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NBA Trade Deadline Lesson: Teamwork Trumps Talent

Buried in the narrative that talent trumps everything, two of the biggest trades were aimed at squashing toxicity than getting equal talent in return.

Goran Dragic

In a perfect world, the NBA Trade Deadline extravaganza would have been strictly an intricate exchange of mutually needed talent, roster requirements, and star power. For the most part, it was, with teams like OKC and Miami improving dynamically. But yet, buried in the age-old narrative that talent trumps everything sports-side, two of the biggest trades were more concerned about squashing toxicity than ensuring adequate talent was returned to them.

It’s no secret that Goran Dragic, now in Miami, and Reggie Jackson, now in Detroit, wanted out of their former teams. In fact, it was on the lips of any in-the-know fan who appreciates drama. And we all know those run in short supply.

Phoenix gave up Dragic, and much-less-talented brother Zoran, for two first-round draft picks, that, although pretty good consolation prizes, are perhaps a smidge under what Phoenix could have gotten for last year’s Most Improved Player under different terms.

There was a time when Phoenix’s two-point guard scheme, and later three with Isaiah Thomas‘ addition, seemed to be working. But, right in line with the core of this article, the three-point guard roster was seen as an affront by Dragic who felt disrespected by the organization. Dragic has seen a noticeable drop in production, that, during a contact year, understandably made him even more miserable to be around. Not before long, the Dragon was pushing for a trade out of town and Phoenix saw themselves complying.

In reality, it might have been a blessing in disguise as the Suns were able to bring in Brandon Knight and a number of future assets which are a better fit for this team in the long run. That is, if Phoenix can decide what the hell it’s doing.

Reggie Jackson’s situation had a lot of similarities. The difference being that Jackson was forced to up his production when Durant and Westbrook were out for a chunk of the year and that quickly went to his head. A man who has inflated his talents, Jackson soon started directly affecting a team that had to play at optimal efficiency to reach the playoffs after a majorly slow start. He did it on the court with head-scratching play and off with allegiances and pouting.

In the end, Jackson was just as happy to move on as the Thunder were happy to see him go.

Neither case involved losing a LeBron-like talent, but both instances revealed just how unappreciated teamwork, and the talent boosters that come with it, is around an event and league people think are solely based on god-given goods. When it comes down to it, talent can only function when teamwork is entrenched in the benches that make it up. OKC and Phoenix learned that, and very fortunately, were able to respond accordingly.

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