Point guards moving quickly made this trade deadline a transition game.
Goran Dragic, Michael Carter-Williams, Reggie Jackson and Brandon Knight all were dealt Thursday in the final hours that trades were allowed, as a number of teams handed their keys to different drivers.
Kevin Garnett also has a new address — his original NBA one. The Timberwolves brought him back to Minnesota by sending Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn.
There were 12 trades involving 39 players. So many were on the move in deals agreed to shortly before the 3 p.m. EST deadline that most of the transactions took hours for the NBA to approve.
Dragic and Jackson were two players to watch on deadline day, because neither was expected to remain with his team after this season. Both their teams opted to move them rather than risk losing them for nothing.
Phoenix sent Dragic to Miami, getting two first-round picks and a package of players for the Slovenian, a third-team All-NBA selection last season. The Suns filled his spot by acquiring Knight from Milwaukee in a three-team deal with Philadelphia, which sent Carter-Williams to the Bucks.
“I did feel it was time to find a better fit,” Dragic wrote on Twitter, adding “NOW it’s #heatnation time and I’m excited to bring the Dragon’s fire to Miami!!”
Zoran Dragic, Goran’s brother, also went from Phoenix to Miami.
“We are incredibly pleased to take another step in getting the Miami Heat back to real championship prominence with the acquisition of Goran Dragic,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “Goran is an All-NBA player, including the Most Improved Player last season, and we felt that once he became available, we would do all that we could to acquire him.”
Jackson, who began the season replacing an injured Russell Westbrook, now will step in for the sidelined Brandon Jennings. The Oklahoma City Thunder sent Jackson to Detroit in a three-way trade that included Utah.
Even backup point guards seemed in demand, with players such as Isaiah Thomas (Boston), Ramon Sessions (Washington), Andre Miller (Sacramento), DJ Augustin (Oklahoma City), Norris Cole (New Orleans) and Pablo Prigioni (Houston) getting new homes.
Some big guys got in on the little guys’ fun, with Enes Kanter getting his wish to leave Utah when he ended up in Oklahoma City as Kendrick Perkins’ replacement.
“It is a rare opportunity to acquire a player like Enes who will be an added dimension to our frontcourt and has his best basketball in front of him,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said.
The flurry of moves ended a busy season of swaps in which contenders such as Cleveland, Memphis and Dallas refused to wait for the last minute to get their dealing done, having upgraded long ago.
Other teams had their chance Thursday, and Portland may have done it with the first completed deal of the day when it acquired Arron Afflalo from Denver.
“Arron is a proven winner with playoff experience who will be easily integrated into our culture,” Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said. “He possesses a skill set that complements our style of play on both ends of the floor and will make an immediate impact as we continue our playoff push.
Among the items of note from deadline day:
A ROUND-TRIP BIG TICKET: The 38-year-old Garnett spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota, where he was nicknamed the Big Ticket. He guided the Timberwolves to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history and won the MVP while leading them to the Western Conference finals in 2004. He waived his no-trade clause to return, and the Wolves will try to get him to stick around past his 20th season by offering him a two-year extension in the offseason, a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking said.
DEPARTING DENVER: The Nuggets have been one of those teams where good individual talent added up to a collective mess, so they broke it apart Thursday. Portland acquired Afflalo in a five-player deal, upgrading its bench with a player averaging 14.5 points, while Denver also sent JaVale McGee and a first-round pick to Philadelphia. “We’re changing things around because, obviously, we weren’t good enough the way we were,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
RACE FOR EIGHTH: The teams battling for the final playoff spots in each conference were among the busiest. Miami, the current No. 8 in the East, picked up Dragic, while the Nets (Young) and Boston Celtics (Thomas) are close behind and may have upgraded. The Suns will count on Knight to help them try to hold off Oklahoma City and New Orleans, which added point guard help in Jackson and Cole, respectively.
OLD RELIABLE: Just starting as Sacramento coach, George Karl was reunited with one of his favorites from his Denver days. Miller played for Karl from 2003-07 and 2011-13 with the Nuggets. “Adding Andre bolsters our backcourt with one of the most prolific ball distributors in the game,” said Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro, who worked for the Nuggets during Miller’s time in Denver.