Two weeks removed from the trade deadline, teams have already gotten the chance to test their new rosters, see if they can still – for playoff hopefuls – have the chance to push for a slot or solidify their position. For those at the bottom - like Philadelphia, Orlando, New Orleans, etc – well, they’ve got the rest of the season to prepare for the next, rebuild their squad and strengthen their system.
A number of the traded players have definitely had a strong start for their new teams. You got Lou Williams pouring in 27 in his first game as a Rocket, scorching hot at three-point land, going 7-of-11. Taj Gibson and Buddy Hield also found their place in Oklahoma and Sacramento, respectively. Even Cameron Payne gets playing time despite the presence of Jerian Grant, Rajon Rondo, and Michael Carter-Williams at point. There are, however, players who have made the biggest impact on their new teams presently - will do so also in the long run.
1. Serge Ibaka, Toronto
Many have said that the Raptors are one of the clear winners during the February trades. Acquiring P.J. Tucker from the Suns and adding Ibaka definitely gives a defensive upgrade to Toronto, who is just 5.5 games behind East-leading Cleveland.
His extended time on the court (35.2 mpg compared to 30.5 mpg back when he was in Orlando) allows Ibaka to maximize his offensive game to complement his defensive capabilities.
He is currently averaging 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Raptors, who are 4 – 2 with Ibaka onboard.
2. Nerlens Noel, Dallas
The 6’11’’ center finally can display his full potential. The young promising big man has long languished in Philadelphia, especially with a bad start in his rookie year due to a knee injury.
With the Sixers having a lot of options in the frontcourt, Noel had to share time with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, and Ilyasova. However, in Dallas, the 22 year-old plays backup to the aging Dirk Nowitzki.
Noel, as a Maverick, is averaging 10.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. Dallas is 5 – 1 after acquiring Noel.
3. Lou Williams, Houston
As if the Rockets needed more firepower.
Joining the high-scoring team featuring James Harden (29.0 ppg), Eric Gordon (16.9 ppg), and Ryan Anderson (13.9 ppg), Williams provides added spark and offense off the bench, as he averaged 18.6 points back in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
Arguably one of the best sixth men this season, Williams is a valuable component to the Rockets’ campaign to remain in the playoffs and maybe even supplant West’s No. 1 and No. 2, Golden State and San Antonio.
Since becoming part of the team, Williams is averaging 15.2 points and will always be a threat at three-point territory, an aspect that will surely fit in Houston’s potent offense.
4. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland
Rip City, make way for the Bosnian Beast.
Nurkic got to utilize his potential to full extent as a starting center of the Trailblazers. We got to see flashes of “the Beast” (or “the Bear”) back at Denver but Nurkic always had Jokic looming over him, eventually supplanting him as the primary big man. Trading Nurkic was a blessing in disguise to the 22 year-old and you could see it in his performance.
From averages of 8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in17.9 minutes for the Nuggets, Nurkic now plays for 29.2 minutes, averaging 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.3 blocks. And with a 5.7 plus/minus rating from -3.4, Nurkic is sure to have a great value to the team the rest of the season.
5. Terrence Ross, Orlando
While there are some who say that Orlando made a brow-raising move trading Ibaka for Ross - considering the fact that they acquired the former for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova – there are positive tidbits that one can get from the trade and Ross’ performance shows it.
A very agile and athletic shooting guard, Ross is putting up career numbers: 13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 block in 34.6 minutes.
Having been to the playoffs three times in his five year career, Ross is a good addition to the Magic especially with how he is playing currently. With a dynamic lineup featuring Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier at the guard spots and with Ross joined by Aaron Gordon at the forward positions, Orlando can do a lot of different things offensively which will be of help to the team as the season goes by.
DeMarcus Cousins: While he is definitely in the conversation for the best center in the NBA this season, things have yet to work out for the Pelicans, who are 1-5 with him lined up. Chemistry has to develop and the head coach Alvin Gentry has to figure out how to maximize the strong frontcourt that is Cousins and Anthony Davis. Cousins is averaging 21.7 points, a dip from his Sacramento average of 27.8 points.
Buddy Hield: Now is his chance. Hield has the opportunity to show what he can do with Sacramento desperately needing a little motivation to win. In 24.6 minutes, he has a career average of 13.2 points. However, Sacramento still is at a decline even with him onboard, 1 – 5.