NBA Trade Deadline winners and losers: Powell is a game-changer for Portland

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Dan Halverson

March 26th, 2021

The 2021 NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, and it brought an absolute flurry of activity. While none of the biggest names in the league saw their laundry change, there were a number of highly impactful and fascinating deals that got made at the 11th hour.

Let’s take a look at this year’s winners and losers.

Loser: Boston Celtics 

The Celtics had the ammunition to make a move that could greatly improve their title chances in 2021, and they simply chose not to. They acquired Evan Fournier from the Magic which was a good move, but sending Daniel Theis away without getting an impactful player in return is a downgrade for a team that is already on the fringe of being a contender. The Celtics’ title odds are no better than they were 24 hours ago.

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are already overachieving this season, and now they’ve added Normal Powell from the Toronto Raptors. The vastly underrated Powell can shoot, has good size, and can take pressure off Damian Lillard to score. He will be a nightmare for every second unit in the Western Conference.

Loser: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets have completely removed their core and all sense of competitiveness. The problem for this franchise, however, is they have very little left over to show for it. Some of their homegrown young talent is playing well, but in trading away James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Victor Oladipo, they have seemingly forfeited both their present and their future.

Winner: Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic cleaned house. Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and All-Star center Nikola Vucevic have all been dealt, clearing the way for a bottoming-out of the franchise in 2021. For Magic fans that sit on the edge of their seat with every game it may feel like the team has given up, but this franchise was badly in need of a reset.

The Magic have a bevy of young - albeit unproven - talent, as well as draft picks and cap space. Despite the losses of three of the teams’ most recognizable players, there is a clear commitment from management to try something else, and that is encouraging.

Loser: Toronto Raptors

For weeks it sounded like Kyle Lowry might be on the move, and now we are left with a somewhat awkward final half of the 2021 season as he remains with the Raptors before they presumably lose him this summer. Rather than acquire something of their own in exchange for their star, the Raptors will presumably plod along hoping their core will succeed despite all evidence suggesting otherwise.

On top of that, they traded away Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood, which does little to improve their short-term situation. At this point it's hard to imagine Toronto slipping into the playoffs.

Winner: Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are big winners with their acquisition of Aaron Gordon, who can defend the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard thanks to his size, strength, and athleticism. And with Nikola Jokic on the court, Gordon might find himself flushing more dunks than he ever thought possible if he learns to back-cut the baseline on every possession.

The Nuggets lose Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a first-round pick, but this is a win-now move designed to make Denver an extremely difficult out in the Western Conference.