While the NBA's annual trade deadline has come and gone without the barrage of deals that has characterized years past, some moves (or the decision not to move) will undoubtedly affect the second half of the season more than others.
Fortunately for the Clippers, owner Donald Sterling shrewdly elected not to mortgage away the team's future and avoided the one absolute deadline no-no: Doing a deal simply to do a deal.
Here's what to expect from the winners and losers at the trade deadline:
Los Angeles Clippers
Sometimes it's actually the decision not to make a trade that makes a team a deadline winner.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe is just 23 years old, and at this point in his young career, one can argue that he's been more successful than former Kentucky teammate and 2010 top overall pick, John Wall. Bledsoe is a blur with the ball, a dynamic and harassing on-ball defender and he still has tremendous growth left in his game. The Clippers have an opportunity to win now, but with the core of Bledsoe, Blake Griffin, 24; DeAndre Jordan, 23; and Chris Paul, 27, the future is even brighter. As great as the Paul-Griffin combo is, Bledsoe brings the Clippers an exceptional fifth gear, and his first-rate athleticism tops even that of CP3.
Bledsoe ranks eighth among point guards in player efficiency and ninth in win percentage (per ESPN Stats & Info). The criticism of Bledsoe is that he's prone to turnovers and isn't a true lead guard. That may be, but Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari told HuffPost that Bledsoe, in sharing guard duties with Wall at UK, reminded him of Russell Westbrook at UCLA, who also tended to play off the ball. There is also this: Bledsoe will earn a mere $2.6 million in 2013-14, the final year of his rookie contract -- making him perhaps the best bargain in the league.
Had the Clippers added a piece like Kevin Garnett, it wouldn't have guaranteed a title this year -- but it very likely would have guaranteed a less bright future.
Remember when GM Daryl Morey desperately tried to get Dwight Howard last summer? Well, now the Rockets have stayed under the salary cap while snagging the fifth pick of the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson, who's a potentially great asset either to trade or be their power forward for the future. Plus, now they've got max-level cap room. It doesn't get much better than that.
Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard looks like a petulant 7-year-old on the court, Pau Gasol is in street clothes, and both Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison are playing 20-plus minutes a night. Not to mention the untimely death of beloved team owner Jerry Buss. It's a dark cloud that's hanging over Lakerland.
Keeping Howard, however, is just making matters worse. Best-case scenario for LA this season is an eight seed, which translates into a sweep by either OKC or San Antonio. Howard, soon to be a free agent, is likely gone after this season. The deadline was the best chance to extract value for him. Given the uncertainty of an aging Kobe and an injured Gasol, taking the chance on Howard simply resigning is not good enough.
Normally it's Rockets' GM Daryl Morey who's worried about being cash strapped, but Sacramento and its broke owners, the Maloof brothers, have taken belt-tightening to an entirely new level.
To recap: They passed on Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond to take Thomas Robinson fifth overall in last year's draft. Then they trade Robinson for Patrick Patterson and a couple of scrubs? The additional $1 million that came as the deal's "ancillary prize" fits in here somehow as well, as does the roughly $4 million this deal saves the franchise this season.
In this league, there are going to be cap moves, especially with the luxury tax getting worse, but this move is a joke. While Robinson may have struggled (and I've never been a huge fan), he's only 21 years old and, despite his lackluster teammates, is shooting 37 percent from 10 to 15 feet (per Hoopdata.com), a number you can certainly live with.
As it stands, the Kings' best players are DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson and the unmistakeable Tyreke Evans, who was the one asset worth trading. What a splendid quintet of young talent!
In related news, they will likely have the league's lowest payroll, down from the second lowest this season. But hey, at least there is still the Jimmer.
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Ed Note: A previous edition of this article did not list DeMarcus Cousins as a member of the Kings.