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Assessing the Trae/Luka Trade Five Years Later

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

The 2018 NBA draft class was a very, very interesting one. The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks owned picks three and five in the first round. Each team was rebuilding, and had the chance to land their star player for the future. Eventually, the Hawks and Mavricks would make a trade that would see Atlanta walk away with Trae Young, and Dallas with Luka Doncic.

We’ve now progressed five years, and it’s time to take a look at how this trade impacted the futures of both teams.

The Trae/Luka Trade

Entering the draft, Atlanta had the third pick, while Dallas owned the fifth. The Suns and Kings selected Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, leaving both Young and Doncic available. Dallas traded up to third, taking Luka before Memphis had a chance. Atlanta knew Memphis wouldn’t select Trae, so they accepted the trade and moved down into the fifth selection.

The Details

Hawks received: #5 overall pick (Trae Young), 2019 first round pick (top-five protected)

Mavericks received: #3 overall pick (Luka Doncic).

So, How are the Hawks Doing?

Atlanta has seen some success since this deal, but it has been more-so glimpses of potential rather than sustained success. Here’s how the Hawks have done since acquiring Young.

  • 2018-19: 29-53, 12th in Eastern Conference
  • 2019-20: 20-47, 14th in Eastern Conference
  • 2020-21: 41-31, 5th in Eastern Conference, lost in conference finals
  • 2021-22: 43-39, 8th in Eastern Conference, lost in first round
  • 2022-23: 41-41, 8th in Eastern Confernce, TBD

Atlanta struggled mightily for the first two years after the deal. While COVID-19 shortened the 2020 season, Atlanta finished with just 49 combined wins in the first two seasons of Young’s career. The tank slowly ensued, while Young began to develop.

Then, in 2021, everything changed. Atlanta finished 41-31, and faced a matchup against the New York Knicks in the first round. The Hawks took care of New York easily, with Trae Young becoming The Big Apple’s supervillian in the process. Atlanta then pulled off another, more surprising upset. Thanks to some help from Ben Simmons, Atlanta knocked off the 76ers in six games, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time since 1970.

This set up a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, another giant Atlanta would have to take down. This time, however, they were unsuccessful and lost in six. The past two years, Atlanta has reverted to an average team, finishing eighth in the conference each of the past two seasons. In 2022, the Hawks bowed out after winning just one game in the first round.

During his sophomore season, Young made the leap into stardom. Trae would finish the year scoring 29.6 points per game, over 9 assists, and over 4 rebounds. He shot 43%/36%/86%, which are impressive numbers given the sheer volume of shots he was taking, which was 20.8, the highest number in his career. Young would make his first All-Star team that year, and made the All-Star roster again in the 2021-22 season.

The Hawks have done a relatively good job at building a contender around him as well, although it may not have happened as well as they’d hoped in recent years. The Hawks notably added Dejounte Murray last off-season, although the price wasn’t cheap. They’ve also added Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and John Collins to pair with Trae.

What About Dallas?

The Mavericks have had some ups and downs after landing Luka Doncic.

  • 2018-19: 33-49, 14th in Western Conference
  • 2019-2020: 43-32, 7th in Western Conference, lost in first round
  • 2020-21: 42-30, 5th Western Conference, lost in first round
  • 2021-22: 52-30, 4th in Western Conference, lost in conference finals
  • 2022-23: 38-44, 11th in Western Conference

Their first year with Luka was all about development. Dallas finished near the bottom of the West in his first year, yet Doncic certainly made strides improving his game.

Year two is when things started to go into motion. The Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porzingis, giving Luka Doncic another star to play with. They wound up making the playoffs, but losing in six games to the Clippers. The following year, Dallas lost to the Clippers again in the first round.

The 2021-22 season was their best with Luka so far. Dallas won over 50 games, and hosted a playoff series for the first time. Dallas beat Utah in six games, and absolutely destroyed the Suns in a game seven in the second round. The Mavericks would go on to lose to Golden State in the conference finals. However, this season showed stark improvement.

Dallas was on the same path this year, and ended up trading for Kyrie Irving before the trade deadline. Irving played well while in Dallas, but the team had to give up two of their already few above-average defenders, and the team spiraled. They could have potentially made the play-in tournament, but pretty openly tanked for a better draft pick as the season came to an end.

Who Won the Trae/Luka Trade?

As of now, this remains one of the more even trades in recent memory. Both teams have had eerily similar experiences.

Both franchises had a tanking period. Atlanta was bad for two years, while Dallas was for one. Then, by the third season in each player’s career, they had made the playoffs.

The farthest the Hawks have gotten is the conference finals. The same can be said for the Mavericks. Both teams upset a major opponent in the second round. Atlanta beat Philadelphia, while Dallas beat Phoenix.

The only thing that can change it from here would be the Hawks upcoming playoff run. Trae Young and co. will play Boston in the first round after advancing in the play-in. If the Hawks can make a deep playoff run, then this trade won’t look so even. For now, it does.

2023 Eastern Conference Championship Contenders

Championship Contenders: Eastern Conference

2023 Eastern Conference Championship Contenders
Photo Credit: Halftime Productions

As we slowly creep closer and closer to the 2022-23 NBA season, excitement is beginning to build around the league. The new year brings new hope and possibility for franchises all around the league, especially for these Eastern Conference championship contenders

For some teams, the new year presents another chance at chasing the illustrious goal of an NBA title. For others, it involves hope as their franchises hope to finally turn the corner. In this article, we will take a look at the Eastern Conference, and take a look at which teams have the best chance to be contenders for an NBA Championship.

Eastern Conference Championship Contenders

Tier 1: True Eastern Conference Championship Contenders

Celtics, Bucks, Heat

These three teams all have the best chance to come out of the Eastern Conference, and it’s far enough to clearly separate them from the rest of the conference.

First, we have the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are clearly capable of being in this category, with them being the team to come out of the Eastern Conference last year. They didn’t lose any major pieces, and were even able to add Malcolm Brogdon to the fold this offseason. They should enter as the favorites to come out of this conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat should be considered the same. Neither team lost a key player, and both have been actively looking to add talent this offseason, albeit unsuccessfully — for now.

The Bucks nearly knocked the Celtics off last year without Khris Middleton. The Heat, on the other hand, were a missed-three-pointer from Jimmy Butler away from making the Finals last year. Both teams should be considered favorites.

Tier 2: Fringe Eastern Conference Championship Contenders

Nets, Cavaliers, 76ers

These three shouldn’t be considered favorites, but they all do still pose a real threat to make it out of this conference. The Brooklyn Nets have been surrounded by drama all off-season, but as of now it looks like they’ll be able to hold onto Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Those two alone pose a threat, and with the right squad around them they can certainly make some noise.

The Cleveland Cavaliers just made a splash move, trading for Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell, a proven star who has performed very well in the playoffs throughout his career, will join a very talented young corps. There isn’t enough star talent on the roster yet for them to be in tier one, but this team is extremely talented.

As for the Philadelphia 76ers, the perennial playoff disappointing team will have another crack at it this year. This time, James Harden and Joel Embiid will likely get to play a full season together. If Philadelphia can put it all together in the playoffs this time around, they’ll be a real problem.

Tier 3: Playoff Contenders

Bulls, Hawks, Raptors, Knicks, Hornets

These five teams should still be around come April, but they don’t have everything it takes to truly be championship contenders in the Eastern Conference — yet.

The Chicago Bulls started 2021 strong, but faded as the year went on, and haven’t made any major upgrades this summer. The Atlanta Hawks added Dejounte Murray, and they’re the only team in this tier that has a legitimate argument to be in Tier 2. Unfortunately, the team around Murray and Trae Young isn’t quite good enough yet.

The Toronto Raptors grabbed a playoff spot last season, but were quickly bounced by the Sixers. This unit has a ton of young talent, and they could be a true contender very soon. The New York Knicks added Jalen Brunson, but their inability to add any other star power leaves them down in this tier.

As for the Charlotte Hornets, well they seem to be the same team from last year. With the Bridges issues, and their silence on the market this offseason, they’ve shown no signs of improvement.

NBA Schedule Leaks: Most Exciting Matchups

Photo by Harry Howe/Getty Images

On Wednesday at 3 P.M. Eastern Time, the full, official NBA schedule for the 2022-23 season will be released. However, thanks to the fact that NBA insiders exist, we’ve gotten a sneak peak at some of the biggest matchups throughout the season. Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing games in the new season.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day is universally known in the sports world as NBA-day. For many years now the NBA has dominated the sports world on one of the biggest holidays, with exciting matchups every year. This season will be no different.

This year’s slate has headlines written all over it. There will be rematches of last year’s playoffs with the Bucks playing the Celtics and the Warriors hosting the Grizzlies. The Bucks and Celtics have been crowned as the last two Eastern Conference champions, with both teams expected to contend again this year. The Warriors and Grizzlies have had some very public bad blood since their playoff series last year, and this game should have no shortage of storylines.

The remaining meetups on the slate are the Knicks vs. 76ers, Nuggets vs. Suns and the Mavericks vs. Lakers. These games all have a large amount of star power. Overall, almost every team playing on Christmas day has the potential to reach the NBA finals, so we should see some exciting performances.

Opening Night

Opening night is one of the biggest days on the NBA calendar, as it marks the return of meaningful basketball. This year, opening night will feature two huge matchups. The defending champion Golden State Warriors will play Lebron James and the Lakers. Before that, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will kick the new season off.

The Warriors will receive their rings, and will begin a new year against the Lakers for the second straight year. Last year that happened in Los Angeles, but this time the two squads will meet in San Francisco. In the other game, the Celtics and 76ers will clash. This game brings a ton of star-power, and both teams have the potential to win the Eastern Conference as a whole.

Other Exciting Matchups on the NBA Schedule

On October 21st, the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic will face off in Georgia. This will be a significant matchup because it will be the first time Dejounte Murray and the first overall pick, Paolo Banchero will play against each other. Those two have been quite public with their recent beef on social media, making for an exciting game as the two start to settle it on the court.

On October 19th, the second night of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets will square off in New York. This will mark the return of two stars who have missed time; Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson. Both players have seen themselves stuck in the spotlight recently, but will soon finally have a chance to get back on the court.

Finally, we have the battle for Los Angeles. The matchups between the Lakers and Clippers are always contentious, but they matter more now that both teams are competitive. The two southern California squads will face off four times, on October 20th, November 9th, January 24th and April 5th. These three matchups are some of the most interesting on the NBA schedule.

3 Most Underrated NBA Teams For the 2022-23 Season

Underrated NBA Teams
Photo courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As we slowly creep closer to the new NBA season, predictions for every team have been well accounted for. There are consensus conclusions on who the contenders are around the league, as well as some playoff-bubble and bottom of the barrel teams. However, here are three underrated NBA teams as we begin the new season.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks may not be one of the more underrated NBA teams, but with the acquisitions made this off-season, they are underrated title contenders.

The Hawks have made the playoffs each of the past two years. They even went so far as to make the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, and were just two wins away from the NBA Finals. They followed that up with another playoff appearance in the 2021 season. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it nearly as far, bowing out in five games in the first round.

Atlanta has since improved their team after that disappointing playoff run. They traded Kevin Huerter to Sacramento, but recouped that loss after picking Up Dejounte Murray from San Antonio. Murray will add some much-needed defense to their backcourt, and form a dynamic duo with Trae Young. The Hawks certainty aren’t being counted out of the playoff race, but they should be looked at as more of a legitimate contender.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves found themselves back in the playoffs last season, and they put up a solid fight in the first round. This off-season, they upgraded by getting one of the best defenders in the league, Rudy Gobert. The price for Gobert was far from cheap, with Minnesota having to give up a whopping four first round picks.

The Wolves were willing to pay that price though, and the team is better because of it. Gobert and Karl Anthony Towns immediately form one of, if not the best big-man duos in the league. Minnesota was already on the upswing, but after picking up Gobert, they should be considered a contender in the western conference.

New York Knicks

The Knicks made the playoffs in the 2020 season, but failed to perform up to that caliber last year. We saw the quick decline and departure of Kemba Walker in New York. The Knicks were able to replace him with a massive upgrade in Jalen Brunson.

Brunson really had a breakout season last year, and made himself a lot of money with his playoff performance. He moves to the big apple this year, and will lead a team that is very similar to the squad that secured the fourth seed in 2020. The potential of this team is exciting. With the addition of Brunson, they should be considered a true contender in the eastern conference.