Isaiah Thomas, Jordan Clarkson Cavs-Lakers Trade Headlines Wild NBA Trade Deadline

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off an unexpected trade that sparked a complete overhaul of the Cavaliers roster that, in turn, appears poised to  significantly impact the remaining months of the National Basketball Association (NBA) season.  With the trade deadline for the 2017-2018 NBA season just hours away, the Cavaliers sent point guard Isaiah Thomas, power forward Channing Frye, and their franchise’s own 2018 first-round draft pick to the Lakers.  In exchange, Cleveland received two young, athletic, and versatile players in power forward Larry Nance, Jr., and point guard Jordan Clarkson from Los Angeles.

The importance of this deal was far-reaching. Despite being part of the blockbuster summer trade with the Boston Celtics along with former Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas had struggled to fit well with his new team after returning midway through the season from a hip injury.  This was true both on and off the court, as Thomas struggled to integrate into the offense alongside fellow ball-dominant player LeBron James.  Off the court, reports mounted indicating that Thomas and teammates were challenged by the pressure of coexisting during the Cavs recent losing streaks.

Despite this, the decision by Cleveland to trade a player coming off of two straight NBA All-Star selections proved surprising to many.  In addition, this trade was significant for the Cavs because it allowed them to obtain two young and talented players in Nance Jr. and Clarkson that are under reasonable contracts for future seasons, providing roster depth alongside James while providing some limited insurance in the event the superstar leaves in the 2018 free agency.  For Los Angeles, this trade allowed them to free up enough financial room under the salary cap to offer two maximum value contracts to stars in the 2018 off season to lead their young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram.

Soon after the Cleveland-Los Angeles deal was announced, it became clear that the Cavs were just beginning a massive roster overhaul.  In a three-team trade, the Sacramento Kings received shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Utah Jazz, shooting guard Iman Shumpert from the Cavs, and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round draft pick.  Meanwhile, the Jazz received small forward Jae Crowder and point guard Derek Rose from Cleveland, and the Cavs received shooting guard Rodney Hood from the Jazz and point guard  George Hill from the Kings.  With this trade, Cleveland was able to gather a veteran, two-way starting point guard in Hill, and a talented shooting guard with a high offensive potential in Hood.

Finally, the Cavs completed their trade deadline deals by sending future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade back to the Miami Heat, the franchise where he won three NBA championships.  In exchange, Cleveland received a future Heat second-round draft pick.  Although much discussion was made regarding this trade and the longstanding friendship between James and Wade, the remaining Cavs superstar expressed his support and excitement for Wade’s return to Miami, where they won the Heat’s last two championships together. Overall,  the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to complete a series of deadline trades that gave them numerous pieces to improve the team’s current championship pursuit, as well as allow them to retain future young talent and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 unprotected first-round draft pick to aid in a franchise rebuild if James does in fact leave in the 2018 free agency.

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