Cleveland Goes All In at the NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA trade deadline passed yesterday at 3pm EST and an avalanche of late action made it extremely entertaining/shocking/NBA-landscape-altering. In fact, rumor has it that Adrian Wojnarowski’s smartphone nearly melted between 1 and 3 yesterday afternoon.

The most active team, and the one that gobbled up all the headlines, was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without diving too deeply into implications stretching beyond this season, the moves look like a desperate, last-ditch effort to mollify LeBron and maybe persuade him not to abandon Believe-land for a second time. Below is a listing of the moves the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs made.

Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas in package to Lakers

TO CAVALIERS: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance
TO LAKERS: Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, 2018 first-round pick (Cavs’ own)

Rodney Hood, George Hill traded to Cavaliers

TO CAVALIERS: Rodney Hood, George Hill
TO JAZZ: Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose
TO KINGS: Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert, 2020 2nd-round pick

Dwyane Wade traded back to Heat

TO HEAT: Dwyane Wade
TO CAVALIERS: Lightly-protected future 2nd-round pick

Summary of players moved

CAVALIERS LOSE: Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert
CAVALIERS GAIN: George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance

Giving up six players and getting four back means that the Cavs’ roster immediately looks a LOT different and, given the fact that they are 7-13 in their last 20 games, no one seems to think it’s a bad idea. Yes, this was the news of the day and the most important thing going in NBA circles, but before I can talk about its broader implications, I have to address what it means for my team which was one of Cleveland’s trading partners.

The Utah Jazz Angle

As a lifelong Utah Jazz fan I was horrified to receive a notification on my phone saying we had acquired Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder while parting with Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood. Mostly I just hated to see Hood go and wanted nothing to do with Rose, but as I looked into the specifics, I realized it was a good deal. Joe Johnson and Derrick Rose cancel each other out because Utah released Rose immediately and the Kings will probably do the same with Johnson.

Hood was a terrific find for the Jazz as the 23rd pick in the 2014 draft, but he’s had a hard time staying healthy and it was starting to look like he wasn’t part of the plan going forward. All this essentially means that the Jazz acquired Crowder instead of getting nothing for Hood, a player they have developed and who has some value. I think both team’s won this part of the trade because I like what Jae Crowder brings and think that Hood will help Cleveland too. Now that I’ve covered the Jazz-centric part of what I am calling “LeBron’s Spectacular Warrior-Chasing Mid-Season Rebuild,” let’s get into what I think it means for The Land.

The Cleveland Cavaliers Angle

My first impression is that these moves cast Ty Lue’s job into immediate jeopardy. Word around the Association was that the Cavs weren’t really trying over the last few months and, while that’s probably not all his fault, the coach has to be able to push the right buttons, use the right line ups, say the right things, etc. Jettisoning half the roster is way more complicated than whacking a coach, so I think Ty has been unofficially put on notice.

My second impression is that the Cavs become the Eastern Conference favorite again overnight. Hill, Hood, Clarkson, and Nance make the roster younger, more athletic, and better defensively. The departures of Wade (over the hill), Rose (no MVP-game remaining in that body), and Thomas (who knows if he’ll ever return to form?) are huge wins for a sinking Cleveland team. The Cavs got out from underneath some really bad contract situations, picked up some serviceable pieces, and managed to hold on to that high draft pick everyone worried they would be forced to part with.

While I think the team they can put on the floor now is better than it was yesterday, the emotional boost that fresh blood provides may be the more important facet of today’s wheeling and dealing. History has shown us that a motivated LeBron can find his way to the Finals with a bunch of stiffs, and I think these drastic moves will go a long way toward rekindling King James’ fire.