How the NBA trade deadline’s biggest deals reshaped the playoff picture

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and many of the top title contenders bolstered their rosters in hopes of taking home the Larry O'Brien Trophy this summer.

There will still be a handful of moves in the coming days on the buyout market, but the trade deadline represented the last chance for most teams to upgrade for the stretch run. Before the seven-week sprint to the end of the regular season, it's a good time to examine how the trade deadline reshaped the playoff picture.

Philadelphia and Milwaukee both made trade deadline moves to improve their chances of winning the Eastern Conference. The 76ers brought in backcourt depth in George Hill, and the Bucks added P.J. Tucker. Brooklyn didn’t make a major move (Blake Griffin was a buyout addition), but the Nets’ major deal was trading for James Harden early in the season, and Kevin Durant is expected to rejoin the lineup at some point.

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Miami added offense and defense to its resurgence, acquiring Victor Oladipo. No matter where the Heat finish in the standings, they will be tough to beat in the playoffs. The Heat came the closest to making the kind of move that sways the outlook in the East.

Boston made an effort to jumpstart its playoff push, acquiring shooter/scorer Evan Fournier, but the Celtics are a ways from the elite teams in the East right now. They’re closer to missing the playoffs than they are the top three. Chicago made a push to solidify its chances to make at least the play-in game, but adding Nikola Vucevic is just as much about future seasons.

More clarity will emerge on the Western Conference landscape once the buyout market becomes dry. But the immediate returns point in various directions.

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