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ONE-on-ONE: Which NBA team is most improved after the trade deadline?

Los Angeles Clippers

BY JACOB STEINBERG

Without a doubt, the Los Angeles Clippers are the most improved team after the NBA trade deadline.

Entering the deadline, the Clippers were second in the Western Conference behind their city rival Los Angeles Lakers. All the team had to do was add one crucial piece to their deep talent pool and increase the versatility in their lineup.

The Clippers traded for Marcus Morris Sr. in a three-team deal with the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards. In doing so, they kept their core intact.

Before being acquired by the Clippers, Morris averaged 18.5 points per game and shot 45.4 percent from 3-point distance on a Knicks team lacking star power. As a two-way player, he adds more versatility to the team, allowing head coach Doc Rivers to be more creative in attacking the opponent. Morris is also a great complement to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and will help to fill the void whenever they sit out for a game.

In the long-term, Morris adds a physical presence and interior toughness that the Clippers want on their side in any situation. He is built to play a significant part in a high-stakes playoff series against the Lakers. In the past, Morris has shown ability to shut down LeBron James, which would be crucial in that situation.

Though the Heat made moves that were beneficial for their short and long-term vision, it still faces a tough road to advance to the conference finals since the East is stronger than the West.

Plus, Miami would most likely have to go through a more talented Toronto Raptors team before facing a great Milwaukee Bucks team in the conference finals. Ultimately, the moves Miami made do not threaten the Bucks’ status as the heavy favorites to win the East.

With the window to win a championship more open than ever this season, the Clippers have done what is necessary to better position themselves towards a championship. With two superstars and a solid supporting cast filled with offensive and defensive versatility, the Clippers are now my favorites to win the West.

 

Miami Heat

BY JONATHAN MICHEL

The Miami Heat have emerged as the most impressive team following its moves at the NBA trade deadline. It let go of two low-upside veterans, and a player who likely will not play the remainder of the season and received three versatile players with playoff experience.

The centerpiece of their deal with the Memphis Grizzlies was veteran small forward Andre Iguodala, along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill.

Iguodala’s prime playing years have departed but he can still contribute in an effective way. The biggest factor that he brings is his defensive ability. Making offense and defense substitutions with Iguodala and Derrick Jones Jr. makes sense and will help the Heat in down to the wire games.

Crowder offers depth and, most importantly, playoff experience. The Heat could play him at either forward position and he offers the team shooting ability from those positions.

Solomon Hill has a low floor but potential to break out and surprise teams and fans. The seven-year veteran also has playoff experience from playing with the Pacers. Hill’s 38 percent 3-point conversion this season is well above his career average as is his overall field goal percentage.

While these moves will likely not be enough for Miami to dethrone Milwaukee atop the Eastern Conference in the regular season, it does help its case. Miami’s success this season has been attributed to their younger players like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo. Pairing them with veterans like Iguodala, Crowder, and Hill give it two advantages.

First, Miami made a logical move by adding experienced players who can help mentor its young stars.

Second, Iguodala and Crowder’s playing ability should not be discounted. Yes, they help for morale, but can also still play at a serviceable level. Miami did not give up much in its trade so it’s difficult to criticize general manager Pat Riley’s move, especially since they unloaded heavy contracts that were weighing down the ship.

Some teams in the NBA may have made flashier moves like the Clippers, Warriors and Timberwolves. However, Miami’s deadline, centered around acquiring veterans and liberating its checkbook for next season, will set them up for the most success in their hunt for the NBA Finals.

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