Writer: Caleb Akpan
The NBA Trade deadline didn’t fail to disappoint. A plethora of deals were made, specifically by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now them and many other teams have a new outlook on the rest of the season, one that few fans could’ve expected as the clock counted down on Thursday.
To start off their day, Cleveland received Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson from the Lakers. Not a bad haul…..but then we all heard what they gave up. Cleveland traded Isaiah Thomas, who was supposed to be their new franchise point guard, along with Channing Frye, and their own first-round pick to get the two young players.
Thomas had played 15 games for the Cavaliers prior to the trade after being swapped with Kyrie Irving, and the Cavs had to give up a first rounder to basically get rid of him as fast as possible. Now in LA, he might actually be asked to come off the bench following rookie Lonzo Ball, but his agent says that Thomas would never come off the bench according to Rachel Nichols of ESPN’s The Jump. Thomas would reportedly rather be bought out, a move that could create a plethora of insane scenarios where Thomas joined contenders for cheap to end the year, and that move doesn’t seem far off as Ball nears return from an injury and little room seems available for IT.
The Boston-Cleveland trade was already looking like a failure, but Cleveland wasn’t done trading yet. Their next bomb dropped shortly after the first, and somehow it was even bigger. In the megatrade following IT’s departure, Cleveland gave away Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, and Iman Shumpert to receive George Hill from Sacramento and Rodney Hood from Utah. Wade was sent back to his original team the Miami Heat, Crowder and Rose were sent to the Jazz, and Shumpert ended up with the Kings.
The trade seems like a win for Cleveland, who acquires two solid, younger players, but they lost a decent chunk of their roster in the move. In total, with both trades, Cleveland lost six of the players they went into the season with, and five who were serious parts of their rotation at one point or another (Shumpert has been injured for most of the year and likely wasn’t in the rotation even if he was healthy). The moves would usually not look good at all, and they could still harm Cleveland, but they make sense considering how much they’d struggle as of late in their former makeup.
Crowder got 53 games in with the Cavs, triple his old Celtics teammate Thomas, but still not nearly enough to make the Kyrie Irving trade look even close to good. Wade goes back to Miami, a place he loves and somewhere he can hopefully continue prolonging retirement, but what was the point to him going to Cleveland in the first place? He’d already played with his best friend James on the Heat, and this just seemed like the less successful, not as good sequel.
Iman Shumpert probably doesn’t want to be in Sacramento, nor does Joe Johnson who Utah traded as part of the deal, and Derrick Rose definitely doesn’t want to be in Utah, as his career continues its downward spiral from grace. The good news for D-Rose is that he’ll likely be bought out according to multiple sources, and there’s a team interested in him if that does happen: the Minnesota Timberwolves, led by Tom Thibodeau, who coached Rose to his 2011 MVP award, now almost entirely forgotten to everything except NBA trivia.
The question for Cleveland is if all these trades will actually impact LeBron James’ free agency in a positive way. Will a younger roster entice him to stay in Cleveland? Maybe, but those young players also need time to gel and learn together and James may not want to wait for that if teams like Houston or San Antonio are offering him the opportunity to join established rosters and immediately be favorites for titles along with the Warriors.
We’ll just have to wait and see how things go, specifically if the roster can even get together and go on a playoff run this year. Teams like Boston and Toronto are probably loving how the East looks now with the Cavs re-doing their main rotation midseason, without Kevin Love, and almost no time to prepare, but if Cleveland can put things together to beat one of those teams, maybe James will like what’s going on and put pen to paper in The Land.
Outside of Cleveland, the deadline was a bit calmer, but deals still went down that could have impact, many of them giving second chances, to recent draft picks not really panning out. Denver traded Emmanuel Mudiay to New York, where the guard will have a chance to prove he was deserving of the 7th pick in 2015. To put things into perspective, Mudiay at 21 was just traded for a 35-year old Devin Harris, and the Nuggets also had to include a second round pick in the deal. Not the best look, but Mudiay has more than enough time to prove the Nuggets made a mistake and the critics had him down incorrectly.
In a move that might look even worse for the young player affected, Elfrid Payton was traded by the Magic to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick. Payton’s career hadn’t really progressed since he was drafted by the Magic at tenth in 2014, his numbers almost identical from his first year to his fourth outside of scoring. In Phoenix, he should have the freedom to score more and play at a faster pace, but if he couldn’t make the Magic better, there’s almost no way he could do so for a Suns team that’s even worse.
All in all, the 2018 NBA trade deadline was another big day for a league that seems to be constantly creating buzz. There seems to be nothing like the NBA, a year-round rollercoaster of drama, breaking news, rapid-fire social media, and an actual competitive sport on top of all of that. As the dust clears on trades, get ready for All-Star Weekend and buyout season. It’s highly unlikely that the league is done shocking its fans this season.