Discerning player value is no easy task, and projecting player value is even more difficult. Assigning grades to trades is somewhat of a fool’s errand, especially when the players have barely had a chance to move to their new markets. Grades will change and become more accurate over time. But we won’t let that dissuade us.
Heat Check Gaming Receives: MOAM
Jazz Gaming Receives: Lotty
This may come as a surprise to some, but certainly not to the players involved.
MOAM has been on the block for a while after not the smoothest season with Jazz Gaming. The Heat acquire a talented scorer who’s poured in 15 points per game in the regular season on 54% shooting, adding 2.3 steals per game to the mix as well. He’ll add more spacing to their offense as it continues to function as the Hotshot show.
The Jazz will have to replace that scoring, most likely in one of two ways. Lotty could stay at lock, where he’s been extremely efficient all season (72% shooting, 67% from three for 10.5 points per game), moving Deedz to power forward and Gliz to sharp, or some version of that. Alternatively, Lotty could return to his more familiar sharpshooting position
This trade, though, doesn’t happen without certain question marks off the court. Both teams might have preferred to have these players in the lineup for the Ticket, but off-court issues move according to their own pace. On the plus side, neither of those are likely to carry over to the players’ new teams. Jazz Gaming is most certainly strengthened chemistry-wise by this deal since Lotty is best friends with Jazz franchise cornerstone Compete.
Heat Check coach FamousEnough knows how hard it is to incorporate a player in the middle of the season. Working Hood into the lineup hasn’t been easy. He may be headed back to point guard, with MOAM going to sharp, after the Heat’s run to the quarterfinals of the Ticket with Hotshot on the post scorer. The new lineup will have very good shooting around Hotshot, with plenty of reliance on Dropoff to play defense, defense, defense. But the Heat are 4-7, in desperate need of a season-saving 5-0 run to close the season, and going all-in is, for one year, the only answer.
The Jazz have never had to work a new player in. They’ve had a tumultuous season, with West Coast flights, illness, and drama aplenty, as well as integrating a new coach and four rookies. It takes time to work in new players. They might not have time. At 5-5, the Jazz need at least four wins in their remaining six games to win a playoff spot, with five wins being safer. Will they be able to juggle their lineup efficiently and quickly?
How does this move play out in the offseason? The Jazz will likely keep Compete, Ria, and quite probably Deedz (assuming the league even allows 3 protected players), though Lotty could well be retained after the expansion draft or even protected. For the Heat, Hotshot, Dropoff, and Majestic are the core. Does MOAM garner retention in place of Hood? That—and which player goes in the expansion draft—could well depend on how the two play side-by-side in the team’s final five games of the season.
The Heat will have an easier time integrating MOAM than the Jazz will Lotty, which works in the short run. They’re playing with house money needing a clean sweep. The Jazz want the quick turnaround, too, but this may pay off more in the long run than in the playoff race this year. There’s no slam dunk on either side. Will there be playoffs?
Jazz Gaming: B
Heat Check Gaming: B
Heat Check Gaming Receives: Hood
(Since trade: def. Cavs Legion GC, loss to Pacers Gaming; Hood averaging 13.5 PPG, 7 APG on 48% shooting)
T-Wolves Gaming Receives: JMoneyRep817
(Since trade: def. Pistons GT, loss to Grizz Gaming; JMoney averaging 13.5 PPG, 8 APG on 50% shooting)
There are perhaps the most complicated variables at play in this trade as any.
Hood, very explicitly, wanted out of Minnesota, and the team benched him after news of his trade request went public. Shortly afterward, they dismissed their head coach—unrelated, i.e. not a power play won by Hood—and actually started to perform better than their 1-3 regular-season record, going an inspired 1-1 before trading for JMoney.
They’re 1-1 once more after making the move, which has shifted BearDaBeast to small forward and kept JMoney at point guard. Is that tenable long term? Bear is a better point guard, a flashier player, and a more vocal talker, and all of that seems, conversely, to make his transition easier. JMoney has played a number of positions outside of league, but I’ll believe in his versatility when it occurs on the league build, and, more importantly, on the league stage. I worry about the team’s defense, though: JMoney was able to hide somewhat effectively in Heat Check Gaming’s brash defense, and the T-Wolves have their ups and downs. It’s all about buying on defense, and if JMoney does, this could work.
Speaking of buying in, that’s the biggest point of contention around Hood. Will he buy in if the Heat struggle early on? Although history has twice proven otherwise, I think he will. Being home in Miami is a huge, external bonus that no other team can offer. FamousEnough, too, is one of the most highly respected player’s coaches in the league; if he can’t get Hood to buy in, most likely no one can, and Famous will have no problem letting Hood walk in the offseason if that turns out to be the case.
But he traded for Hood for a reason. There are few better pure scorers in the league, and while he’s making his first starts at point guard this season, that’s where he settled for Cavs Legion in last year’s run to the semifinals. He’s not great distributor, but he will get buckets. Almost more importantly for Heat Check, he talks on stage, which JMoney did not, and with newfound vehemence from the point guard chair the Heat may have the most talkative lineup in the league.
This was T-Wolves Gaming’s final trade. Their two trades have involved bringing in Hood (for oLarry) and now shipping him out to Miami. That matters. Though rumored to be sending Hood to Cleveland once again in exchange for LYKaPRO, that deal fell through, luckily for them. The team held out as long as it could while the offers dried up, and decided that Heat Check’s was the best one they would receive. Being patient and getting a solid player back helps. But dealing Hood, the crown jewel of their expansion draft effort, must hurt.
Heat Check has to be happy with this deal. It’s a high-reward, medium-risk deal. The team trusts its veteran core (Hotshot, Majestic, Dropoff) to steady the ship no matter what, and adding Hood gives them more firepower as they attempt to ascend the Finals summit. Blazer5 Gaming acquired a secondary scorer for the No. 17 pick. Heat Check Gaming acquired a scoring point guard, in a year where that matters more than ever, in exchange for, numerically, the No. 52 pick. That’s a win.
Heat Check Gaming: B+
T-Wolves Gaming: B
Cavs Legion GC Receives: All Hail Trey
(Since trade: loss to Heat Check Gaming, loss to Jazz Gaming; Trey averaging 17.5 PPG on 48% shooting)
Raptors Uprising GC Receives: Sick x 973
(Since trade: bye)
This trade sprang up seemingly out of nowhere, but it emerged out of quite a lot.
Cavs Legion has not played like a playoff team in the first half of the season, and the principal tactical reason was the team’s dearth of scoring. With LYKaPRO averaging just 8.2 points per game at point guard, teams easily keyed into Strainer at small forward. Sick himself averaged 18.2 points per game, but this isn’t the year for a big man to lead the team in scoring.
Consequently, Cavs Legion went out and got a phenomenal wing scorer in All Hail Trey. The former fourth-round pick is one of the most underrated players in the entire league, He’s a phenomenal shooter, he can create for himself when need be, and he’s an all-around good guy. Furthermore, last year he proved himself as one of the best shot-creating slasher-stoppers in the league, and was rewarded by being protected. Raptors Uprising is very sorry to see him go.
But this trade, for Cavs Legion, hinges on a lot of lineup adjustments. It requires Strainer to play point guard, and while Strainer is a phenomenal player, he’s a better shooter than facilitator. It moves SavageDoWerk into the starting lineup at power forward, and while he was one of the league’s best spot-starters last season, is that what the Cavs want? Larry will play center the rest of the year, which should stabilize quickly since that was his best position last year with Bucks Gaming. When (if) LYKaPRO returns to the lineup, what happens? Strainer to the three, Trey to the four, Savage to the bench? Did the Cavs acquire a great scorer only to play him at power forward, where it’s unlikely he’ll mimic Shotz’s game-changing post scorer?
Raptors Uprising has not played like a playoff team either. Its reasoning for the deal also hinges on several lineup changes, but here the Raptors have answers, not questions. First-round pick Doza solidified himself at point guard with a solid performance in the Turn. Kenny will move to his more natural small forward position. Sick will slot into the frontcourt alongside KingQuai.
Sick is really, really good. He’s a great defender, especially around the perimeter (he’s one of the league’s most respected blitzers), which is of paramount importance this season. That will mesh well with KingQuai, who’s more of an inside pain presence. His scoring will help mitigate the loss of All Hail Trey. The lineup adjustments seem to answer themselves and optimize the team’s personnel, not throw them into question. That’s a big plus.
The Cavs have had an incredibly turbulent season, most notably the team’s fines and LYKaPRO’s suspension. They now feature just one player, Godddof2k, from their 2018 roster, who was retained, not protected, after the season. The team has used its two trades to deal Hood and Sick. By contrast, the Raptors, even after parting ways with Trey, possess three players (Kenny, TsJosh, KingQuai) from their season-one squad. Veterans have mattered this year, and having three vets intimately familiar with the team will help integrate yet another veteran from another team.
One side made this deal out of a sense of desperation. The other made this deal out of a sense of surplus.
Raptors Uprising: A-
Cavs Legion: B-
Pistons GT Receives: DevGoss
(Since trade: loss to Magic Gaming, loss to T-Wolves Gaming; Dev averaging 12.5 PPG on 33% shooting)
Hawks Talon GC Receives: MrStylez
(Since trade: loss to Grizz Gaming; MrStylez 11 points, 5 assists)
This is the point guard swap that seems almost meant to happen from the very beginning.
The Pistons were linked with Dev early on in the draft process, and though they went in Stylez’s direction at the draft one has to imagine what could have been. Chemistry does get a nice boost, with Throwdown Pro-Am teammates Dev and Insanity linking up, finally, in the NBA 2K League. That’s not to say that Stylez was a chemistry issue in Detroit: he wasn’t. But sometimes things mesh off the court without meshing on the court, and the Pistons hope to maintain their off-court chemistry while building on-court chemistry.
The Pistons do need scoring in the backcourt. With Insanity playing lock, or Jaacko playing lock (who knows at this point?), Dev has to be the one to pick up the scoring slack. Things are complicated. They no longer have a distributor at point guard; Dev is a score-first guard. The inclination, it seems, has therefore been to put him at a position that requires more scoring than distributing (SF) rather than a balance of the two (PG). But the Pistons don’t have that luxury. Their frontcourt is set. Splashking is very much not the answer.
The problem, then, lies in the backcourt. The answer should be Dev at point guard, Insanity at lock, and Jaacko at small forward. But the team seems to like Insanity playing point guard and Jaacko playing lock. Jaacko gave this team the shot it needed when Stylez was unable to carry the scoring load. No matter what combination of the three players the Pistons deploy, their scoring and facilitation will be far from optimized. And so the burden will inevitably fall on Dev to become one of the league’s best scorers. With Dev averaging 12.9 points per game on 44% shooting, that is the definition of a gamble.
For the Hawks, this sure feels like a win. Most obviously, the team gets the chance to shift Rando back to his more natural secondary ballhandler position, though he’ll still be the primary off-ball scoring option. This trade makes even more sense if the offense continues to run through DatBoyShotz on the shot-creating post scorer. Stylez is a more polished passer and distributor than either Rando or Dev. The scoring onus is no longer on him, as it was in Detroit. The more comfortable Stylez is, the better he plays, and with the Hawks’ identity fairly well set already, he should be very comfortable quickly.
The Hawks, therefore, now have their offense conducted by the No. 4 overall pick. They have the offense feeding the No. 1 overall pick from the expansion draft as well as a second-round pick who has turned out to be an extremely good player. When Stylez develops pick-and-roll chemistry with Arsonal, that will add another dimension to the team’s offensive attack. With this trade, they added more comfort and more apt position placement without sacrificing their identity.
The Pistons acquired the No. 4 pick—Stylez—from the Pacers in exchange for Ramo. They turned that into the No. 13 pick—Dev. They’re banking on Dev to become an MVP candidate. Let’s see if he does it.
Hawks Talon GC: A
Pistons GT: C-
Grizz Gaming Receives: KelMav
(After trade: bye)
Magic Gaming Receives: ToXsiK
(After trade: bye)
The most amicable trade so far featured two third-round picks of very different comportment.
Both teams sit at 3-4 on the year, and both are eager to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Both are on pace for a 6-8 record, which was the Grizz’s record last season and the inverse of the Magic’s (8-6). Both think they are better teams than their records show.
It’s a little clearer why the Grizz made this trade. While Toxsik has played well this season, the team picked up more wins without him in the lineup than with him. That’s no condemnation of him as a player. That’s just a reflection of when the team has stuck to the gameplan and, on average, when Vandi has looked more and more like the No. 7 pick he is. DDouble has provided good energy off the bench, and the Grizz are getting more efficient production from second-round pick Jayrod.
Adding KelMav gives them another pure scorer to use. They could slot him in at a small forward and use him as a secondary ballhandler. That, however, would shift Jayrod to power forward, where he might not be particularly comfortable, although in a perfect world that would give the Grizz an excellent ranged wing attack. Their defense now rests on DDouble’s shoulders at lock, and while team defense matters more than individual defense, they haven’t upgraded either with this deal. Are they willing to sit Universal again after two wins with him in the lineup?
When he’s hitting his shots, Mav is a talented scorer and someone who will inject a much-needed burst of energy and trash-talk into the Grizz’s lineup. The issue, no matter where KelMav slots in, is that he was a third-round pick for several large reasons. He has been a below-average defender all season, neither guarding on-ball with much success nor defending off-ball with much intensity. Offensively, he can be inefficient and a little too focused on his own performance. When things go south, he can play hero ball without being too heroic.
Toxsik is almost the opposite. He has played lockdown defender this year after a season spent manning the corner in Cleveland, where he averaged just over 5 points per game. This year, he’s up to 7.8 points per game on 58% shooting. That’s marked improvement considering his position, but nothing about that suggests he’ll be able to immediately become a 15-point per game scorer as a secondary ballhandler. But KelMav averaged just 8.7 points per game on 40% shooting with the Magic, hardly world-shaking numbers, and Toxsik’s numbers won’t drop if he plays in a more offensive role.
What Toxsik will certainly add is more defense, which, for an already above-average defensive team, is much appreciated. Magic Gaming now has zero below-average defenders on their roster, and considering coach Jonah’s ability to target matchups, the defensive consistency is a perfect accompaniment. That matchup targeting may be the key to Toxsik’s integration into the lineup. While Tucker at small forward quite clearly failed against Warriors Gaming, he’s eminently playable in the frontcourt alongside KingCam, DT or even Toxsik on a stretch build.
Another wildcard: what if Manny goes to the 3? Jonah has long touted him as one of the best offensive locks in the game. If he manages to transition to playing as a scorer and distributor at small forward, Toxsik can stay at lock. This too can come down to the matchups.
The Magic upgraded defensively without sacrificing much offensively. They’ll lose some vociferousness on stage, but they’re a team content to let their play do the talking. The Grizz get more talking and perhaps an offensive upgrade, depending on where they position KelMav. Neither’s new path to the playoffs is immediately clear, but one team has a few more options.
Magic Gaming: B+
Grizz Gaming: B-