The Cleveland Cavaliers have been an absolute mess for the last month or so, but with the trade deadline approaching quickly, the team made sure they at least attempted to fix their problems. Gone are Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Dwayne Wade and in comes young players like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood, as well as savvy veteran guard George Hill. Obviously, this much roster turnover in the middle of the season is a risky move, but for Cleveland, it may prove to be exactly what the team needed.
Let’s start with Thomas since he was the clear headliner among outgoing Cavalier players. Despite playing in just 15 games for Cleveland, it became painfully obvious he wasn’t a fit. Cleveland doesn’t have the defensive talent to hide Thomas on that end of the court, and with his scoring and efficiency both trending in the wrong direction he was hurting the team when he was on the court. Beyond that, however, Thomas was starting to become a distraction, calling out both teammates and coaches over the past few weeks while doing nothing on the court to justify this finger-pointing. Losing Thomas may sting a bit due to the fact he was the main takeaway from the summer Kyrie Irving trade, but kudos to general manager Koby Altman for jettisoning the diminutive guard before things deteriorated even further.
As for the players the Cavaliers got in return at the deadline, it’s hard to not be impressed. Needing a major influx of youth, Cleveland got just that with Clarkson, Nance, and Hood. Clarkson, though not exactly a star, is a good starting-caliber guard that is capable of running the offense while Nance has explosive athleticism and has shown flashes of great potential. Meanwhile, Hood provides instant scoring and can function as either a good starter or a dangerous weapon off the bench. George Hill meanwhile should prove that his stint with the Kings wasn’t indicative of him as a player and I expect him to return to form as he presumably steps into Thomas’ place in the starting lineup.
All in all, the Cavaliers deserve praise for what they were able to accomplish at the deadline. Given their struggles of late, reshaping the roster was absolutely the correct move, and while it remains to be seen whether or not the team will ultimately make it to yet another NBA Finals, it’s clear they made the best of a tough situation at the trade deadline.