It's always fun when teams treat the NBA trade deadline like a game of high stakes poker. We know Richard Cho is almost always aggressive with an open trade window, as evidenced by last year's deadline, last summer, and now this year's.
In fact, it was the team's moves last summer that raised the expectations for the Hornets. With Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb, the team re-positioned itself as a team that would shoot more. Adding veterans Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lin to fill in the blanks only seemed to verify that this team was going all-in on this season.
Truthfully, no one knew how or if these pieces were all going to fit together. Considering Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been injured, the fact that the Hornets sit over .500 and in the eighth seed in the East is remarkable.
Still, there is no award for "Hey, things turned out OK in spite of everything!" It seems that the Hornets knew that the fight to return to the playoffs was going to be, well, just that: a fight. As a result, the team traded P.J. Hairston to the Grizzlies for Courtney Lee and donated Brian Roberts to the Miami Heat.
While Lee doesn't replace everything Kidd-Gilchrist does, he's regarded as a fine defender and is certainly an upgrade in the shooting department. Combine him with a player like Batum on the perimeter, and you have a tandem that should be able to defend just about everyone's best perimeter player while stretching the floor on offense.
Unfortunately, the Hornets weren't the only team floating around the playoff bubble to make some waves.
The Washington Wizards aren't packing it in
The Washington Wizards came into this season with high expectations but sit five games under .500 in 10th place in the East. Despite being marred by injuries, this was not what the team imagined for this season.
In response, the Wizards were the ones to bet on Markieff Morris-- the ever-disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward. Morris has clashed with coaches and teammates while also having his least efficient season his career. While Morris' numbers are sub-40 percent still, his numbers per 36 minutes are still in-line with the levels of production that made him a fringe star player in this league.
Not only is it concerning that Morris could rebound in Washington, but he cost them very little. In exchange for Morris, the Wizards sent out Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. Humphries and Blair played a combined average of 24.1 minutes per game and Morris should easily be able to replace their production. Trust me, the bar isn't very high.
Should Morris return to form and players like Bradley Beal get and stay healthy, the Wizards could be in the mix for that last playoff spot in the East.
Stan Van Gundy is here to drink Diet Pepsi and kick butt, and he just ran out of Diet Pepsi
Perhaps no other team decided that their time was now than the currently ninth-place Pistons. Stan Van Gundy and Co. kicked off the deadline early by swapping Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Orlando's Tobias Harris. General manager Van Gundy then dealt Joel Anthony and a protected 2016 1st round pick to Houston for Marcus Thornton and Donatas Motiejunas.
While there are concerns about Motiejunas' back in the future, he is still a seven-foot power forward who can drain threes like a guard when he's healthy. Although Thornton also struggled on the Rockets, it's hard to know what was due to the team's dysfunction or a shooting slump since he's been an effective player for his entire career.
As for Harris, he had a history of clashing with Magic coach Scott Skiles. Though he's currently dealing with an ankle injury, he's a more than capable young wing. It seems as if he should be a good fit in Van Gundy's system.
The big question with the Pistons is who plays backup point guard? Unless the answer is playing Reggie Jackson 48 minutes, the Pistons are going to have to answer this question. Jennings was a bit of a luxury at the backup spot, but perhaps more than anything meant not having to play Steve Blake regular minutes. Or maybe they take one of their three shooting guards like Jodie Meeks and have him run the second unit.
The Chicago Bulls mind their own business even when it's bad for business
Sure, the Bulls are in seventh in the East. However, this team was pegged by many to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the distinction of being the best team in the conference. Now, they sit just a half-game ahead of the Hornets who just acquired Courtney Lee for spare parts.
It's not as if the Bulls didn't have options. The Sacramento Kings were falling all over themselves to land Pau Gasol. Among the names mentioned in return were Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore who could have given the Bulls much-needed depth given their spat of injuries. I get that Gasol wanted to stay, but this is a team suddenly on the brink of missing the playoffs altogether.
If healthy, they may not need to worry about having this conversation, but like the Wizards and Hornets. they needed to do something.
As mentioned above, the two teams behind the Hornets all made splashes. The Bulls traded Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta for a 2nd-round pick. That's it. That's like dipping your toe in the pool after all of your friends have jumped in. At that point why bother putting on your swimsuit at all?
In the end, the Hornets did exactly what they needed to do. In all likelihood, they would have made the Lee trade regardless of what the Pistons did. When it was all said and done, the Hornets may have only paced themselves with the other team's fighting for a playoff spot, but that's a far better fate than falling behind.