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February 9, 2018

Obviously the biggest news of yesterday’s NBA Trade Deadline were the surprising maneuvers of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, foremost among them the trade between the two franchises. When it comes to Trade Deadline deals, I ascribe to the long view of these moves, the context that turns the past into prologue, instead of grading each transaction in a vacuum.

Specifically, the biggest piece of “context” is the ongoing saga of LeBron James, and where he will ply his trade in the twilight of an all-time great career. My best guess, the presumption under which I have been proceeding all season long, is that LeBron will leave Cleveland again this summer. Beginning with letting go former General Manager David Griffin after the NBA Finals, then the Kyrie Irving trade last August (that de facto player personnel manager LeBron was never consulted about), it has apparently become exceedingly difficult for the Cavs to convince Lebron James they will challenge for the NBA Title in the coming years.

Correspondingly, Cleveland has begun preparations for an inevitable future without LeBron James, whether that starts next summer or years from now. The unprotected Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick (most likely a Top 10 pick this summer) is the most prized asset of the Irving trade, a cornerstone of the looming rebuild that some observers suggested could or should be expended in the months and weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline, a last-ditch effort not only to bolster the Cavs’ Title chances but their chances of keeping LeBron. Certainly the finest of lines for Cleveland’s ownership and management to walk, along with a proper lens through which to view their roster makeover yesterday.

With that all said, lemme get this straight …

Cleveland in the last six months have turned:

– Kyrie Irving

– Channing Frye

– Iman Shumpert

– Derrick Rose

– Cavs own 2018 1st round pick



– Jordan Clarkson

– Larry Nance, Jr.

– Rodney Hood

– George Hill (who they could have signed in Free Agency last year)

– Ante Zizic

– Nets’ 2018 1st round pick


… With nothing else to show for their rentals of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the Heat’s 2020 2nd round pick from the Irving trade, all the while helping their likely most formidable competition for LeBron James in the offseason clear cap space to sign LeBron?!?

To borrow from Charles Barkley, that’s turrible! The only way the Irving trade with Boston looked promising last August was because of the season Isaiah Thomas had just had, but for the Cavs to punt on him after 15 games, as well as having to trade more assets to get something out of Thomas, is just disastrous.

At least the Cavs got younger, more athletic, and still retained the Nets’ pick, so the rebuild won’t be as catastrophic, but that’s truly the silver lining of a dark cloud.

As for the Lakers, the best thing I can say is that they’ve decided not to throw good money after bad, got back into the 2018 Draft, and create the cap space to pursue two “Max Free Agents” this summer, and/or the next summer.

Of course, they also continue to admit the sins of the Jimmy Buss Era, no longer having D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance and (likely) Julius Randle as part of the costs of getting out from under the Timofey Mozgov & Luol Deng contracts. Consider that from the last six years of drafts, they’ll only have Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Jason Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Ivica Zubac left to show for it, and even with two Max Free Agents, they still need half a roster. Flexibility is great and all, but even if they sign LeBron and Paul George, I doubt that will be enough to topple the Warriors from their perch.

Finally, while I think these moves are already a prospective loser for the Cavs, if LeBron leaves “The Land” this summer, then it’s a virtual implosion. Further, if LeBron doesn’t choose the Lakers, then I don’t care who else they sign instead in the 2018 or 2019 offseason, this trade was a loser for them as well, as the only things left to show for developing and losing Clarkson, Nance and Randle will be “Plan B” Free Agents and whatever rookie Cleveland’s pick in the mid-20s this summer will yield.

The Lakers have made it clear that missing the playoffs as they have the prior four years (and likely a 5th consecutive year this season) is no longer acceptable. Sign two Free Agents to Max-salary deals not named LeBron, and the Lakers are quite possibly a playoff team next season, and depending on how the 2018 offseason shakes out, they could also be a player in the 2019 Free Agent pool. That won’t be enough for the faithful; LeBron James has to be the prize, the end of these means, as the difference between LeBron and any “Plan B” for the Lakers is still vast, even if he’s entered his proverbial Golden Years.



From → Basketball, Sports

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