Although the days leading up to the February 8 trade deadline were slow, the final hours were sensational.
When news of a trade breaks, much of the attention is focused on what players are dealt and where they’re headed, and rightfully so.
But, sometimes it’s also interesting to look at the opportunities that can arise for other players when one of their teammates is shipped off.
Since every player in the NBA is ultra-skilled in some way or another, stars can come out of nowhere based on a simple opportunity of additional minutes.
Here are four players to pay attention to based on recent trades that will allot them additional opportunities on the court. As a result, each one has the potential to break out and be the NBA's next pleasant surprise.
Royce O’Neale (Utah Jazz)
Even before the Utah Jazz traded away Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson, coach Quinn Snyder was giving 24-year-old rookie Royce O’Neale some additional minutes. Although he’s averaging just 4.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per contest in 41 appearances this season, O’Neale has averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.8 minutes over five February games.
With an immense amount of athleticism and versatility on both ends of the court, O’Neale seems to have captured Snyder’s trust and should play an important role off the bench for the rest of the year, even with incoming talent Jae Crowder in the mix. If the Jazz fail to remain in the playoff hunt, they’ll likely give O’Neale even more minutes down the stretch so they can evaluate his performance while taking on stater’s minutes ahead of next season.
Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock (Detroit Pistons)
After the Detroit Pistons shipped off Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and two draft picks to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Blake Griffin, Stan Van Gundy not only acquired a perennial All-Star, but he also put a lot of trust in two players: Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock.
Johnson and Bullock had both received decent amounts of playing time prior to the deal and each had (and still has) their shortcomings. Johnson has always been regarded as an elite on-ball defender, but has not had a reliable offensive game. Bullock has shown an ability to knock down long-range shots, but hasn’t ever done much else in his limited time on the court.
Now, both have received major opportunities and have taken advantage of them so far. Averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 28.1 minutes on the season, Johnson has averaged 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 35.8 minutes in five February contests. Averaging 8.9 points and 2.1 rebounds in 14.0 minutes this season, Bullock has averaged 12.8 points in 35.0 minutes over five February games. He has also knocked down 13-of-27 three-point shots (44.4 percent) in that span.
Although Griffin and Andre Drummond will be the tandem that everyone talks about on the Pistons for the rest of the year, look for both Johnson and Bullock to play huge minutes and fill important roles in Detroit. Each has shown the ability to go off on any given night, so consistency will be the most important attribute of the duo moving forward.
D.J. Augustin (Orlando Magic)
After Elfrid Payton was shipped off to the Phoenix Suns on the day of the trade deadline, it left the Orlando Magic with two active point guards: D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack. Although Augustin is 30 years old, he should see significant playing time moving forward in a starting role.
If Thursday’s game was any indication, he will be given the chance to thrive on any given night. He played 35 minutes in a 100-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks and posted 18 points, three rebounds and nine assists in that game. Further, coach Frank Vogel has trusted Augustin all season long, as indicated by his 20.7 minutes averaged per contest off the bench.
With the team through the 2019-2020 season after signing a four-year, $29 million deal in the summer of 2016, Augustin will be playing for his role next season in an extended showcase. If he excels, there’s a strong chance that he could enter next season as the starting point guard on the rebuilding team. As seen many times in the past, any player with a strong incentive to succeed is dangerous.
He should be on every opponent's radar moving forward.