“Cleveland Cavaliers” by Erik Drost (CC BY 2.0)
Things were clearly not working out with the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were constructed prior to the NBA trade deadline. Faced with the possibility of failure this season, and losing LeBron James next season, the Cavs made several roster moves to attempt to remedy the situation. But after making several trades, did the Cavs do enough to legitimately improve?
Cleveland traded away several players that they thought would be big factors heading into this season, with Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, and Iman Shumpert all being removed from the roster on deadline day. Thomas and Crowder were especially disappointing, as those two players were brought over in exchange for Kyrie Irving, who asked to leave the team after last season. To say that the Cavaliers did not get the better of that trade would be an understatement.
When it came to the reasons for the Cavaliers’ struggles in the season, defense was the biggest issue. Thomas was incapable of defending the league’s best at the point guard position, and was a downgrade from even the defensively suspect Irving. Crowder and Shumpert, thought to be defensive stoppers, also failed to help the team get stops on the defensive end, while Wade brought very little to the table. Fittingly, the last game for the Cavaliers before these trades were made saw them win 140-138.
The Cavaliers brought in Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, and Rodney Hood in their trades on deadline day, moves that the team made with two areas in mind. First, they are hoping that the defense will improve now that some of the bigger defensive liabilities will no longer be with the team. Second, they hope that these trades will address some of the cultural issues within the locker room, as reports indicate that Thomas was not getting along with most of the team.
Of course, the real question now is whether or not these trades made the Cavaliers any better than they were before. Things have nowhere to go but up on the defensive end, but whether or not the team can plausibly contend for the NBA championship is still up in the air. A better defense is nice, but players like George Hill and Jordan Clarkson are hardly championship-caliber difference makers, so it will be interesting to see what difference if any those players can make; especially as the NBA betting on bet365 has them as +350.00 favorites to top the conference.
More interestingly is what impact these moves will have on the future of LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rumors have swirled about his status with the team beyond this season, with countless teams lined up to secure his services as soon as the season ends. If these moves end up making the Cavaliers successful this season, they may be enough for him to stick around for the foreseeable future. If the team does not get better, LeBron could be on his way out of Cleveland for the second time in his career.