The 2023 NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and now we get to evaluate all that has happened. Or didn't happen. Some moves we saw coming. Some caught most everyone off guard -- and that's where we're going to focus our energy.
Here are five surprising deadline moves.
Kevin Durant blockbuster
Leading up to the middle-of-the-night bombshell, all reporting had indicated that Durant was going to stay in Brooklyn. So much for that. The Suns put together a monster package that included Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, four first-round picks and a pick swap, while the Nets were coming to the realization that they weren't going to win a title this year after the Kyrie Irving trade, and so they got a deal done.
I don't think I'm alone in saying I was shocked to see this news come across my feed. I know Phoenix was a preferred destination for Durant during his initial trade request last summer, and I know the Suns were ready to pounce if he became available again. I just didn't think something this big would happen this quickly. I suppose that I should have known. The NBA continues to be out-of-its-mind wild.
Lakers salvage Westbrook debacle
You could call it a half measure that the Lakers flipped Westbrook and their 2027 first-round pick for three players in D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt who likely don't turn them into a contender.
But to me, this was a pretty sweet deal for the Lakers, and it's genuinely surprising that they got Westbrook off the team for just a one-pick tax, to say nothing of actually bringing back three solid players who not only give them a fighting chance this season, but also don't compromise the offseason flexibility that they have fought to maintain.
Russell is on an expiring deal. Beasley has a $16.5 million team option. Vanderbilt is only guaranteed $300,000 as long as he is waived by June 30. The Lakers could trade him before that; even if they keep him, his $4.7 million 2023-24 number isn't terribly punitive, particularly for a player as useful as Vanderbilt.
In other words, the Lakers still have the ability to clear at least the $47 million that would've come off their books with the expiration of Westbrook's contract, leaving them with something north of $30 million in cap space. On the other hand, they also have the Bird rights to sign Russell and/or Beasley if they see either of them as building blocks, with their 2023 pick (swap with New Orleans) and 2029 pick to further solidify the roster.
When you think about how low Westbrook's value had sunk, it was long believed it would be impossible to pawn him off on another team without paying the tax of two future first-round picks, which Rob Pelinka had made it clear he was never going to do. Now, at the deadline, to get this kind of return for just the one pick was, to me, pretty surprising.
Raptors stand pat
Before Irving and Durant were moved, the Raptors were considered the fulcrum on which much of the deadline activity would rest. They had a basket of guys believed to be on the block -- Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby -- and much of the league was waiting for the first domino to fall as multiple teams geared up to get on the presumed estate sale.
But it never happened. Durant and Irving hijacked a lot of the attention, potentially shifting plans league-wide, and Toronto, as usual, was unwilling to compromise even a little bit on a deal. So everyone stays. Actually, the Raptors became a buyer, adding Jakob Poeltl for a lightly protected first-round pick.
It seemed that move indicated even further that Toronto would offload at least one guy on Thursday, if only to recoup the pick they gave up for Poeltl, who's on an expiring deal. But no dice.
The Raptors held onto Kyle Lowry at the 2021 trade deadline when his contract was set to expire over the summer and just about everyone thought he would be dealt, and they did it again on Thursday. Masai Ujiri drives a hard bargain, and he likes his guys. So they're staying. For the rest of the season, at least.
John Collins still in Atlanta
A few weeks before the deadline, I had a scout tell me he would be surprised if Collins wasn't moved. I didn't report it. The guy isn't an information source, but he is in the league. He talks to people. He hears things. He certainly wasn't alone in thinking Collins would be moved.
And yet, he's still a Hawk.
Collins has seemingly been on the block for the past two years. He was a tough trade when Travis Schlenk was pulling the strings. Schlenk wanted good return for a guy who probably makes more money than he's worth. But Schlenk is out, and the new Hawks regime was reportedly willing to lower its asking price for Collins, who has been largely fazed out of Atlanta's offense.
But no go. There were small rumblings of some teams being interested in Collins, as always, but honestly his name didn't even come up that much. His 3-point shooting has nosedived, perhaps as a result of his ballooned ring finger, but he's still a good, athletic, two-way player who can help a lot of teams.
No doubt he'll be back in trade rumors this summer. And every day after that until, at some point, he's actually wearing a different uniform.
Gary Payton II back to Warriors
When this news came through our Slack channel, we all reacted with some variation of "What!" Payton II was a cult hero in Golden State. From undrafted to a vital component of a championship. It was tough to see him go last summer, but he had earned the $26 million payday the Blazers gave him, and the Warriors didn't want to spend what it would cost in salary and taxes to match the offer.
Payton was a dud in Portland mostly because he has been recovering from abdominal surgery most of the season. But he's healthy now, and he's going to help the Warriors immensely. They need his point-of-attack defense and overall energy, his cutting, his transition speed, his inherent feel for the flow of their schemes.
There wasn't a single word reported about this move until it happened. As a Northern California guy, I think I speak for all Warriors fans when I say it was a pleasant surprise.