incentive to wait until summer to deal Davis, when they should have a wider range of interested teams. The Lakers will be disappointed, as they don’t look great publicly, seem to have muddled the minds of their young players, and may now find themselves in a situation where they can be outbid. LeBron James probably won’t be happy, either.
The Philadelphia 76ers have acquired forward James Ennis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for draft considerations, reports ESPN and other media outlets.
For the 28-year-old Ennis, Philadelphia will represent the sixth team he’s suited up since breaking into the NBA as a second-round pick in 2014. He has previously played for the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons and, obviously, the Rockets.
Ennis is a career 36.1 percent three-point shooter and will likely settle into the role of sixth-man in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, by dealing Ennis, the Rockets will create a $1.6 million trade exception and save $2.4 million, which puts them within striking distance of getting under the NBA’s luxury tax. They are now just $2.4 million over that threshold.
As the NBA trade deadline approaches, nearly every player in the league could, potentially, be on the block. However, among those that are the least likely to be traded, Philadelphia 76ers power forward Joel Embiid is near the very top.
Still, that didn’t stop Embiid from making a tongue-in-cheek comment when asked his thoughts on the looming deadline.
“Hopefully I don’t get traded. You never know,” Embiid said as reporters laughed at the notion. “Nobody’s untouchable in this league, so hopefully I’m here for a long time or the rest of my career.”
Embiid never even cracked a smile as he answered the question even though he knows full well he won’t be on the move come Thursday.
But the joke, as it were, was more of a deflection. Embiid had previously been asked if he has met with 76ers management to offer input on who they should trade away or who they should attempt to bring in. He twice said it was none of his business as reporters continued to pile, ultimately reverting to the laughable notion that he, too, could be on the block.
Embiid, of course, isn’t going anywhere in 2019 or for the foreseeable future. He’s the face of their franchise and among the best all-around talents in the league.
Reports of tension between Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler and coach Brett Brown were apparently taken seriously enough that a few teams decided to try to see if the star player was available via trade.
According to Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report, some opposing general managers called the 76ers to ask if Butler might be available via trade. They were turned aside, and a Sixers source said that dealing Butler hasn’t even been considered by the front office.
The speculation comes after it was reported that Butler and Brown have clashed over the team’s offensive direction. Brown has downplayed whatever happened, and the Sixers don’t seem particularly worried about it either.
Essentially, it looks like a few teams read the reporting and did their due diligence. They have been turned back, and that looks unlikely to change anytime soon.