Best, worst and most surprising moves at a wild trade deadline

Who won the deadline, what were the biggest surprises and what's next?

Our NBA experts break down what happened and what it means.

1. So ... how good are the Cavs now?

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: They're decidedly better. This rot that has been plaguing Cleveland has been defensive and chemical in nature, and these transactions should improve the team on both accounts -- though the bar is low. The Cavs now have the personnel to be a substantially better defensive team, provided everybody buys in. They didn't acquire a rim protector, but they swap out one of the least effective defensive point guards in basketball, Isaiah Thomas, for George Hill, who has consistently rated as one of the best. Rodney Hood is long, smart and, when healthy, capable.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: Who knows? Either way, The Purge was necessary. The Cavs got younger and stronger defensively and jettisoned a bunch of increasingly cranky vets who weren't a good fit. And Cleveland accomplished all of this without giving up the Brooklyn pick. It will be challenging to rejigger the chemistry on the fly, but it couldn't possibly get any worse than it was.

André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy: The Cavs are the best team in the East. They probably would have gotten it together before the trades, but now they have jump-started their chemistry and energy. The backcourt got an infusion of youth and shooting ability, and Larry Nance gives them athleticism and a better paint presence. Plus, from here on is winning time, and LeBron James gets them into line. They're underdogs against whichever team comes out of the West, but they are likely to be there to meet them.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN.com: If LeBron is energized by the moves, the Cavs are much better. Having said that, this isn't a video game. The Cavs basically go back into training-camp mode in the middle of the season, needing to find a comfort zone with several new pieces on the fly. And then there will be another adjustment period when Kevin Love comes back. But dumping Thomas is addition by subtraction for Cleveland, and if Hill plays the way he did last season in Utah, he can be a great fit playing with a ball-dominant superstar.

Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: Who knows? They literally just dealt half their team and undoubtedly altered their chemistry (probably for the better). A motivated Hill will be an upgrade, if only for his defensive skill and instinct. Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Nance are interesting fits off the bench. The only real thought I have here is that it's still not enough to beat Golden State. But at least if the Cavs fall short, they will have gone down swinging.

2. Who made the best deal?

MacMullan: The Lakers began this season fervently hoping to accomplish two things: clear a bunch of cap space so they could go hard at two elite players this summer in free agency, and stay out of the No. 2-5 slots in the draft so the dreaded Celtics don't get to pluck their pick. Their transaction with the clearinghouse Cavs enabled them to accomplish both. Home run.

Snellings: Overall, the Pistons made the best deal in bringing Blake Griffin to town. It's risky because of Griffin's injury history, but his synergy with Andre Drummond is real and gives them a strong nucleus that could potentially become an Eastern Conference contender. If they stay healthy, they should make the playoffs this season and might pull an upset to make the second round. Honorable mention to the New Orleans Pelicans for bringing in Nikola Mirotic, a perfect fit who gives them a shot to still make the playoffs.

Arnovitz: LeBron James. Through a combination of deals, LeBron (1) sees the Cavs retooled with a slew of new teammates who provide youth, defense and depth as he tries to salvage the season for his team; (2) has an available parking space this July for both himself and a guest at the Lakers' new practice facility in El Segundo, California; and (3) gets the Cavaliers to, once again, move rivers and mountains to conform to his expectations.

MacMahon: The Lakers. Teams desperate to dump salary often have to sacrifice a first-round pick to do so. The Lakers managed to add a first-rounder while getting off the $26 million owed to Clarkson the next two seasons. Their financial path to signing two superstars has been paved. That guarantees nothing, but the Lakers still have a promising young core, and it's a major win to get another first-round pick.

Herring: It's probably too soon to know the answer to that, too. If the Lakers land a big-name free agent this summer -- especially if it's LeBron -- this will have been a fantastic move for them to have cleared cap space. On the off chance that James does actually sign with the Lakers, Cleveland fans might never let owner Dan Gilbert live that move down.

3. Which team will most regret not making a move?

Herring: It feels as if the Celtics could have been in on a number of things, particularly a deal for Tyreke Evans. With Cleveland floundering and without knowing if Gordon Hayward will back it back this season, it seems as if it might have been worth doing what was necessary to get something done there.

MacMahon: It's too early to say until we see how the buyout market goes. The Thunder would be the answer, considering their glaring need to find a defense-minded wing in the wake of the season-ending knee injury suffered by Andre Roberson. But they could, say, sign Tony Allen after he receives a buyout from the Bulls to address that need without giving up an asset.

Snellings: The Toronto Raptors, even though there were no real rumors that they would be active. The Raptors are good enough that with a small boost in talent they had a window to potentially come out of the East this season. But Cleveland and potentially Boston probably will keep them from making it to the Finals this season, and then younger teams like the Bucks and 76ers are in position to supplant them in the future.

MacMullan: Methinks the Clippers might look back some day and wish they dealt free-agent-to be DeAndre Jordan. Owner Steve Ballmer, despite agreeing to move on from Blake Griffin, clearly isn't in all-out tank mode; otherwise he wouldn't have authorized a three-year deal for Lou Williams. So what's the plan? No. 8 playoff seed or bust?

Arnovitz: It's not so much the contenders who didn't upgrade -- there's still plenty of time to do so in the buyout market -- as it is the teams playing for the future who didn't extract what they could from players on their roster who have market value, even if it that market value fell short of their expectations. Then again, given what we saw this week with Lou Williams' sub-midlevel extension and the paltry sum Orlando netted for Elfrid Payton, maybe the best thing for a team like Memphis to do is try to sign a Tyreke Evans in the offseason for a Lou Will-esque deal?

4. What surprised you most?

MacMahon: Evans remained in Memphis. It's not surprising that the Grizzlies couldn't get a first-round pick for Evans, despite his scoring prowess this season. That's a high price for a pure rental. But getting a second-rounder for Evans would have been better than holding on to him. Memphis won't have any Bird rights on Evans, and he's good enough to win a few games for the Grizzlies this season and bump their pick into the middle of the lottery.

Arnovitz: The Lakers being able to clear out two max slots this summer and snag a first-rounder from Cleveland for their trouble. Just when you think the Lakers are banking on mystique and market at the expense of real planning, they pull a stunt like this.

Herring: Dwyane Wade going back to Miami. He has been solid for the Cavs this season, so I honestly didn't expect him to be dealt. But good for him, and good for the Heat fan base.

Snellings: The volume of activity from the Cavaliers. They managed three separate deals with several teams and revamped their backcourt while also bringing in a young big man. There was such a sense of uncertainty about the direction that the Cavs wanted to go that it wouldn't have been surprising to see them stand pat, but to see them making trades at fantasy basketball pace was pretty shocking.

MacMullan: That Evans will still be suiting up for the Grizzlies. Once Williams re-upped with the Clippers, the bull's-eye on Evans' back grew even bigger, but Memphis' front office held firm in their asking price of a first-round pick, which was apparently too rich for either the Celtics or Sixers.

5. What's your biggest takeaway from the deadline?

MacMahon: No league does transaction drama like the NBA.

MacMullan: Sometimes, life just isn't fair. Isaiah Thomas did everything the Celtics asked last season, including playing through the death of his sister, a hip injury and a broken tooth. He got traded anyway. Now he's reporting to his fourth team in the past 4½ seasons -- and probably will be on the move again this summer. He can forget about that Brink's truck ... it got lost amid too many change-of-address forms.

Snellings: Teams are pretty stratified with what they want right now, setting themselves up for both this season and the offseason. The Cavs can claim victory because they solidified their team to contend this season, while the Lakers can do the same because they cleaned up their cap situation. The Pistons and Pelicans aren't going to contend, but each added impact starters and put their team in position for playoff runs. No lottery draft picks were traded, and the upcoming free agency period this offseason projects as a better market for teams than players.

Herring: As eventful as it was, I don't know that there was anything out there that could have really altered the state of the league this season. I see the Warriors and Rockets in one place, and all the other teams in another.

Arnovitz: Transactions of mutual benefit have never been harder to construct in the NBA. It's not just the constraints of the cap system, but also an emerging consensus among NBA management types about the value of certain things: a first-round pick, "future flexibility," and the kind of players who help teams win basketball games. It's not as if GMs are more risk averse -- it's that they all want to take the same risks.