Holy sh*t. That’s all I kept saying to myself last week when the Cavs did a massive overhaul before the trade deadline. Justin and Andrew touched on the overhaul here and here, but let me dive a little deeper. After watching the Cavaliers’ first game since this overhaul against the Celtics, I am confident that they will be number one in the East. Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but I’m saying it now. Here’s why.
I was rooting for Isaiah Thomas in Cleveland, really, I was. Thomas only played 15 games with the Cavs after recovering from injury, but it was clear that he wasn’t a great fit. Thomas is a scorer through and through, and his field goal percentage with the Cavs was a measly 36.1% after last season at 46.3% with the Celtics. He’s a massive liability on defense, and guess what the Cavs’ greatest struggle this season has been. Yup, defense. Thomas is also one of the players who pointed fingers at Kevin Love in the locker room (talk about ~*dRaMa*~), creating a dysfunctional and toxic environment. In his debut with the Lakers, Thomas looked ready to prove himself in LA. I, for one, thinks he looks exceptional in purple and gold.
Jae Crowder didn’t hesitate to throw major shade at the Cavaliers after his first game with the Jazz, saying he “got back to having fun playing basketball again”.
Game #1 in the ? for @CJC9BOSS
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 12, 2018
After watching him step over Kevin Love without helping him up, I was ready to see him go. I see Crowder’s trade to Utah as a win for Cleveland for sure.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron’s reunion was short-lived, and I think Wade is relieved to be back in Miami. Wade wasn’t playing terribly off the bench in Cleveland, but he was scoring the lowest number of points per 100 possessions of his entire career. LBJ will miss his bestie, but Wade is a better fit in Miami and will offer more scoring options for Spoelstra’s team since Dion Waiters’ season ended with his ankle injury. Heat merchandise sales went up 8000% since the trade, so I’d say Miami is pretty happy.
I’m bummed about losing Channing Frye, mostly because he just seems really nice. I get why the Cavs let him go, though. Frye is a shooter and deficient on defense, plain and simple. The Cavs will be able to score no matter what (see: LeBron James) but they absolutely must improve on defense.
Derrick Rose + Iman Shumpert
I don’t really know what I can say as far as Derrick Rose goes. They don’t have to worry about him randomly disappearing again, I guess. I literally forgot to mention Shumpert initially and I had to edit this post to include him, so, there’s that. Gains
Cleveland now has a lot of young talent. Judging by Cleveland’s game against the Celtics yesterday, Clarkson is going to be huge off the bench. 17 points and 75% from behind the arc ain’t too shabby for his Cavs debut. That shooting percentage is crazy and unsustainable, but it’s definitely a great start. He’s a fantastic spot-up shooter and can make plays attacking the rim as well.
Larry Nance Jr.
First of all, I love a homecoming, so Larry Nance Jr. going home to Ohio and to the team his father played with tugs at my heartstrings. Nance is athletic af and is going to add a great defensive spark to the Cavs roster. He is scrappy and energetic, which the Cavs desperately need. He will crash the boards, get steals and a great help defender. He’s definitely not the best rim protector, but he’s going to be huge for the Cavs’ lacking defense. He’s got a decent jump shot, can finish at the rim (can’t wait to watch him in the dunk contest this weekend, by the way), and is a smart player overall. I think this is a huge win for the Cavs.
I feel like Rodney Hood got pushed aside in Utah a bit since Donovan Mitchell emerged as a freak of nature rookie this season. I thought Utah was going to be all Hood all the time after Gordon Hayward left. Let’s not forget, Hood is really, really good. Before being traded to Cleveland, Hood was having a career year in Utah, shooting 42.6% from the field and 39.2% from 3. He’s versatile, and approaching his prime.
The Cavs acquired a veteran in George Hill last week. Hill seemed to be struggling in Sacramento this season, but he was in Sacramento, you know? The fact of the matter is, this dude can play. He played extremely well in Utah last season, and has played wonderfully with the Pacers alongside Paul George. He’s going to add to the sad Cavaliers defense, as he can guard guys in the back court solidly. LeBron has expressed his excitement to play with Hill, saying that Hill’s basketball IQ complements him. And honestly, the Cavs just need players to complement James.
What still needs to happen
A brand new roster doesn’t necessarily mean success for the Cavaliers. I think the biggest thing the team needs is chemistry. It doesn’t matter how great the talent is if there’s no chemistry. I think there will certainly be a huge improvement, seeing as how Thomas and Crowder are off the team.
Tristan Thompson needs to continue producing consistently. Thompson was out for 20 games with a calf injury, but now that he’s back the Cavs need him to grab boards and defend, defend, defend. There’s no reason Thompson shouldn’t have more double-doubles – getting double figures in rebounds should be happening every night for him.
JR Smith needs to make more of an impact as well. Smith looked great against the Celtics on Sunday, and the team needs more of that. I mean, did you see his massive dunk over Baynes? And don’t forget his crazily contested, off-balance 3-ball – a JR Smith classic. Over the last nine games, Smith has shot 47.5% from 3, bringing his overall season percentage from 33.8% to 36.7%. I’m hoping the addition of these new players will encourage Smith to get his sh*t together.
Cedi Osman needs to see more minutes, for sure. Coach Lue has been playing Osman more the past few games, and he has been fantastic. With Osman starting in place of Kevin Love, James starts as Power Forward, where he dominated in Miami. Osman is fast for a player his size, and is clearly has a high game IQ. In Sunday’s game against the Celtics, he guarded Kyrie Irving better than I’ve seen in a long time. He works his ass off on the court, which is refreshing to see on a Cavs team that seems to be sleepwalking most of the time (minus LeBron).
Brilliance or stupidity?
So, which is it, in my opinion? F*cking brilliance. Look, something (okay, a lot of things) wasn’t working in Cleveland before the trade deadline. LeBron James, I mean, GM Koby Altman saw that and decided to blow the team up and start from the ground up. It would have been hard to make the team worse than it was, unless they just got rid of James altogether, so I think the Cavs made some great moves before the deadline.
Sure, everything could backfire next year if LeBron James and/or Paul George decide to head to Los Angeles (who freed up lots of money for max contracts with this trade), but let’s just worry about the present.
Now, it’s time to sit back and watch things unfold, but judging by Sunday’s game in Boston, the Cavs are rejuvenated, hungry, and thank GOD – fun to watch again.