NBA Trade Deadline: The New Look Cleveland Cavaliers


Filip Dimitrovski, Contributing Writer

WAYNE, N.J.- The 2017 NBA trade deadline has closed out what might be the most eventful trade deadline in league history. The sheer amount of unexpected moves had reporters fingers bleeding and fans eyes widening. The shake-up of rosters around the Association has created a new landscape for the future for many of the teams involved.

Of course, as fans, we cannot sleep at night without the endless arguments of which teams won and which teams lost in the last major day of transactions before the playoffs begin.

Rather than taking the normal approach of following every single minor trade, for this year’s deadline transactions it is best to focus on the complete restructure of the Cleveland Cavaliers. There has never been a championship contender that changed their roster so drastically just two months before the start of the playoffs.

So now there is a looming question that lies ahead: did Cleveland get better or worse?

First, let’s recap the moves the Cavaliers made. They were part of a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, shipping Iman Shumpert and a future draft pick to Sacramento, as well as Jae Crowder and former MVP Derrick Rose to Utah. In exchange for these players, they received veteran point guard George Hill from the Kings and upcoming restricted free agent Rodney Hood from the Jazz.

This trade was just the start of their activity before the trade deadline ended. Cleveland then proceeded to trade Dwyane Wade back to Miami; where he spent the first 13 years of his career, in exchange for a “heavily-protected” 2024 second-round pick.

All of this lead up to what might have been the most impactful trade for the Cavaliers, as they gave up on their experiment of working Isaiah Thomas into the roster after playing just 15 games in the wine and gold jerseys, as well as veteran big-man Channing Frye, sending the pair to the Los Angeles Lakers, in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

It’s incomprehensible to think this Cavaliers roster has just four players remaining on the roster from their championship run just two seasons ago. The beating that the Golden State Warriors put on the Cavs in the 2017 Finals just annihilated all confidence they previously had in their roster.

The trade with the Lakers is the first that has to be addressed.

Unless the Cavaliers are able to get a generational talent from their Brooklyn Nets pick, which they received in addition to Thomas, sending Kyrie Irving to Boston as a part of that trade,will go down as one of the most one-sided trades in recent history as the experiment they planted with Isaiah Thomas was a complete disaster.

With Thomas being on an expiring deal (and one of the worst defensive box plus/minuses this year) the two time all-star was bound to be moved. Defensively, Thomas was among the worst defenders in the league, something that was less obvious during his time with the Celtics as he was typically on the floor with four great defenders. Prior to Thomas’ debut with the Cavaliers, the team was ranked 29th in defensive rating. In his 15 games with the Cavaliers, when Thomas was on the court, the team’s net rating was an impressively terrible -19.3 in just 27 minutes. In short, getting rid of Thomas had to be done.

A variable thrown into the trade that makes or breaks will be if LeBron James returns after he hits the free agent market following season’s end. Speculation shows that its very likely he will be parting from the Cavaliers, again, so the trades at hand must be assessed by what they did for the Cavaliers this season and what they will do for the Cavaliers in the very likely, near future without LeBron James.

For now, picking up Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance will be great additions off the bench. Clarkson is a good offensive player, but defensively adds nothing Isaiah Thomas failed to. Clarkson isn’t as ball dominant as Thomas, but Clarkson is also a much weaker scorer, so the team’s terrible defense didn’t necessarily improve with this trade.

In the future, the contracts of these two players might come back to bite them. Clarkson has over $26 million guaranteed over the next two years, which even without LeBron James, puts the team over the luxury tax.

Now if LeBron miraculously decides to stay, he has already said he wants max contract money, something the Cavaliers are now unable to do without getting rid of assets. What assets, one might ask? The very valuable Brooklyn draft pick. Even if LeBron James leaves, the Cavaliers are over the salary cap.

Without LeBron, is this roster championship caliber anymore? Definitely not— in fact, they would be lucky to sneak into the playoffs. Does the medium-sized team market owner Dan GIlbert want to spend luxury tax money on a team struggling to even make the playoffs? Probably not, so this trade isn’t helpful to their already confusing financial situation.

The loss of Dwyane Wade was nothing more than a free-up of a roster spot, so his departure isn’t something worth mentioning more than that. However, the addition of George Hill and Rodney Hood, are.

Much like the trade involving the Lakers, picking up George Hill and Rodney Hood help their chances in at least winning the Eastern Conference this year. Hill and LeBron were meant to play basketball together, even though it might only last for a few months. The style of play of both Hill and LeBron is bound to be a beautiful mesh, and with Hood being the spot-up, knockdown shooter he is, is will create a great wing threat for the Cavaliers; something that has been their offensive mantra all year.

But is getting these two enough to get past the perennial winners of the Western Conference in the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets?

Most likely not. So what did these trades do for the Cavs future? Coming into this year, the Sacramento Kings offered Hill one of the worst contracts in the league, a 3-year/$57 million contract. His contract ends when he’s going to be 33-years old. Even if the Cavaliers decide to buyout his contract after this year, he is still guaranteed $21 million after the season ends which would be a huge amount to payoff over the span of a year and be even worse to be spread out over the course of several years. 

This is where the future for Cleveland gets even uglier. Hood is the player who most would say is the best addition for a potential future without LeBron James. Financially, this couldn’t be anymore wrong. Hood is a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason, which means if a team offers a contract to him, the Cavaliers have the option to match. Considering the Cavaliers are over the salary cap without Hood and James’ contracts in place, if any team offers Hood an eight figure contract, the Cavaliers would be hesitant to match it because again, is it worth it to pay luxury tax for a franchise struggling to make the playoffs?

Short-term, the changes the Cavaliers experienced might have enhanced their chances of making it to the Finals, but considering how good the Toronto Raptors have looked recently, that still might not happen. As far as the team looks going past this season, they’re left in the same position they were the first time LeBron left…terrible.