The New Look of the NBA

The makeup of the NBA completely changed at this year’s trade deadline, with players moving all across the league. And most of these trades haven’t followed the traditional structure of past years. Instead, they have relied on the buyout market.

Buyouts occur when a player forfeits a portion of their salary to the team and gets paid to be released, allowing the player to become a free agent. In other words, the player and organization agree to part ways and the player can sign with any team. This year, former and current star players such as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins agreed to buyouts with their respective teams and have now signed to play for contending teams. 

The Brooklyn Nets capitalized on the buyout market this year, signing both Griffin and Aldridge. Griffin has played five games for Brooklyn and has averaged 8.6 points per game so far. Aldridge averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Spurs this season before they sat him down March 1 to look for trade options. Some analysts are not fans of Brooklyn taking advantage of the buyout market in order to essentially build an-all star team. However, Griffin and Aldridge have not been stars in recent years, so their old teams agreed to buy them out and let them choose the Brooklyn Nets to try and win a championship. 

Aldridge and Griffin serve different roles for Brooklyn. Aldrige is a center who can, in one game, give the Nets 13 to 15 points, play 25 minutes and bring some size for defensive purposes. Griffin has provided a good scoring punch in 15 minutes off the bench and an ability to play center in a “small ball” lineup. 

Another player who bought out their contract is former Cleveland Cavaliers Center Andre Drummond. Drummond agreed to sign with the Lakers on March 28 after being bought out by Cleveland. Drummond played his first game March 31 after not playing since Feb. 14. Unfortunately, he ended up playing only 14 minutes, after injuring his toe. Regardless, the Lakers are excited to have him on the team. Head Coach Frank Vogel said, “I think he’s going to give us a big lift in the immediate future and when we get going”. Drummond averaged 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds with Cleveland this season, until the organization decided to sit Drummond down for the purpose of trading him at a later time. 

Even though Brooklyn seems to have assembled an unstoppable roster with its recent trades, the Lakers are now contenders for a championship with their acquisition of Drummond, along with existing key players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Drummond brings a strong rebounding presence, defense and he can work well with LeBron in pick and roll situations. 

As for traditional trades that have shifted teams dramatically, the Denver Nuggets put themselves in a better position to compete for an NBA Championship with their moves from the trade deadline. They acquired former Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Cavaliers Center Javale McGee. Gordon provides defense on the perimeter and is another scoring option as he averaged 14.6 points a game in Orlando. McGee provides shot-blocking,rebounding and was instrumental in using these skills to aid in a Lakers championship last season. So far, Denver is 4-0 with Gordon in the line-up. 

Other contenders have made major moves as well. The Clippers traded away Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Point Guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo also was instrumental in the Lakers 2020 NBA Championship, providing a third scoring option and even being nicknamed “Playoff Rondo” by sports commentators. In Rondo, the Clippers get a point guard that can help generate easy scoring opportunities for stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Rondo also brings leadership to a team described as having issues in that department. 

Another move in the Western Conference is sharpshooter JJ Redick to the Dallas Mavericks. Redick is averaging 8.7 points per game, shooting 36.4 percent from the three and has a career three-point percentage of 41.5. He is currently nursing a heel injury and recently made some headlines when he criticized the New Orleans Pelicans front office on his podcast for how it handled his  trade to Dallas. Nevertheless, he brings another shooting threat to help Luka Doncic and did say how he looks forward to working with this star player.  

There have been some big moves in the Eastern Conference as well. All-Star center Nikola Vucevic became a member of the Chicago Bulls, meaning that now, the Bulls have two all-star players to build around. Vucevic is a great upgrade as he can score in the post, rebound at a very high level and shoot the three. 

Additionally, the Miami Heat picked up Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and draft picks. Oladipo is a twenty point per game scorer, so he adds a major offensive boost to a Miami team looking to get back to being contenders in the Eastern Conference again. 

The Celtics also added former Magic guard Evan Fournier to aid in their bench scoring as they look to make a push in the Eastern Conference. Fournier averaged 19.7 points a game in Orlando and the Celtics are confident he can help with the lack of bench scoring from their reserves. The Celtics also acquired Luke Kornet and Moritz Wagner to compensate for the team’s lack of frontcourt depth having lost Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams, both of whom have been sidelined by injury. 

The NBA trade has the league looking different this season, but it makes for exciting basketball and may offer fans a sense of suspense and excitement as they follow the teams through the season and to see who ultimately wins the NBA championship.