So…today got a little nuts, huh? Thanks to a flurry of activity this morning, the below photo from a Cleveland Cavaliers preseason workout instantly became extremely dated.
The Cavs, who were mired in one of the ugliest slumps we’ve ever seen, went hog-wild at the trade deadline, remaking the entire roster. Or, to give it an even more positive spin, the Cavs addressed all their glaring issues in the span of an hour.
First, I should quickly snack on a plate of crow. Yesterday, with nothing but rumors of more dysfunction ahead for the Cavs, I went full doomsayer. I figured Cleveland would either underwhelm or completely stand pat at the deadline, all due to the fact the unpopular owner was apparently embracing life without LeBron James.
Basically, what we’ve seen from this team over the past two months had crushed my soul, and I began accepting the worst possible scenarios as most likely.
What we got today was anything but a worse-case scenario.
Forget breaking down the semantics of each trade, as it’s far easier to just note the changes. Gone are Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Dwayne Wade and the Cavs’ own first round pick. Arriving in Cleveland are George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Only six of the Cleveland players from last night’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves are still on the roster.
More astounding than how much activity the team pulled off is how much these trades went towards solving some of its most pressing problems.
Remember what it was which had the Cavs playing unwatchable basketball since Christmas. They were too old. They couldn’t play the slightest bit of defense. They all hated each other.
The age issue is the easiest fix to notice. Gone are past-their-prime players like Rose, Frye and Wade, replaced with an injection of youth. Sure, Wade and Frye were having decent seasons. However, as the season wore on, Cleveland was looking frail and slow.
Only one of the four new Cavaliers –Hill – is over 25-years-old. This lowering of the team’s average age will be huge both now, and come postseason. Cleveland essentially removed players who required rest nights on back-to-backs, replacing them with the kind of youth and athleticism the roster desperately needed.
This will also help in terms of the Cavs’ woeful defensive efforts. Nance Jr. can add a much more reliable presence down low, while Hill, Hood and Clarkson all have the size necessary to lock down opposing guards. The hope is all four can help end the constant replays of Cleveland players just watching their opponents walk right by them on a nightly basis.
The biggest concern, though, was how bad team chemistry had become. If there’s any problem these trades fixed, it’s this one.
Thomas had worn out his welcome in epic fashion, proving incredibly ineffective on the court while airing all the team’s dirty laundry to the press the second a mic was in his face. Meanwhile, Rose alienated his teammates a month into the season when he took a lengthy hiatus to determine if he even wanted to play basketball anymore.
The result was a group of players who were unable to hide how much they loathed sharing the court with each other.
Today, the bad apples were taken out of the equation. Thomas is the Los Angeles Lakers‘ problem now, as the Cavs no longer have to worry about having their internal issues being shared to anyone with ears.
If you needed any indication of how this will affect the team, look no further than last night’s game. James specifically played with more energy than he’s shown in weeks, likely due in part to the fact GM Koby Altman told him before the game he was making progress on the trades we saw today.
Cleveland won’t look like world beaters immediately. You can’t make this much change and expect the transition to be seamless. The Cavs have a little over two months to get a completely revamped roster gelled and ready for the postseason.
Still, anyone who was reaching their breaking point with this team should feel refreshed. It’s a bit deflating to see all but one of the returning pieces from last summer’s Kyrie Irving trade get shipped away months later. However, the moves had to be made.
Coming into today, the Cavs appeared to be on life support. The hope is these trades give them the much-needed adrenaline shot to help them turn the season around.