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Best Superlatives: NBA Trade Deadline

Most Superstar-ish Name for a Non-Superstar Inexplicably Burdened With Superstar Expectations: BUDDY HIELD

There are a number of players, past and present, that you could argue deserve this title as much as Buddy. I’m thinking D’Angelo Russell, whose name, draft position, hype, locale and petty-but-not-demonizing PR scandal all contribute to his marketability having the same level of juiciness as a great, medium-rare steak. But Buddy wins here in a landslide because of his insurmountable advantage in the second half of the superlative — the unexplainable expectations.

Buddy was placed in an unfortunate position a few days ago by being the nominal centerpiece of the package that New Orleans sent to Sacramento in exchange for Bad Man Cousins a.k.a. Boogie a.k.a. Calipari Big Man Model #2010A a.k.a. The Marcus Cousins (both of them!). Of course, there was a lot more to the package, including a first round pick in the loaded 2017 draft that may prove to be more valuable than Buddy if it falls into the lottery. But at face value it looks like a glossed-up Buddy-for-DeMarcus swap, which is so one-sided that you probably couldn’t even pull it off in 2K, as IT put it.

For the casual NBA fan, “Buddy for DeMarcus” sounds like “underachieving rookie for established superstar,” but for Kings Owner Vivek Ranadive, it sounds more like “imminent Steph Curry for troublesome tall guy,” which is obviously an incredible deal. Yes, there is evidence that Ranadive believes Buddy Hield has “Steph Curry potential.” By evidence, I mean this tweet:

Personally, I love the narrative of an inexperienced rich guy coming in and turning an NBA franchise into his personal playground (not a political metaphor, I swear!). In an era of the NBA defined by broken records, Ranadive is setting records for 1) ill-advised personnel decisions and 2) number of sycophants on executive team (again, not political!). Seriously, Ranadive sucks. But at least he has a cheery smile that will surely appear on the cover of his future unironic, unapologetic ghostwritten autobiography titled “The Art of the Trade” (NOT POLITICAL).

In any case, it’s undoubtable that Buddy Hield, to some extent, got fucked over by Ranadive. Some sympathetic fellow on /r/NBA detailed it beautifully. Now, the only way that Buddy can win is by actually becoming the next iteration of Steph. Poor guy. Let’s relive the glory days of Buddy-led Oklahoma for a minute. Wait…

Quickest Transition from Manifesto-Writing Neobasketball Ideologue to Legendary Front Office Martyr: SAM HINKIE

Sam Hinkie, the former General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, is a name that will go down in the annals of basketball history on the grounds of him being an absolute, off-the-dome basketball fanatic. In terms of force of vision and will, Hinkie is the Karl Marx of basketball — a disgruntled revolutionary with a distinctly contrarian ideology and the willpower to execute it. He embraced the full-on tank, owned it, and convinced everyone else to own it too.

This is difficult in professional sports to tell a fan base and a roster: hey, we are going to be ass at basketball for the next three years. We are going to put up record-setting losing efforts, season by season, just so that we can acquire better players who will replace the ones we have. Fuck a competition. But Sam Hinkie did it, and he made his intentions public, too.

As glue to hold the organization together amid 10–72 seasons, Hinkie adopted and pushed out a slogan that was half morale boost, half self-vindication, but is now integral to the mythos of his character: Trust The Process. This phrase became so ubiquitous that it was co-opted as a nickname by Joel Embiid, the most successful byproduct of Hinkie’s tenure as GM.

And now the bountiful harvest is being given away piece by piece by Bryan Colangelo, the man who took Hinkie’s place as GM of the 76ers after Hinkie’s strange resignation in April 2016 that included a 13-page manifesto guised as a “letter to management.” Most recently, Colangelo traded away promising young tall guy Nerlens Noel for essentially nothing — two second round picks. Not an ideal return for someone who’s basically Tyson Chandler 0.5. That’s why, with every passing day, with every decision, more and more Philly fans can be seen asking: What would Hinkie do?

GM Most Likely to Deal With Undue Level of Bullshit from Fans Despite A Track Record of Trade Fuck-ups that Resembles Charles Barkley’s Track Record of NBA Championships: DANNY AINGE

Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge, after stockpiling a mountain of valuable trade assets, chose again to sit on top of the mountain during a period of league-wide trade frenzy. Never mind the masterful honeydicking of Brooklyn that granted Boston what will probably be three consecutive top-5 draft picks, or the legendary Summer ’07 Big Three acquisitions. Or the trade for — and the subsequent resuscitation of — Jae Crowder. Or the hiring of coaching demigod Brad Stevens. There is a sizable portion of Celtics fans who still, for some reason, do not trust the intuition of Danny Ainge. Let me direct your attention to a poll from the 2013 offseason, after Ainge pulled the trigger that sent his aging stars away to Brooklyn for three unprotected first round picks and a bad contract.

In the comments under this poll, you are likely to find Boston fans lamenting the return of a just few late first rounders for two future Hall-of-Famers! Or, to rephrase that in the context of what actually occurred — three high lottery picks (chances at young stars), an embrace of the tank, and the graceful offloading of a nostalgic era with Pierce and Garnett that was threatening to become serious baggage. Some fans even called for Ainge’s resignation.

Boston fans: you don’t even deserve this level of consistently incredible management — you already have Brady and the Pats. Danny Ainge’s front office intuition is as ageless as Brady himself. I think one of the most intriguing sports stories going forward is whether 28–3 becomes more significant than 3–1 in sports numerology.