The Cleveland Cavaliers came in to the trade deadline with a lot of questions. How were they going to fix their struggling defense? What were they going to do about a team that was at each other’s throats? And most importantly of all, how were they going to convince LeBron James to stay after this season?
Well, the Cavs set out to answer all those questions in one hour when they traded everything with a pulse; they probably would have traded their washing machine too if anyone would take it.
While I was sitting in class quietly refreshing Twitter, the Cavs traded away six players along with two draft picks.
And now their roster is completely revamped. Let’s take it step-by-step and look at exactly how their roster will look going forward, and how it will affect their chances this season.
Isaiah Thomas’ Fall From Grace
It was only six months ago that Isaiah Thomas was coming off of his best season as a professional. The 5 foot 8 point guard was an all star, averaged 29 points-per-game, and finished fifth in the voting for the league’s MVP.
His career has been on a downward spiral ever since. He was traded from the Boston Celtics to Cleveland as part of the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston.
Thomas was sought to replace Irving’s production as a second option next to James, but he didn’t work out for a number of reasons.
The combination of a hip injury limiting his explosiveness on the offensive end as well as his already-well-documented defensive shortcomings (he might be one of the worst defenders of all time) led to Thomas being the scapegoat of the Cavs’ recent struggles.
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The Cavs’ first trade sent Thomas, along with forward Channing Frye and Cleveland’s 2018 first round pick, to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavs received guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance in return.
Nance and Clarkson, both 25, will inject some much-needed energy and youth to what was the oldest roster in the league. Clarkson is an exciting offensive talent who can score points in bunches, and Nance’s defensive energy and explosive athleticism will be welcomed.
The Cavs will miss Frye’s ability to spread the floor with his three-point shooting and they probably weren’t too happy that they had to throw in their first-round draft pick. Nonetheless, Thomas wasn’t working out and this wasn’t the worst return they could’ve gotten.
The Backcourt Overhaul
The Jazz and the Kings were involved in the next trade when forward Jae Crowder, guard Iman Shumpert and guard Derrick Rose were dealt from Cleveland. The Cavs will be adding guards Rodney Hood and George Hill (pictured above) to their roster.
I’ll cut to the chase, the Cavaliers made out like thieves in this trade.
Crowder and Shumpert are two defensive-minded wings who seemed to have lost their defensive tenacity this year, and they didn’t bring the offensive production to make up for it.
Rose is a former MVP, but several knee surgeries later and he’s a shell of his former self.
All three of these players were clearly not in the Cavaliers’ future plans, and Cleveland shipped them out for two guys that very well could be.
Hood has been overshadowed by rookie guard Donovan Mitchell this year in Utah, but he’s quietly putting together and excellent season. His 16.8 points-per-game and 39 percent from three are both career-highs. Hill is a veteran who’s been limited in Sacramento this year but is a superb defender and leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage.
Poor play from guards has been one of Cleveland’s main issues this season. This one trade significantly improved their backcourt on both ends.
Farewell to the Flash
The Cavaliers hoped that signing Dwayne Wade in the summer would help give them an extra punch on the offensive end, and he’s largely lived up to expectations, averaging 11.2 points-per-game. Unfortunately, just like a majority of the Cavaliers’ roster, he was old and sub-par on the defensive side, but they knew this coming in.
This trade had more to do with Wade than improving Cleveland. With the team’s new guard acquisitions, and rookie Cedi Osman earning himself more playing time, Wade’s role on the court was about to diminish greatly.
Out of respect to the basketball legend, Cleveland sent Wade back to Miami, where he won three championships. The Cavaliers only received a future second-round pick in return, but it will be nice to see Wade wearing a Heat jersey for the waning years of his career.
Contenders in Cleveland?
The Cavaliers did an amazing job at getting better this season without mortgaging their future. They were able to bring in some young talent to build around while still holding on to their most valuable asset (the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which is projected to be in the top 10).
This gives them a core to build around should the King elect to leave Cleveland at the end of the season. But James’ departure seems a lot less likely than it did 24 hours ago, as Cleveland managed to greatly improve their current roster.
All of the Cavaliers problems are not solved, but they made some huge strides forward Thursday afternoon.
It will take time for all the new faces in Cleveland to figure out how to play together. They did get better, but they still might not have enough to win the Eastern Conference, let alone defeat the Golden State Warriors, or whoever wins the West.
But there’s now hope because a team that seemed as good as dead has suddenly had some new life injected in it.