Last Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline may go down as one of the best days in Cavs history. With just a few fell swoops, Cleveland traded 6 malcontent players (the active roster is 12) for 4 players that should put Cleveland back atop the East. Rumors have dated back to the summer, but it was a pleasant shock to see them make trades that got the team what it needed.
Kudos are deserved by young GM Koby Altman (no relation to Kobe Bryant) who really endeared himself to The Land with a couple of deals benefiting the Cavs both by addition and subtraction. As detailed in last week’s trade deadline preview, the Cavs and Isaiah Thomas were not really seeing eye to eye (pun intended).
With how poorly Thomas was playing, the Kyrie trade was being re-scrutinized. Although many had warned at the time, it's now more widely accepted that the Cavs’ return haul in the Kyrie trade was less than desired. Thursday didn’t solve the long-term ramifications of losing Kyrie Irving but it did set the Cavs up as well as could be expected for an uncertain future.
Sometime around 12 pm Eastern time, the news of the day hit. The Cavs had traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and their 1st round draft pick (not Brooklyn’s) to the L.A. Lakers for Jordan Clarkson (6th Man of the Year candidate) and Larry Nance Jr. (son of the former Cavs all-star).
Then seemingly within minutes, the Cavs admirably executed a successful “Hold my beer” moment by making another roster shaking trade. This one involved 3 teams and ended with the Cavs jettisoning Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and Jae Crowder in favor of George Hill and Rodney Hood.
In a comparatively under-the-radar move, the Cavs finished the day by dealing Dwyane Wade back to the Miami Heat for a conditional 2nd round pick. That was a nice gesture to send Wade back to the city he rules to possibly finish out his career. Banana Boat Bros 4 Lyfe.
Here's a peek at the new look Cavs:
George Hill is a 6’3 31 year old above average veteran guard who’s actually 3rd in the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage this year. He was a 1st round pick of the Spurs, traded to Indiana for Kawhi Leonard, and made 2 Eastern Conference Finals with the Pacers. He’s better than Isaiah Thomas on defense.
Rodney Hood is a 6’8 wingman who played at Duke and is averaging a career best 16.9 ppg. Injuries have marred his development but he has been long seen as a nice player with some serious upside. I guess the comedy potential of Derrick Rose in Utah was too much for the Jazz to pass up. He’s better than Isaiah Thomas on defense.
Jordan Clarkson is 6’5 and averaging the 2nd most points off the bench in the NBA behind just Lou Williams. He was only the 5th player in the last 35 years to be drafted in the 2nd round and make the All Rookie 1st Team in 2015. He’s an excellent scorer and smooth to watch. He’s better than Isaiah Thomas on defense.
Larry Nance Jr. is the most unheralded member of the group acquired on Thursday but he may already be the most loved. The 6’9 Akron native’s father is Larry Nance, a key member of the Cavs late 80’s to early 90’s glory years. Nance Jr. is a high energy catalyst who flies around on defense, competes, and dunks magnificently like his pops. He can improve on offense but he’s better than Isaiah Thomas on defense.
The Cavs got harder, better, faster, stronger. A team chemistry that was threatening to burn down their season was demolished and replaced with a new hope. But there are long term consequences as well. The Cavs got younger and more talented in the long run (Hood, Clarkson, and Nance Jr. are 25). But most importantly it showed a certain kid from Akron that maybe, just maybe Cavs management could secure him a true title contender. Both of those are not bad things.
Update: The Cavs are on cloud 9 after pretty much dominating the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon in the first game the new Cavs played (and ruining Paul Pierce Day). They combined for 49 points (8 of 15 on threes!) but perhaps most importantly, LeBron sat out the 4th quarter and looked like this for much of the 2nd half. It's only one game and the Celtics had been struggling but if the team culture and chemistry can change this quickly and this drastically, the East yet again stands little chance against the King and his LeBronniers.
Ben Galli covers the NBA for Pencilstom. Follow on twitter @bengalli33