The New and Improved Cavaliers: Contenders?

Among all of the title contenders in the NBA this season (all 4 of them) no one has struggled as much as the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are one of, if not the worst, defensive teams in the league. They have cycled through drama involving both Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas recently, and Jae Crowder has been a bust of a pickup from the Celtics. Cleveland has put up a dismal 7-10 record since the calendar turned to 2018. They are trending towards fighting just to have home court in the first round of the upcoming NBA playoffs. Today at the trade deadline, the Cavs made several moves in order to retool the roster. Let’s take a look at each and how they will help Cleveland improve their roster as they try to make their 4th consecutive NBA Finals.

Deal with LA Lakers

The biggest deal of the day involving Cleveland was the trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that sent Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to the LA for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. For good measure the Cavs also sent their 1st round pick for the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft. While this move will definitely benefit the Lakers long term, freeing up cap space and adding another 1st round pick has to make Magic happy. On the flip side, this brings much needed youth, athleticism and energy to Cleveland’s roster. Nance is a plus defender, a great screener and an active player on both ends. Not to mention he is one of the favorites for the dunk contest over All-Star weekend. Clarkson will give them a spark plug off the bench, adding to their already solid bench.

It was becoming clear that Isaiah Thomas was A) Not healthy and B) Not a fit with what Cleveland was trying to do. He was not great this season in Cleveland and has not done himself any favors in the pursuit of a big-time deal this off-season.  It is more likely than not that the Lakers will part ways with him at season’s end. This trade was a win for both teams: it sheds the Cavs of a piece that did not fit, and brings in two players that fit holes they desperately needed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference. For Los Angeles, it is setting the Lakers up for a potential huge stretch of free agent pick-ups over the next couple of years.

Miami Vice: Wade County is back

Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have been great friends for a long-time. Outside of that, bringing Wade to Cleveland did not make a whole lot of sense for Cleveland. Wade has been a steady presence for the Cavs, but he is a shell of the player who ran with Lebron back in Miami. This deal allows Wade and family to return to Miami, where it all started, in order to retire where it all begin. The Cavs acquired a second round pick in the deal, which is rather inconsequential, but getting younger and more active was paramount in order for the current Cavs to get their season turned around. They were also running out of minutes for Wade, and this move was a classy thing to do.

Three Team Dealin’

The Cavs finished off the afternoon with a three-way deal with the Jazz and the Kings. They acquired George Hill from the Kings, and Rodney Hood from the Jazz, while Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose ended up in Utah and Iman Shumpert will play the rest of the season in the Capital of California. This was the most impressive move of the day as Hill is both a good defender and a solid scorer from the point guard position. Rodney Hood is a good scoring complement to LeBron on the wing as well. Rose and Crowder had been lackluster for Cleveland and Shumpert has been the same player for a while. Getting Hill and Hood for those three was an impressive feat.

Cleveland comes out of the trade deadline with a total rebuild of the roster. That is a positive thing, and it positions them much better to compete out East. They will be better offensively Defensively they still will not be great, but they will be improved. Ultimately they should find their way clawing back up the Eastern Conference standings to compete with Boston in late May. Yesterday the Cavs looked lost, defeated and a total question mark on if they were even the biggest threat to tackle Boston in the playoffs. Cavs fans have to be happy with the activity and the output of the trade deadline, and LeBron has to be pleased with the efforts to build a better roster around him for the playoffs.

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