The 12-player, four-team trade between the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Denver Nuggets was a late-night splash, unlike anything the league had seen in the last two decades. Now that the water has settled, let’s take a look at which teams came out on top of this wild trade, roughly 36 hours before the final buzzer.
Atlanta Hawks: A-
Received: Clint Capela (C), Nene (C)
Capela is locked in for three more seasons after this one and his incentive-laced contract will keep him performing if he wants those extra $8 million that can come at the end of this and the next three years. He’s only 25 years old and still has some untapped potential that can be exploited for a team that will let him do more than clean up the glass from the bricks thrown by James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
The Hawks reportedly wanted to avoid paying John Collins a massive extension or having to march if he goes into restricted free agency. Now that Capela is the man at center, all that is left is to seek an exit route for the former Wake Forest star.
Nene is a potential flip-or-tear piece, as doing the latter can increase the Hawks trade exception to $3.7 million — though doing so will come at the price of some draft compensation.
Here’s a little free juice for ATL’s #-crunchers: If you rip out Nene part of trade, you can increase the size of your trade exception from $1.1M to $3.7M. And size matters! (Of course, you’d need to send something back; just for fun, I propose your 2020 1st; top-25 protected).
— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) February 5, 2020
Houston Rockets: B+
Received: Robert Covington (F), Jordan Bell (F/C)
The Rockets finally get the three-and-D star they’ve been looking for since Trevor Ariza left in free agency in 2018. Houston was willing to part ways with Clint Capela after deciding to play a gimmicky small-ball offense that features the 6-foot-6 PJ Tucker at center.
Houston is 10-1 in games Capela has missed this season and Mike D’Antoni has fully committed to his “offense over defense” motto, relying exclusively on his star backcourt to bring them to the promised land.
Jordan Bell could provide some depth at the center position for the Rockets and allow D’Antoni to have a mobile big to run the floor and catch the occasional lob. The Rockets could also let Bell walk without a qualifying offer for next season.
General manager Daryl Morey also comes through after owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly demanded to keep the team under the luxury tax, shaving roughly $2 million in salary after parting ways with Capela.
Houston gets a B-plus in this trade, but it could quickly turn into a disaster if this small-ball concept turns into their doom against big-time centers in the playoffs like Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic. The Rockets are looking for a sound presence at center, but by no means a starter. It’s unclear if a) they will be able to acquire one in a trade or b) if one would be good enough to help them through a playoff series.
Minnesota Timberwolves: C
Received: Juancho Hernangomez (F/C), Evan Turner (G/F), Malik Beasley (G), Jarred Vanderbilt (F), first-round pick
This four-team deal yielded only prospective value, which is tough to evaluate immediately. The Timberwolves have lost their last 12 games and are penultimate in the Western Conference with only 15 wins on the season. Any move they would have made (including D’Angelo Russell) would have been to better their long-term future, as this season has more than likely gone by the wayside.
The Wolves did what’s important here, yielding not only a 2020 first-round pick but one of the best in Atlanta’s first-rounder (via Brooklyn Nets). Minnesota is reportedly interested in re-signing Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez in the offseason, making Turner and Vanderbilt rather expendable with expiring contracts.
Turner is in the last year of a behemoth four-year, $70 million deal and the Wolves aren’t likely to keep him past this season. Vanderbilt’s deal is non-guaranteed for the 2020-21 season if waived before July 15, at which point he gets the full $1.66 million owed to him in his third year.
Minnesota gets a C grade, which could improve to a better one in the future if Beasley and Hernangomez turn out to be helpful cogs for the Timberwolves in this season and the next.
Denver Nuggets: D
Received: Noah Vonleh (C), Gerald Green (Injured — G/F), Shabazz Napier (G), Keita Bates-Diop (F) + first-round pick
D is for Denver, and quite honestly I’m fighting the urge to give them an F — but there’s always more than meets the eye.
The Nuggets were unwilling to sign Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to new contracts in the summer, considering the money already loaded into Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, along with Michael Porter Jr.’s upcoming extension.
Freeing up from that responsibility was part of why they were the fourth team (also known as the helper) in this four-team trade. But they took on two forward/centers in Keita Bates-Diop and Noah Vonleh, further complicating the logjam at that position.
Porter Jr. has already had to fight for minutes with Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant ahead of him in the depth chart. Throwing in others who are unlikely to crack the rotation only makes this more of a headache for coach Mike Malone.
Shabazz Napier could make for a nice backup to Jamal Murray, now that he’s back from injury — though it’s likely that Monte Morris will still be that No. 1 option to back him up at point guard.
Gerald Green is hopeful to return before the end of the season, but his recovery timeline (six months) suggests it would be right around the start of the playoffs, which doesn’t bode well for his playing time.
The Nuggets jumped in on this trade for financial reasons more so than basketball reasons, getting the worst haul in terms of player quality, though justified with the cap relief they’ll enjoy heading into next season. Denver could also offer Houston’s first-round pick — which they acquired in the trade — in future deals right before the deadline.