The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking a big chance. They are taking a big risk. It’s one that is just crazy enough to work out – at least, work out better than if they did nothing.
By now we all know that the Cavaliers made a flurry of trades before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday afternoon, effectively remaking half their roster.
Here’s the rundown of who is in and who is out, at least as of Thursday:
In: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, George Hill
Out: Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder
Two more players will be added since the net is two players gone, but for now, let’s look at this as much in the aggregate.
The upshot is that the Cavs got a little better. How much, we don’t know, but a shakeup was needed since this team has trended severely downward. They have gotten younger, and all but Nance offer something good offensively; Nance can be helpful as a role guy you don’t run plays for.
Also, look at who is gone – a bunch of players who mostly didn’t fit and/or were not producing. Thomas is clearly not all the way back from his injury by a long shot, Wade is in the twilight of his great career, Rose is a shell of his old self, Crowder is a glue guy and Shumpert and Frye were not helping much from a production standpoint, though Frye was at least a good intangibles guy.
The risks are legion. For one, this is not exactly going all-in for this year; they didn’t get that much better, but then, doing that was going to be very tough given many teams’ cap situations (as well as the Cavs’, which, to put it nicely, is very bad). There will also be an adjustment period as these players try to gel with the holdovers, and time is of the essence since this appears to also be both a bet and a hedge on LeBron James leaving at the end of the season. Also, Clarkson is signed for two seasons beyond this year at eight-figure dollar amounts, which could become an albatross if he doesn’t get better.
And no matter what, their cap situation is not good for next season, LeBron or no LeBron. They are already over the cap next year even without him, so if he does return they will be well over again and pay a heavy luxury tax. This is due to some of the contracts they signed a couple of years ago; the seeds of this situation were sown long before the trades, and they will persist.
The moves are those of a desperate team, especially since they gave up a first round pick to get Clarkson and Nance Jr. But they had to do something to shake things up. Standing pat seemed a certain path to failure. This season might still end up that way, but at least they have tried to make a change that could work as the window may very well close. It could be just what they need, or it could blow up and be little if any better than what they already had.
The Cavs are taking a risk. And it’s one you can hardly blame them for taking.