Looking Back at the Trade that Saved the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Season

As the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for their yet-to-be-named opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, you can’t help but look back at how their season was going just four months ago.

It seems like so much time has passed since the Cavs were an unmitigated mess, hovering around .500 in late December and early January. Those talks of titles were being laughed at as Cleveland slopped their way through game after game, looking disjointed, unmotivated, lackluster, and plenty of other adjectives you don’t ever want associated with you.

And so it was, Cavs GM David Griffin hit the phones, knowing he had to make a significant change before a season of dreams turned into a nightmare. On January 5, the deal was made. Cleveland dealt away the mercurial Dion Waiters in a three-way trade, bringing in New York Knicks guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, along with a draft pick.

At first glance, it didn’t seem like a major deal. In Smith, it sure looked like Cleveland acquired an older Waiters: a notorious head-case who had a tendency to highjack the offense. Shumpert could provide much-needed wing defense, but needed to heal up from a dislocated shoulder. It would’ve been odd to, at that moment, look at this trade and think “this is going to change everything.”

As we wake up today, you can’t help but realize this deal indeed transformed the Cavs’ season.

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