What Just Happened at the NBA Trade Deadline?

Benjamin White ‘23

With the 2020 NBA trade deadline being 3:00 PM Eastern Time on February 6, franchises were scrambling to get deals done before the deadline. The NBA world watched and waited for blockbuster trades, but nothing major had been accomplished by Wednesday.  Fans, players, teammates fell asleep, only to be woken up late Wednesday night by the first domino.


In a massive 4-team, 12-player deal, Houston Rockets center, Clint Capela, was traded to the Atlanta Hawks. The full trade details are:

Atlanta Hawks: Received: Clint Capela and Nene Hilario. Traded away: Evan Turner, Brooklyn Nets 2020 protected first round pick, Golden State Warriors 2024 second round pick.

Houston Rockets: Received: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors 2024 second round pick. Traded away: Clint Capela, Nene Hilario, Gerald Green, Houston Rockets 2020 first round pick.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Received: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, Brooklyn Nets 2020 protected first round pick. Traded away: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier.

Denver Nuggets: Received: Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Houston Rockets 2020 first round pick. Traded away: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt.

For the Houston Rockets, Capela was their third best player behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden. A rim-rolling finisher and shot-blocking force, he was key to previous playoff runs. With play styles centered around isolation basketball and launching 3-point attempts, Capela’s lack of a jumpshot was the reason behind the team moving on from him, and other veteran role players, Gerald Green and Nene Hilario. In exchange, Houston received veteran 3-and-D player, Robert Covington. Covington was in high demand from contenders seeking outside shooters who are capable of guarding an opposing team’s best player. He fit the Rockets scheme better than Capela, but without Capela, the Rockets lack size. The league may have been transitioning to small ball, but not so small that 6’ 5” P.J. Tucker is forced to guard 7 footers on a nightly basis. With 12 hours left before the deadline ended, the Rockets attempted to make another move for a center, which they ultimately failed to do. Nonetheless, they received a strong player in Covington.


As for the Hawks, they got another pick and roll lob threat for Trae Young. In a season destined for a lottery spot and player growth, there was no harm in giving up Brooklyn’s protected first rounder and Evan Turner. Atlanta’s biggest weakness has been rebounding, and Capela will certainly help that. By all means, Atlanta won this trade. As for the Timberwolves, their ultimate goal in the trade deadline was simple: Get D’Angelo Russell. Russell, being close friends to Timberwolves star, Karl Anthony Towns, was viewed as a necessity to trade for in order to keep Towns happy during a season coveted with losing. They traded Covington for assets to help them in their attempt to receive Russell. As for Denver, they were really just the fourth team to help make the salaries work. Nothing drastic happened between what they gave up, and what they received.


The next few hours were quiet, with minor trades being accepted every now and then. With hours remaining until the trade deadline, the Timberwolves finally won their prize.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Received: D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans the third, and Omari Spellman. Traded away: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota’s top 3 protected 2021 first round pick, Minnesota’s 2021 second round pick.

Golden State Warriors: Received: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota’s top 3 protected 2021 first round pick, Minnesota’s 2021 second round pick. Traded away: D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans the third, and Omari Spellman.


The Timberwolves have been chasing D’Angelo Russell for a long time. Not only a close friend of Karl Anthony Towns, Russell was an All-Star for the Brooklyn Nets last year, while averaging 23.6 points and 6.2 assists this year for Golden State. The assets acquired from the Covington deal were not even needed to receive Russell, but overall, Minnesota did a successful job at the deadline by receiving an all star, and assets, for Covington and Wiggins. For Golden State, they are getting a former first overall pick in Wiggins. With a decent jumpshot, and elite athleticism, Wiggins’ issue has been his work ethic (according to Jimmy Butler) and his lack of effort on defense. Being on a team that has won three out of the past five NBA championships could bring out the best of him, or it could be a failure resulting in the Warriors losing one of the healthy all stars they had. Either way, at small forward, Wiggins is a better fit next to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Only time will tell if this works out.


Another big deal made was Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers. Drummond, being a rebounding machine, defensive anchor, and all star for the Detroit Pistons, watched as the team he’s spent his young career for gave him up for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a future second round pick. They might as well have gotten a bag of chips and a soda for Drummond. The Cavaliers had nothing to lose in this trade given that they gave up practically nothing, but the fit next to Kevin Love is a little odd. For the Pistons, it seems as if they could have gotten much more for Drummond, leaving Pistons fans scratching their heads. A trade between two eastern conference bottom tier teams will have very little effect on the NBA season, but it will be interesting to see what Drummond does with his player option this off-season.


With time ticking on the trade deadline, the last domino fell, ending up with the Los Angeles Clippers having another shot-creating defender. In a three team trade with the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards, the Clippers ended up with Marcus Morris. The Knicks and Wizards, both being bottom tier teams in the eastern conference, acquired picks and young players from the Clippers such as Jerome Robinson ending up in D.C., and a first round pick headed to NYC. The big deal is Morris to the Clippers. With Kawhi and Paul George carrying out load management, Morris plays a similar role, and can help the Clippers climb the regular season standings for favorable playoff matchups. Averaging 19.6 points per game this season, Morris will be key to a Clipper title run.


Along with several other minor deals, these four trades will impact the NBA standings for the next few months. Come playoff time, many of these teams will have not made the cut. But next season, up and coming teams like the Timberwolves with D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors with healthy stars and Andrew Wiggins, the Hawks with Capela, maybe even the Cavs if Drummond stays could start to make their mark on the league.