For the entire morning, it appeared the NBA trade deadline would come and go with a whimper. Then, around lunch, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to tear apart their roster on the fly and set the stage for a wild few final hours Thursday.
The Cavaliers made a series of major moves, sending out Isaiah Thomas,Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Jae Crowder in three separate trades. They brought back Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, George Hill and Rodney Hood in moves they believe will set them up for the present and future.
The consensus seems to be that the Cavaliers have dramatically improved their chances of winning a second championship before LeBron James can become a free agent this summer. I’m not so sure.
Unquestionably, Cleveland has improved compared to the dysfunctional group we saw lose 14 of its last 22 games. Since returning from his hip injury, Thomas has been one of the league’s least effective players, and replacing him with a point guard rotation of George Hill and Jordan Clarkson will immediately improve the Cavaliers.
Cleveland has also added more shooting with Rodney Hood stepping into the wing rotation in place of Jae Crowder and Dwyane Wade and more athleticism and explosiveness in the frontcourt with Larry Nance Jr. replacing Channing Frye.
Perhaps more importantly, the Cavaliers have reset their chemistry after the difficulty of integrating Thomas led to finger pointing in the locker room. Something had to change in Cleveland, and many things did.
The same can’t be said for Thomas, who has seen his market value diminish dramatically over the last nine months. The best remaining hope for Thomas to get the kind of lucrative deal he was hoping to command would have been turning things around with the Cavaliers and having James re-sign in Cleveland. That would have all but forced the Cavaliers to re-sign him using Bird rights.
There were a few other deals, including some involving past first-round picks. But there is nowhere else to begin the deadline reaction than with the rubble in Cleveland.
1. Cavs trade Isaiah Thomas to Lakers
This gets the No. 1 spot for a number of reasons. First, you can’t ignore the wow factor. This was the first blockbuster deal of the day, and it signaled that the Cavs meant business at the deadline. Second, it impacts two of the league’s most important franchises, with the Cavs acquiring talented young players and the Lakers freeing up enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer, while also getting back the Cavs’ first-round pick. Third, it involves Isaiah Thomas, who was at the center of the majority of the Cavs’ drama over the past month. What a deal.
2. Cavs get Hill, Hood in 3-way trade
This was the next jaw-dropper, and it took this year’s deadline from a good one to an all-timer. The Cavs went all-in by trading half their roster, picking up two more impact players in the process. This trade also gets a boost because Derrick Rose is involved — he’ll be waived by Utah and it will be interesting to see which team, if any, is willing to give him another chance.
3. Cavs send Wade back to Miami
Sensing a trend, here? Yeah, the Cavs made a lot of moves. This one was bittersweet, as the Cavs reportedly went to Wade and asked whether he’d rather stay with the team in a limited role or be traded to Miami. The result is a triumphant return to Wade County, where he’ll be embraced by the Heat franchise where he spent his first 13NBA seasons. This will make that potential Cavs-Heat playoff series all the more interesting.
4. Magic trade Payton to Suns
This one was notable because Payton is actually a decent NBA player who puts up triple-doubles every now and then … and the Magic gave him away for a second-round pick. It’s hard to believe that’s all they got for him, but the Suns did well to pick up Payton, a former lottery-pick point guard to pair with Devin Booker as Phoenix ties to return to NBA relevance.
5. Knicks get Mudiay, McBuckets to Dallas
Another lottery pick point guard is on the move, as the Knicks picked up Mudiay in a three-team deal that saw sharpshooter Doug McDermott sent to his fourth NBA teamin five seasons. Denver wanted to move Mudiay, and they got a second-round pick in return, but the bigger story is whether the Knicks can salvage Mudiay’s career — he’ll have plenty of opportunity with Kristaps Porzingis recovering from a torn ACL.
6. Pistons add depth with Ennis
Ennis probably doesn’t move the needle for the casual basketball fan, but this was a good pickup for a team that’s clearly trying to make a push toward the top of the Eastern Conference. A defender and 3-point shooter, Ennis will contribute right away for the Pistons.
7. Nelson reunites with Van Gundy in Detroit
We’re getting the band back together! Stan Van Gundy will be reunited with his point guard from the Orlando Magic, as Nelson was sent to the Pistons for Reed and a future pick. Nelson isn’t a game-changer by any means, but he’ll keep the Pistons afloat until Reggie Jackson comes back and provide veteran leadership to a team looking to become a playoff staple.
8. Nets take Cunningham off Pelicans’ hands
Cunningham wanted out of New Orleans, and he got his wish. He’ll get the opportunity to play in Brooklyn, but this one doesn’t really move the radar. To make room the Nets shipped out Rashad Vaughn, whom they had just picked up from Milwaukee in the Tyler Zeller trade.
9. Bulls grab Vonleh from Blazers
Vonleh is a former No. 9 overall draft pick who wasn’t getting much playing time in Portland. The Bulls will add him to their young roster, as they’ve already proven that they can take a disappointing lottery pick (Kris Dunn) and turn him into something promising.
10. Babbitt returns to Heat
Hey, D-Wade wasn’t the only former Heat star to make his return on Thursday. OK maybe “star” is a bit extreme, but Babbitt will add 3-point shooting to a team that could use it.
11. The Mac Attack heads to the ATL
NBA Trade Deadline Winners And Losers: