The 2023 NBA trade deadline was a frenetic one, as it saw 28 of the league's 30 teams get involved in the action. Included in that action was an arms race at the top of the Eastern Conference, as all three of the conference's top teams record-wise -- the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers -- made moves. Those teams have already established themselves as the cream of the crop in the conference, and all three improved with deadline additions.
Here's a look at who those teams added, what they gave up, and what it means for them.
Added: Mike Muscala
Traded: Justin Jackson, two future second-round picks
Muscula isn't a flashy name, but he's a reliable floor-spacer from the center spot, and he'll help to fortify a frontcourt in Boston that was already one of the deepest and most versatile in the league. Boston's big-man rotation consists of Robert Williams III, Al Horford, Grant Williams and Blake Griffin. The addition of Muscala will give them a different look and another option. The Celtics didn't have to give up anything of value to land him, either.
Given the fact that Robert Williams is fresh off of knee surgery and both Horford and Griffin are in the latter stages of their respective careers, having another playable piece is a good thing for the Celtics, especially during the regular season, as it could save some wear-and-tear on those guys at the least. Plus, Muscala can be a productive player in spurts. He's a career 37 percent shooter from long range, and he'll corral a couple of rebounds while he's out on the floor. We'll have to wait and see if he's part of Boston's playoff rotation, but even if he just helps them get there a bit fresher, his addition will have been a worthwhile one.
Added: Jae Crowder
Traded: Serge Ibaka, George Hill, Jordan Nwora, five future second-round picks
The Bucks were one of the winners of the deadline this season, as they landed an experienced, versatile, starting-caliber, two-way contributor in Jae Crowder as part of a multi-team trade. Crowder hasn't played a single second this season as he was at odds with the Suns over his role, which means he should be fresh and motivated, and judging by his reaction to the move, he is:
414 BUCKSNATION X MUNATION ITS TIME TO WORK.!!! IM GLAD TO BE BACK HOME.!! 🙏🏾🙏🏾 https://t.co/B9703s4aMR— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) February 9, 2023
Though he didn't suit up for them this season, Crowder was integral to Phoenix's success over the prior couple of years. He helped them reach the NBA Finals in 2021, and he was again a central part of the team's rotation last season, as he started in all 67 of his appearances. Crowder previously helped the Miami Heat make a run all the way to the Finals in the Orlando bubble in 2020, and that experience makes him a great fit for a Bucks team looking to get back to the mountaintop after besting Crowder and the Suns to win it all in '21.
Crowder is a guy who can fill in at either forward spot and space the floor on the offensive end. Plus, he doesn't mind getting physical on the other end. As a result, Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is very excited about his addition.
"I'm very excited to play with him," Antetokounmpo said of Crowder. "He can space the floor for us. He brings veteran leadership, toughness to the team. Obviously two years ago we had that with P.J. [Tucker]. I think Jae could definitely bring that for us."
The Bucks reportedly wanted to land Crowder for months, and they finally got their guy. He seems like a great fit for them on paper, and it's not tough to envision him having a major role carved out for himself in Milwaukee by the time postseason play rolls around.
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Added: Jalen McDaniels, two future second-round picks
Traded: Matisse Thybulle, 2023 second-round pick
Out of these three teams, the Sixers, who basically swapped Matisse Thybulle for Jalen McDaniels, probably made the least impactful move, but incremental improvement is still improvement. Thybulle is a better defender than McDaniels, but McDaniels is still solid on that end of the floor, and he's [much] more polished on the offensive end than Thybulle.
As good as he was defensively, the Sixers struggled to keep Thybulle on the floor at times -- especially in the postseason -- because he was a net negative on offense, and in turn, he made things more difficult for his teammates on that end. McDaniels is a more adept shooter than Thybulle, he's also a better dribbler and finisher around the rim. In other words, he better fits the bill of a true two-way player, while Thybulle is still largely a one-way guy at this point in his career. Plus, thanks to his height advantage, McDaniels is s better rebounder than Thybulle -- an area of weakness for Philadelphia -- and he has the size to defend both forward spots.
"We wanted to make sure we gave Doc [Rivers] as many two-way players as possible," Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said of the move. "And we think Jalen's one of the up-and-coming solid defenders and is somebody that's a little easier to keep on the floor in a lot of matchups."
McDaniels isn't the type of player who is going to singlehandedly propel the Sixers to their first conference finals appearance since 2001, but he could prove to be a valuable rotation piece and a more impactful postseason player than Thybulle. The Sixers still need to add a backup big man behind Joel Embiid, so they'll have to turn to the buyout market in order to accomplish that.