New York Knicks

3 NBA trade deadline deals already paying dividends

There’s just a week between the NBA Trade Deadline and the NBA All-Star Break. But in that short window, we’re already seeing some deals paying off.

The space between the NBA trade deadline and the All-Star Break is time for just two or three games for each team, at most. But that space is enough time to start taking the temperature on completed deals and see which teams have actually improved.

Kevin Durant hasn’t made his Suns debut yet but these other deals and players in new homes could be changing playoff races.

Josh Hart to the New York Knicks

Hart has given the Knicks everything they could have hoped for in his first three games. The three wins haven’t come over the toughest opposition — Jazz, Nets, Hawks — but they’ve come by a combined 45 points. Over that stretch, Hart has averaged 17.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game, and hit 9-of-14 from beyond the arc.

His 3-point percentage is probably going to come down (he’s a 34.6 percent shooter for his career) but he can still make an off-ball impact with his cutting, offensive rebounding and ability to attack closeouts off the drive.

Hart has come off the bench in all three of his game so far, mostly swapping in for RJ Barrett. His most interesting lineup so far is with Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Julius Randle and Isaiah Hartenstein, outscoring opponents by a total of 23 points in 29 minutes. The Knicks still have a lot of time to experiment with Hart in different lineups but he gives them a huge infusion of depth and versatility for a playoff run.

Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors

Poeltl to the Raptors wasn’t that surprising a deadline move. The surprise was that they didn’t trade anyone else and are apparently counting on him to help transform an underperforming core into a team that could make a deep playoff run.

Poeltl has already made an impact as a screener and with his finishing around the basket — he’s 20-of-24 from the field in three games, two of which were Raptors wins. He hasn’t had a ton of opportunities to work as an elbow facilitator or short-roll operator but there have been good results when he has.

Given how much he developed as a facilitator with the Spurs this season, there would appear to be a lot of upside here for the Raptors. But Poeltl’s biggest impact for the Raptors so far has come at the defensive end, where they’ve allowed just 103.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. That’s an improvement of more than 10 points per 100 possessions over their season-long average and a mark that would lead the league across the entire season. Granted it’s a three-game sample and against the Magic, Pistons and Jazz. But he’s already racked up nine blocks and three steals. His rim protection is going to make a difference and allow the Raptors to slide some of their other strong defenders down to more advantageous matchups.

Mike Muscala to the Boston Celtics

Muscala was one of the smaller deadline acquisitions and if all goes right for the Celtics, they won’t need him much in the playoffs with Al Horford and Robert Williams healthy and taking most of the big man minutes.

But as a Plan C, his shooting makes him extremely valuable and the Celtics have already gotten a taste of that. Muscala has played 76 minutes in three games, hitting 9-of-23 from beyond the arc. His gravity is also going to draw defenders out of the paint and leave openings for the Celtics’ ball-handlers to attack.

Muscala’s utility is going to be very situational but his frontcourt shooting absolutely fills a need for the Celtics.

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Latest NBA buyout news and rumors

With the trade deadline behind us, the buyout market is the last opportunity for teams to really tinker with their rosters. Here’s the latest on who could be available and where they’ll go:

  • Nerlens Noel was expected to be a buyout candidate. Marc Stein reports that he hasn’t actively pursued a buyout and made end up staying with the Pistons.
  • Cody Zeller played 21 games for the Blazers last season and was unsigned to begin this year but recently worked out for the Miami Heat. The Heat are also reportedly interested in Serge Ibaka and Kevin Love.
  • Kevin Love will have several suitors but the Phoenix Suns may be chief among them, according to Brian Windhorst.
  • Leandro Bolmaro has been bought out by the Utah Jazz. No word yet on teams who may be interested in signing them.
  • Julian Champagnie was released by the Philadelphia 76ers and claimed off waivers by the San Antonio Spurs.

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