As the Thursday 3 p.m. ET trade deadline inched closer and closer, two NBA teams decided to completely break the internet with a wildly fascinating trade.
The Cleveland Cavaliers opted to trade former All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and their own 2018 first-round pick in return for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
In the wake of the toxicity bubbling around Cleveland, the decision to offload Thomas truly signaled the need to shake things up considerably.
This piece will offer letter grades and analysis for both teams.
Cleveland Cavaliers: C
Cleveland needed a massive shake-up — though few saw IT being jettisoned out. Clarkson and Nance will help not only this year, but also in the future. Each are under contract for multiple years going forward.
Clarkson is a shot creator. An athletic slasher, he won’t be afraid to step up and try to initiate offense. He’s not overly committed on the defensive end — nor will he look to facilitate all that often. However, for what he is, Clarkson offers a sorely needed upgrade to Cleveland’s bench.
Nance is one of the more athletic players in the league. He’s the type of glue guy that should ultimately help a team win (though he’s yet to feature for a winning team). Nance does a little bit of everything, and is versatile enough defensively to guard multiple positions on the floor. Nance is limited offensively — as he can’t create his own shot, nor can he really stretch the floor. More than anything, he allows Cleveland to get younger and considerably more athletic. One can envision Nance being the beneficiary of lobs from LeBron James in transition.
The real value in all of this is jettisoning Thomas. There was real discord between IT and the rest of the Cavs’ roster. From the start, the fit didn’t work. Locker room tensions boiled over into the media at an unprecedented rate. With Thomas’ candid brashness in interviews, the Thomas-James duo simply wasn’t going to get Cleveland back to the Finals.
This move was aimed at enhancing the overall athleticism of the squad — whilst also landing two players under contract for the future. All in all, it was a nice move for the Cavs.
Los Angeles Lakers: A
While Cleveland did well in the deal, the Lakers hit it out of the park.
Let’s look at the tangible members of this trade first. Channing Frye isn’t going to magically lead the team to the playoffs. However, he’s an excellent locker room presence. For the youngest team in the NBA, Frye’s availability can’t hurt in any way. Duly, he’s a player with the ability to stretch the floor — something sorely lacking within the roster. Frye could slot in right behind Brook Lopez as the back-up five in this uptempo scheme.
Thomas is the obvious headlining act. A number of factors contributed to his difficult time in Cleveland. For one, he’s still recovering from offseason hip surgery. Secondly, the atmosphere in Cleveland didn’t exactly breed happiness and good vibes. Now in a situation with less pressure, Thomas should be able to play with a freer confidence. It also helps that Thomas grew up a die-hard Lakers fan. He might not be the Thomas we saw last year in Boston, but at the very least he’ll be entertaining.
A smaller aspect in this deal includes the status of Lonzo Ball. Ball’s been battling a bit of a knee injury for the past month. Though the physical ailment isn’t overly serious, the Lakers are being extra-cautious with him. A scenario could exist in which the Lakers shut down Ball for the remainder of the year — especially now with Thomas in tow.
The most significant part of this trade is the amount of cap space Los Angeles has cleared up. With Nance and Clarkson off the books, LA is now slated to have enough cap room ($69 million) to sign two max contract free agents in 2018. Recent reports had the Lakers potentially waiting until 2019 to enact these plans. However, with this turn of events, Cleveland ironically enough may have given LA enough cap space to sign LeBron. Additionally, the Lakers recouped a first-round pick in this year’s draft. LA’s original pick was lost in the deal for Steve Nash.
The Lakers unquestionably won this trade. By shedding salary and acquiring another draft pick, LA is in prime position to enhance an already developing roster.
As for Cleveland, there’s a bit of an unknown with both Nance and Clarkson. Neither has played in a meaningful NBA basketball game. All of a sudden, they’ll be thrown under the largest microscope in the league. Clarkson’s value as a volume scorer may also be mitigated with the recent additions of George Hill and Rodney Hood.
Image Source: David Richard/USA TODAY Sports