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By all accounts, the NBA trade deadline was a wild one with 38 names changing teams and 10 draft picks being moved and those deals came after the steady arms race earlier in the year, especially in the Western Conference. A month later, it’s fair to ask how those deals are looking.
Goran Dragic from the Suns to the Heat: This deal developed when Dragic struggled to co-exist in Phoenix’s three-guard alignment and told management he would not return when he hits free agency over the summer. So far the Heat have won eight of 14 games since acquiring him. In the 11 games he has played with Miami, Dragic has shot a career-high 52 percent. He also is shooting 52 percent per every 100 possessions and his true shooting percentage is a career-best 61.3 percent. Perhaps even better is that most of those shots are not 3-pointers. Dragic is a career 36 percent shooter from behind the arc after shooting 40.8 percent from there last season. With Miami, 22.4 percent of his shot attempts have been 3-pointers and the notable improvement comes from three to 10 feet. With Phoenix, Dragic shot a paltry 35.6 percent from that distance but with the Heat, it’s 69 percent which is by far the best of his career. Dragic has played well enough to get the Heat into the playoffs and fit in. The big question will come in July if Miami is able to re-sign him and create a trio that includes him, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
What they’re saying about Dragic: “I think he fits with what we want to build and what we want to do in the future. Personality-wise, I think he fits. I believe so, but that’s not my call. But I know the front office did a great job doing their homework before they made the move and they wouldn’t have made it if they didn’t think he was a long-term fit for us. I think we all like him.” – Wade on Dragic.
Enes Kanter from the Jazz to the Thunder: Like Dragic, Kanter was in a similar situion in Utah, just a little lower profile. He had lost playing time, grew frustrated, and was not likely to re-sign with the Jazz. Since making the move, the Thunder have won nine of 14 games and aren’t even whole while they wait for Kevin Durant to return. He’s also making fantasy owners satisfied recently with 19.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and a 53 percent shooting touch in the last five games. Kanter’s performances will continue to come into focus down the stretch as the Thunder cope with losing Serge Ibaka and waiting for Durant to return. He’s also impressing teammates with his finishing skills, evidenced by career highs in true shooting percentage (58.7 percent), rebound rate (18.5) and 64 percent shooting from 0 to 3 feet.
What they’re saying about Kanter: “He’s just really skilled, knows how to finish around the rim and has good footwork. So when he gets deep in the paint, there’s really no stopping him.” – Mitch McGary.
Reggie Jackson from the Thunder to the Pistons: Jackson had the common thread of being an unhappy impending free agent in his situation but that’s where the similarities end. The Brooklyn Nets were close to acquiring him and seemed willing to hand him a max deal if he played well. Jackson will get something but maybe not max money. Before the deal he shot 43 percent which is not great and a far cry from his 45.8 percent two years ago. With Detroit, he has shot 38.8 percent and the Pistons have lost 10 of 13 games since making the deal they hoped would help them cope with Brandon Jennings‘ season-ending injury. Jackson is 17-of-36 in the two wins he has played in but in the 10 losses he has shot 36.8 percent. It’s tough to make adjustments to a new team, particularly with limited practice time, especially when it’s not a star player on a sub-500 team and that seems to be the early outcome here.
What they’re saying about Jackson: “I want him to be himself and be that at a high level. I don’t think at this level you are going to change guys’ games. … I think guys need to play to their strengths rather than be somebody they are not. That is what I tried to talk to Reggie about. Play his game, play it hard and play it as well as he can.” – Stan Van Gundy.
Brandon Knight from the Bucks to the Pistons: Another player heading into free agency but unlike Dragic, Kanter, and Jackson, Knight was not frustrated with his role or management. This time he arrived to Phoenix in the wake of the failed three-guard experiment that resulted in two trades and was re-united with Eric Bledsoe, his former teammate with Kentucky. Unfortunately, the Suns have not had the full version of Knight due to a sprained ankle that occurred last week. The Suns have not done great since the trade, losing six of 14 with a big game against the Pelicans on Thursday. Although he is averaging a respectable 14.4 points per game, Knight is shooting a career-low 37.6 percent. That’s due to struggles in his short jumper game. While he is 42.9 percent from 10 to 16 feet, Knight is at 35.7 percent from three to 10 feet and per 100 possessions he is a minus 7.2 points. Still, even with those numbers, the Suns have seen what he is capable of, evidenced by hitting clutch shots in overtime in Brooklyn on an off-night from the field and his 28-point performance against Orlando.
What Knight says: “We’ve got a lot of good talent, a lot of good pieces here. I could definitely see myself being here long-term. (They have) a good coaching staff, as well.”
Michael Carter-Williams from the 76ers to the Bucks: Perhaps the most surprising deal from the outside world but questions persisted about his shooting, toughness, and tendency to get injured. In Philadelphia he was a centerpiece but in Milwaukee he’s part of the equation. So far, the Bucks have played 10 games with him and he’s shooting a career-high 41.2 percent, so that validates the not-a-good-shooter issue. Additionally all the distance shooting percentages are up slightly for Carter-Williams. However, the results are not quite there for the Bucks, who have gone 3-7 in the 10 games Carter-Williams has appeared in. Carter-Williams is playing for Jason Kidd and there’s talk he might become like Kidd. Like many coaches say, it’s a process.
Isaiah Thomas: The Celtics had already traded Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, leading many to believe they had given up, but not so fast. Although Thomas is out with a back injury, the Celtics have emerged into the thick of the Eastern Conference race. In 10 games, he is averaging a career-high 21.4 points with a career-high 23.3 player efficiency rating, which explains why he’s getting used on 33.8 percent of plays. It’s hard not to use a guy that much with those numbers. The Celtics are 6-4 when he plays which may or may not be a good thing depending on your view of their rebuilding program.
What they say about Thomas: “Isaiah is a guy that can create offense in a number of different ways. He’s a guy that can score off the ball on catch-and-shoot situations, or off of screens away from the ball. But he’s really good with the ball. And really good using high pick-and-rolls and side pick-and-rolls to get downhill and score. He’s got good speed, he’s very crafty, he gets to the foul line. From an efficiency standpoint, he has really done a lot of good things.”
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