Winners and losers at the close of NBA trading
The entire basketball world was shook to its core early Friday morning, January 9 (Manila time) as the NBA approached its highly-anticipated trade deadline – a time where most deals usually happen. This year’s deadline was shaping up to be uneventful until one team decided to play MyGM on NBA 2K: the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Within an hour, the struggling Cavaliers completed three high-profile trades that completely tore down more than a third of their roster, and we’re here to see if teams benefited from the aftermath of their insane overhaul.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Lost: Jordan Clarkson (PG/SG), Larry Nance, Jr. (PF/C)
Gained: Isaiah Thomas (PG), Channing Frye (PF/C)
For the first bombshell of the day, the Cavaliers traded their struggling point guard Isaiah Thomas to the bright lights of the Los Angeles Lakers along with veteran shooter Channing Frye for Fil-Am combo guard Jordan Clarkson and athletic forward Larry Nance, Jr.
With one move, the Lakers have successfully created cap space for not one, but two max contracts this coming offseason. This means that it's now entirely possible that they can sign both LeBron James and Paul George, and no commissioner can veto that. In exchange for two years of commitment to Clarkson’s 4-year, $50 million contract amounting to $12.5 mil a year, the Lakers essentially got a half-year rental on Thomas’ expiring contract. They also got the chance to get rid of Nance, Jr – son of Cavaliers legend Larry Nance, Sr. – to make full breathing room for surprise stud rookie Kyle Kuzma. Plus, they take in the marksmanship of the 6-foot-11 Frye, which is always welcome in this three-point shooting era.
The benefits of Thomas here are two-fold. One, he injects more speed into an already-quick Lakers offense, currently first in the league in pace, ahead of the champion Golden State Warriors. Even though there’s little chance he re-signs, Thomas gets the chance to be the ball-dominant player he really is, which was dashed in Cleveland because of the equally-ball-dominant LeBron James.
Two, he mercifully takes away the spotlight from the much-scrutinized rook Lonzo Ball, who is most likely taking a bench role as he fully recovers from his nagging knee injuries. By the time he leaves, if ever he does, the media fire for Ball would have most likely died down, and we can all get back to appreciating the talent the kid actually has.
2. Sacramento Kings
Lost: George Hill (PG/SG)
Gained: Iman Shumpert (SG/SF), Joe Johnson (SG/SF/PF)
Moving up the California map, we have the raging dumpster fire that is the Sacramento Kings. They have successfully gotten rid of the messy multi-year, multi-million dollar deal they gave George Hill to shut up about his issues and ride the bench in exchange for… two messy multi-year, multi-million dollar deals.
They gladly took part in a three-team trade with the Cavs and Utah Jazz and accepted Iman Shumpert and Joe Johnson.
Shumpert, a defensive specialist with no offense who can’t even defend his playing time from disappearing, is owed $21 million over two years. Johnson, a offensive specialist with no defense who can’t even shoot anymore (42% shooting, 27% 3PT), is also owed $21 million over two years.
The Kings essentially gave away a player they don’t want to play for two players who can’t play.
Never change, Sacramento.
3. Miami Heat
Lost: 2024 2nd-round pick
Gained: Dwyane Wade (SG/PG)
Dwyane Wade was traded for an average, 13-year old 7th grader.
In all seriousness, this was nothing but a move of respect from the Cavs for a legend who has paid his dues and who deserves to retire in the place where he started. In a basketball sense, this move helps the 7th-seeded Heat to pump more life in a languishing offense that has lost Dion Waiters to injury. That’s nothing the old sheriff of Wade County can’t fix.
4. Utah Jazz
Lost: Rodney Hood (SG/SF)
Gained: Jae Crowder (SF/PF), Derrick Rose (PG) – waived
Props to the Utah Jazz for promptly waiving Derrick Rose so he can sign with a contender, or even back home with Chicago.
More props to them for fixing their roster accordingly after discovering the monstrous talent of Donovan Mitchell. With Mitchell surprisingly flourishing and making a very strong Rookie of the Year case as the 13th overall pick, the often-injured Rodney Hood now found himself lost after being pegged as the Jazz’s offensive force of the future.
Enter Jae Crowder, a very serviceable three-and-D wing who struggled mightily with the Wine and Gold after playing out of his natural small forward position. Along with Ricky Rubio, Crowder can now go back to being a perimeter defensive terror while backed up by French giant Rudy Gobert in the post. Both Crowder and Rubio now make up for Mitchell’s lack of defense and lets him concentrate more in perfecting an already potent offensive game.
Not bad at all.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Lost: Isaiah Thomas (PG), Dwyane Wade (SG/PG), Jae Crowder (SF/PF), Derrick Rose (PG), Channing Frye (PF/C), Iman Shumpert (SG/SF)
Gained: Jordan Clarkson (PG/SG), George Hill (PG/SG), Rodney Hood (SG/SF), Larry Nance, Jr. (PF/C)
Finally we arrive here at the moment of truth – the principal suspect of all this madness.
Barring prolonged chemistry issues, this new Cavaliers team is better than it was yesterday. Despite being the reigning Eastern Conference Champions, Cleveland is 29th in Defensive Rating (DefRtg), comfortably sandwiched between last-place Phoenix and Sacramento. Hill and Clarkson fix those issues with their better length, youth and athleticism over Thomas and Wade. Both are no slouches on offense either.
Speaking of offense, the Cavs finally found the starting shooting guard to replace the lackluster JR Smith. Hood is turning out to be the underrated acquisition of the team, as the 25-year old is currently averaging a career-high 16.1 points per game in just 12 starts out of 39 games played for the Jazz. He should seamlessly fit in with the perimeter-happy shooting of the Cavaliers and is expected to take on a heavier offensive load with Kevin Love still out of commission with a broken hand.
Also, while Love is out, Nance jumps in as the fill-in starting power forward, and he’s more than capable of holding his own and doing more than appear on the highlight reels. In a limited 22 minutes per game with the Lakers, Larry Jr. averaged 8.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on a stellar 60.1% shooting clip. Per 36 minutes (a metric that measures what a player could potentially produce if given more minutes a game), that translates to averages of 14.1 points and 11.1 boards.
All in all, these moves should help the Cavaliers complete that Finals return unless something goes wrong yet again. Time will tell, and all eyes are on them. But they’re used to that by now.
Minor Deals: Elfrid Payton (PG) to Phoenix (A+), Jameer Nelson (PG) to Detroit (B), Emmanuel Mudiay (PG) to New York (D), Devin Harris (PG) to Denver (F), Doug McDermott (SF) to Dallas (B+), Okaro White to Atlanta (C), Luke Babbitt to Miami (C+), James Ennis (SF) to Detroit (C), Brice Johnson (C) to Memphis (C+), Willie Reed to Chicago (D)