It’s been exactly three quarters of a year since the final trade from the NBA 2K League’s post-expansion draft trade window in 2018. A majority of the 2019 season has been played at this point (somehow, there’s just one month left) and a full in-season trade window has elapsed. It’s now fair game to take a look back and judge all the trades that happened in the 2018 window, from the good, to the bad, to the flat-out ugly.
Here are my grades from that window for reference. These grades aren’t produced in a trade vacuum; they’re influenced by new developments and consequently will change as time progresses.
Pistons GT trades Lets Get It Ramo to Pacers Gaming for a first-round pick (#4) in the entry draft
This trade didn’t look great at the time it was announced, the morning of the trade window’s commencement. It doesn’t look much better in retrospect.
What I said at the time: “A great trade for the Pacers, who lock down one of the best (and most proven) big men in the league… Ramo will be incredibly hard to replace in the lineup, as the former MVP candidate was the Pistons’ bulwark both on offense and defense. With only Insanity and JosephTheTruth on the books, Pistons GT must hit home on all of their entry draft picks.”
The Pacers acquired one of the best big men in the game, giving them one of the best three-player cores in the league. Now, this year’s meta hasn’t worked particularly well with what the Pacers do, but that’s through no fault of Ramo’s. He’s played his usual excellent defense and has transitioned to the powerful post-scorer build, helping the Pacers make a run to the finals of the Ticket tournament. For the most part, they’ve missed the talented point guard available with the fourth pick, but Swizurk has moved to point guard capably. The protection structure this year will determine the trifecta’s fate: if it’s three players (of if there’s a championship in the bag, not impossible for the 8-4 Pacers), then this trade is eminently worth it.
For the Pistons, things would look a lot different if they had managed to capitalize on the fourth overall pick. Instead, top selection MrStylez was traded to Hawks Talon GC at the deadline for 13th overall pick DevGoss, a longtime teammate of Pistons cornerstone Insanity. They’ll probably protect him, it seems, especially in a three-player protection scenario. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t gone anywhere near the Pistons’ way, as the team is a league-worst 1-12 and in line for a top-three draft pick of their own accord this year. In summation, the Pistons traded Ramo for DevGoss, and although the trade wasn’t directly responsible for who they took at 4, it has to take into account, to some extent, just how poorly this season. Losing an MVP candidate is not great; failing to capitalize on the return for him is even worse.
Pacers Gaming: A
Pistons GT: D-
Cavs Legion GC trades Hood to T-Wolves Gaming for the third selection in the expansion draft (oLarry)
This trade was the splash of the expansion draft, as the T-Wolves expansion draft personnel went out and got a player not available in the expansion draft pool.
What I said at the time: “The outcome of this trade will be primarily decided by whether Hood finds success in Minnesota… I do believe that Larry will be 100% ready and raring to go in season 2, and he’ll probably be placed in a situation where he’ll produce more consistently than was the case in Milwaukee.”
Then, almost-not-quite-shockingly, it didn’t work out. Hood asked for a trade with the T-Wolves just 1-3 in the regular season a couple weeks into the year, and the T-Wolves burned their second and final trade of the season. That one worked; with JMoney complementing BearDaBeast on offense, the T-Wolves now sit 7-6 and have an outside chance to make the playoffs in their first season in the league. The T-Wolves capitalized on a weak Lakers Gaming expansion draft to snag Feast, and could have selected JMoney in the third round of the entry draft. This boils down to: would the T-Wolves have been better with JMoney/Feast/Larry and two free trade slots or with the result they got in the end?
For Cleveland, this worked the way it was supposed to, in the end. The team picked up a very recognizable player, and a very capable one at that, and dealt away a personnel question mark at the same time. Now, there was a brief moment where Hood-back-to-Cleveland wasn’t impossible, which would have made this trade an eyebrow-raiser, but that didn’t happen. Instead the Cavs wound up making a big, unrelated deal. Larry has rounded into form as the season has progressed, and while they’ve never really replaced the scoring that Hood brought to the team at his peak, things have worked out for the Cavs.
T-Wolves Gaming: B-
Cavs Legion GC: B+
Mavs GG trades Dayfri to Wizards District Gaming for a first-round pick (#14) in the entry draft
This trade looked like the beginning of a new era for one team and a rise to dominance for another, but those two narratives have coalesced around only one of these teams.
What I said at the time: “The Wizards get a great scorer and post player to pair with Shump and JT… the Mavs need to hit the nail on the head with their two first-round picks.”
This has been essentially a lost season for the Wizards after last year’s league-leading scorer, Boo Painter, was disqualified from the league. They’re 5-7 in a year of major turmoil, though they’ve strengthened as the season has progressed. I wouldn’t say that Dayfri has taken a sharp downturn, even though his numbers have regressed: a position switch for improved defense, a new meta and a dearth of solid play around him have made this a rough year for the star big man. Nonetheless, his term in Washington will be a long one—teams calling for him at the deadline were rebuffed with laughter—and for that matter it’s still an acceptable deal (especially considering higher picks dealt for worse players; more on that in a moment).
The Mavs, by contrast, have flourished after nailing their five draft picks. They did the right thing at No. 5 by taking Pete, filling the big-man void left by Dayfri’s departure, and then they took Mo at No. 14, which has worked perfectly. At 11-4, the Mavs are serious title contenders. Dayfri was never staying in Dallas, considering Dimez’s clout in the organization, and the Mavs—although they could have gotten a higher pick, in retrospect, for Dayfri—did exactly what they needed to do in acquiring and nailing another high pick.
Wizards District Gaming: B
Mavs Gaming: A-
Warriors Gaming Squad retains and trades Vert to Lakers Gaming for a first-round pick (#10) in the entry draft
A dynasty is born, or the lesson of appropriately valuing draft picks.
What I said at the time: “The Warriors essentially moved up 13 draft slots for an asset they weren’t planning to use anyways… [the Lakers] get Vert to join KontruL and Mootyy in Los Angeles and put their confidence in a league-tested big three rather than in an entry draft selection.”
Let’s get the easy part out of the way first: the Warriors hit a home run in this trade, part of a chain of several terrific front-office decisions that built a two-tournament-title monster for the 2019 season. With this pick, the Warriors grabbed Kina, who’s been the most important ancillary guard in the league this year, complementing BSmoove’s breakout campaign. For a player they weren’t going to use anyways (whose retention cost the team a second-rounder), this is ridiculously successful asset management.
This trade should serve as a league-wide example—or warning—about the importance of properly valuing draft picks. The Lakers made this deal after a better player, Dayfri, was acquired for a worse pick, the No. 14 selection. This doesn’t look good by comparison. It looks even worse now that point guard play has proved so essential, and Vert at point guard, for all his versatility, is not the path to success (see: 2-11). In the end, the Lakers made a series of bad decisions. They could have taken Mootyy and Vert in the expansion draft and picked Kina with the 10th overall pick, eliminating a Warriors juggernaut in the meanwhile. One saving grace for the Lakers is that they’ll likely protect Vert in a three-player protection structure, if that’s what the league decides on. What makes this worse than the Pistons trade, despite the Pistons’ slightly worse record, is that the Lakers went out and got what they wanted. The Pistons traded a great asset for a very good asset and spectacularly failed to capitalize on that, which makes the trade itself slightly better. The Lakers tossed away their chance to capitalize on a great asset in exchange for one they could have easily had at no cost just days before.
How do you accurately value draft picks? It’s not necessarily easy. But having enough advance scouting to determine that there are ten prospects better than a league player is crucial. The Warriors knew what it was like to be unsure about prospects and the mistakes that result therefrom. The Lakers, an expansion team, had no idea. The Warriors burned them for it.
Warriors Gaming Squad: A+
Lakers Gaming: F
Bucks Gaming retains and trades King_Peroxide to Blazer5 Gaming for a first-round pick (#17) in the entry draft
This trade, involving a championship contender and first-round pick, may have been the least eventful of them all.
What I said at the time: “[Blazer5,] a team that fell short of a championship, makes a trade for a complementary piece to buoy their stars… the Bucks managed to extract very respectable value for an option they weren’t planning to feature in their plans.”
The Bucks did pretty well with this one, picking up an extra first-round pick at the cost of just a third-rounder (oLarry was taken in the entry draft, making the team’s first retention less costly). SlayIsland to Milwaukee always seemed to be fated, and the team made it happen with this extra selection. The Bucks have been better this year than they were in season one, in part due to Slay’s defense, and their secondary ballhandler scoring ranks among the best in the league thanks to Arooks. They didn’t really net a longterm solution at point guard with their bevy of picks, but this deal made a lot of sense for the team then and—considering the point guards selected after No. 17, including by the Bucks—its implementation still does now.
The Blazers have lately inserted Jomar (2018 sixth-rounder, 2019 fourth-rounder) into their starting lineup in place of Peroxide, and the sixth man has been terrific. Does that make this trade a loss of value for the Blazers? No. Here’s the thing: this trade doesn’t matter to the Blazers. Their star core is good enough to work with any role player, and Lavish’s breakout season is something for which they’d have happily dealt a first-rounder. They still got Daveed to fall to them in the second round. Jomar’s great play is icing on the cake. The Blazers have such identity that they can replace complementary wing players without breaking step. The No. 17 pick’s value to the Blazers was perfectly correct, whether or not they could have gotten, say, Malik or Seem in Peroxide’s stead. The solution to improperly evaluating draft pick value is simply to be good enough that making a mistake doesn’t matter.
Bucks Gaming: B+
Blazer5 Gaming: B