Feb. 12, 2018
Did the Cavs Improve Enough at the Deadline?
Following perhaps the most chaotic trade deadline day in the past decade, the Cleveland Cavaliers roster will be looking markedly different. Gone are offseason additions Isaiah Thomas, Dwayne Wade, Jae Crowder, and Derrick Rose, in addition to longtime stalwarts, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert.
Into their places steps a much younger group of players, highlighted by Rodney Hood from the Utah Jazz. Joining Hood will be Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Lakers, and George Hill from the Sacramento Kings.
Change was certainly needed for a Cavs team that has lost 13 out of the last 20 games, but will these new additions be enough to push them back up the standings?
First off, they certainly aren’t losing much by way of the players they let go. Thomas looked uncomfortable being the second option on offense, was a liability on an already poor defense, and still hasn’t completely recovered from the hip injury he sustained last season. Crowder had been a serviceable option at forward, but isn’t playing nearly at the level he was the previous two seasons with the Boston Celtics. Wade showed serious signs of aging and was averaging both the lowest minutes played and points per game of his career. Then there’s Frye, Shumpert, and Rose who all either haven’t played in many games this season due to injury or just haven’t been given much playing time.
Now, let’s look at what the Cavaliers are getting with their trade acquisitions. Hood should be able to play heavy minutes at the two guard while helping LeBron James shoulder the scoring burden. The only concern with Hood will be his health as injuries have plagued his past three seasons in the league.
Clarkson and Hill present a couple nice options at the point guard position. Despite typically coming off the bench, Clarkson could potentially start in this Cavaliers lineup with Hill and Jose Calderon as stable, veteran backups. Perhaps the most immediate impact we’ll see from Clarkson will be on the defensive end of the floor where he is an immense upgrade over both Thomas and Wade.
Finally, there’s Nance, who could end up being the most important player of this quartet. Since entering the league in 2015, Nance has been praised for his defensive tenacity and nose for the ball on the glass, two areas which the Cavaliers are in sore need of help. They currently surrender the third most points and have the fifth worst rebound differential in the league. Nance will play meaningful minutes at both forward and center as Kevin Love is sidelined with a broken hand for the next eight weeks.
Ultimately, these four players will make the Cavaliers a much more competitive team than they had been looking like for the past month. Maybe they’ll even end up pushing the Toronto Raptors and Celtics for one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. Maybe LeBron will pull out some more playoff magic and they’ll even make it to the NBA Finals...but then what? A supremely talented Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets squad will be there waiting for them and there will be nothing they can do. Anything short of bringing in a LeBron-compatible superstar on the level of Kyrie Irving will not deliver them the title they are looking for.