Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and as the NBA trade deadline inches closer, Tuesday morning was home to a pair of incredible blockbuster deals. The most significant trade piece on the market—guard James Harden—remains in Brooklyn. However, it is worth mentioning that the Nets did rest Harden last night in a matchup against the Boston Celtics. The Nets are running out a roster ill-suited for contending, and there is growing speculation Brooklyn could move Harden before the deadline in a deal involving Ben Simmons of the 76ers, who has missed the duration of the season to date. With the deadline looming on Thursday, it won’t be long before Harden’s situation has some clarity, at least in the short term. 

As for Tuesday’s duo of blockbusters, the first deal saw the New Orleans Pelicans look to cement a place among the playoff contenders in the Western Conference, sending a package centered around Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to the Portland Trail Blazers for guard CJ McCollum and wing Larry Nance Jr. McCollum joins Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas to give the Pelicans a lethal trio of scorers, not even taking into account the looming presence of Zion Williamson. McCollum will likely take over duties as the team’s primary ball-handler. Since an absolutely brutal start to the season, the Pelicans have been solid. Now, with or without Williamson, New Orleans is cemented as a viable play-in tournament squad in the Western Conference. 

Meanwhile, by dealing McCollum mere days after trading away Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Blazers are punting on putting forth a winning effort this season. Portland seems to intend to rebuild around Damian Lillard, though the team hasn’t exactly received impressive returns in the trades to date. It also is fair to question whether big man Jusuf Nurkic, a free agent at year’s end, will be the next player jettisoned out of town. Nurkic is a highly effective big man, solid as a scorer, and capable of dominating on the boards. For a contender in need of an upgrade in the middle (Charlotte?), Nurkic represents a massive potential upgrade. 

Hours after Portland’s tradeoff continued, the Pacers followed suit again, pairing the weekend’s deal that sent Caris LeVert to the Cavaliers with a trade sending big man Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings. In return, the Pacers received a package highlighted by second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton and sharp-shooter Buddy Hield. Sabonis is a perfect fit alongside De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento, though he represents a curious fit next to Harrison Barnes. Without a follow-up trade from the Kings sending Barnes out of town, the trade landed Sacramento a two-time All-Star, but it doesn’t give the team a clear path to contending. 

For the Pacers, adding Haliburton is a massive coup, and by dealing Sabonis, Indiana has seemingly freed up a full-time role for Myler Turner. Turner has long been miscast as a supporting big alongside Sabonis. Now, there’s every reason to expect Turner to leap to stardom as a perfect complementary piece alongside Haliburton’s play-making prowess on the offensive end. Paired with his place among the NBA’s best defensive big man, Turner is well-positioned to become a foundational piece for the rebuilding Indiana Pacers. In the short-term, however, with Turner (foot), T.J. Warren (foot), and Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) sidelined, Indiana will be a rough viewing experience. 

Washington’s hopes of a late-season charge likely came to an end on Tuesday with the revelation that guard Bradley Beal will miss the remainder of the season due to wrist surgery. The Wizards have fallen on hard times since a hot start to the season, and with the timing of Beal’s surgery coinciding nicely with the NBA’s trade deadline, Washington could emerge as an unexpected seller on the market. Veterans Spencer Dinwiddie and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are prominent names to potentially move. Still, the Wizards could surprise and float recent first-round picks Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija in talks. The lead-up to tomorrow afternoon’s deadline will be fun for basketball fans.