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Wow. Have you caught your breath yet?
Shout out to Koby Altman and everyone else who played a role in the Cavs’ Big Deadline Blowout Thursday. NBA fans won’t forget this extravaganza anytime soon.
With the franchise publicly in disarray, Cleveland went to dramatic lengths to change course, pulling off an unprecedented extreme makeover. We watched as Woj and his hyperactive Twitter fingers narrated the story.
The Cavs surrendered Isaiah Thomas (to the Lakers), Channing Frye (Lakers), Dwyane Wade (Heat), Jae Crowder (Jazz), Derrick Rose (Jazz), Iman Shumpert (Kings), their 2018 first-round pick (Lakers), and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick (Kings). In return, they received Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and George Hill.
Something had to change.
The Cavs traded old parts from a dysfunctional roster for promising players on good contracts. They got younger and more athletic. Though this fire sale probably indicates they’re making two major concessions—they won’t win the East this year, and LeBron isn’t coming back—the team’s long-term prognosis is unquestionably brighter today than it was yesterday.
Hill has not had a great year in Sacramento, but the 6-foot-7 Hood, who’s shooting a career-best 39 percent from three, is a fascinating wing who seems to get better every year.
Teams around the league coveted Nance, 25, who has come a long way. He’s averaging career bests of 8.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG and is on a real value contract.
Magic Johnson w/ some HUGE words of praise for Larry Nance Jr., calls him 'secret weapon,' that they’ve gotten a lot of trade calls for pic.twitter.com/kaD5QSleR3— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) September 12, 2017
Teams were also interested in Clarkson, who was third on the Lakers in scoring with 14.5 PPG and third in assists with 3.3 APG. Of the three young Lakers on the market—Nance, Clarkson, and Julius Randle—Nance and Clarkson were the two who attracted the most interest.
By making investments in still-developing young guys and shipping off established vets like Thomas and Wade, as well as reliable rotation guys like Crowder and Shumpert, however, the Cavs are likely waving the white flag on this season. Boston and Toronto have both looked significantly better than Cleveland this year, and even if the Cavs’ chemistry improves, it’s hard to imagine they’ll have the rapport or firepower to overtake both of those teams in the playoffs.
Give Altman, the first-year GM, props. All in all, after a terrible first half of the 2017-18 season, the Cavs won at the trade deadline.
They weren’t the league’s biggest winners, though. A round of applause, please, for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite boasting a talented core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball, things weren’t quite clicking in L.A. The Lakers have been one of the worst teams in the West this season. They knew they had to make a move and had been trying all year to flip some of their less-valuable young pieces—like Clarkson, Nance, and Randle.
But they waited patiently for the right deal. And as Cleveland fell apart, well, the right deal fell into Los Angeles’ lap.
The Lakers are one of the two most storied franchises in the NBA. They aren’t content with the prospect of a few young guys who might be good down the road. They want to compete for championships, and if you’re going to do that in the loaded West, you need superstars—plural.
This trade opens the door for the Lakers to make money moves this offseason. As Brian Windhorst noted, this was an “absolute home run” for the Lakers.
"The Cavaliers have just cleared a path for the Lakers to go after Paul George and LeBron James this summer."— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 8, 2018
–Brian Windhorst pic.twitter.com/MSv6bETxVr
L.A. now has enough cap space to sign not one but two max-salary players this summer. Hello, LeBron James and Paul George.
Some think George will give in to Russell Westbrook’s politicking and decide to stay in Oklahoma City. I don’t buy it. I think he’s headed for L.A., where he has wanted to play all along. If the Lakers have a shot at LeBron but not PG-13, they will likely shift their focus to DeMarcus Cousins.
Three impactful details on trade for Lakers: They'll have space for two max contract slots in 2018 or 2019, replenish first-round pick in 2018 Draft and gets Lakers some shooting for rest of season with Thomas and Frye.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2018
He feels the lure of Hollywood, as evidenced by his role in Trainwreck and heavy involvement in SpringHill Entertainment with his business partner, Maverick Carter.
At 33 years old, he’s also thinking about his legacy. The end will come. He has averaged 38.8 minutes per game over 15 seasons, not to mention shouldering an incredible volume of playoff basketball.
There are likely two questions on LeBron James’ mind. The first: What does he need to do to overtake Michael Jordan in the G.O.A.T. conversations?
Conquering the Western Conference would certainly help. So would reviving the Lakers franchise. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2013, when they were the 7 seed. In the four seasons that have passed since then, the highest number of games they’ve won is 27.
Though he has never had a relationship with Jordan, LeBron has always been close with another NBA great of the last era—Magic Johnson—who is now, of course…running the Lakers.
Happy birthday @MagicJohnson!! One of the few that's always showed love from day 1 to me! Thank you. Enjoy your day!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 14, 2017
The other question on LeBron’s mind: Where does he need to sign to win another championship?
Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins has written about LeBron extensively. He recently appeared on Zach Lowe’s podcast, The Lowe Post, and said he thinks LeBron’s biggest concern in making his free-agency decision is winning another title.
“I don’t see how he leaves unless he has the feeling like there’s a sure thing waiting on the other side,” Jenkins said.
The thing is, it can’t be too sure of a thing—like it would be in Golden State—because that would hinder his legacy. He’d be seen as a frontrunner.
LeBron is looking for a situation where he could win a title, but it would require some work—like the situation in Cleveland in 2014.
He could be looking at a top five of Lonzo Ball, Paul George, himself, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. Los Angeles would need to make another couple moves to contend for a title, but that’s a solid start, and GM LeBron loves to tinker, anyway.
But it’s not a sure thing that he’s headed to Los Angeles. Say LeBron decides to go elsewhere?
This trade is still a win for the Lakers. If they miss out on max stars this offseason and shift their attention to the 2019 free-agency class—which some have speculated is their real goal anyway—they could have a whopping $79 million to throw at guys like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, or Klay Thompson.
They also picked up a first-round pick in the Cavs deal. With their two late first-round picks in the 2017 draft, they scooped Kuzma and Josh Hart.
Bottom line: the Cavs did well at the trade deadline. The Lakers did even better.
Give the Cavs an A. Give the Lakers an A+. And may the free-agency speculation run wild.
What a time.