NBA title contenders update: How much did Nets and Sixers improve at trade deadline? Which teams should have done more?

Seth Partnow Feb 16, 2022 69
With the 2022 NBA trade deadline in the rearview, teams have set themselves up for the stretch run. Buyout season has yet to run its course, but those signings tend to generate far more heat than light, though Goran Dragic looms as a possibility for unusually large impacts. Teams might fill in around the edges — such as the Bucks picking up DeAndre’ Bembry — but that sort of move rarely swings a playoff series, let alone a title chase. So aside from players returning from injury and … other absences, teams have what they have now.

So which contenders did the most to get better over the deadline period?

Before attempting to answer that question, let’s set a few ground rules: by “getting better” I’m mostly talking about increasing championship equity this season. It can be argued back and forth all day whether Philadelphia (or, to a lesser degree, Boston) took on too much downside risk by sending out lightly protected first-round picks or pick swaps several years out. But there is little question the 76ers (and Celtics) bumped their chances up, at least to a degree.

Second, rather than quibble over which teams are or are not contenders, I’m simply selecting the six teams occupying non-Play-In spots in each conference. While I don’t think all 12 teams have a realistic shot, it should be acknowledged that weirder things have happened than. For example, the Nuggets getting healthy in April and substantially outperforming their regular season profile in the postseason. So I’ve chosen to be slightly inclusive in terms of teams.