Cavaliers Rebuild Team Around LeBron James By Giving Up Virtually Nothing At Trade Deadline

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(Photo: Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers were faced with a nearly unthreadable needle heading into the trade deadline.

The hope was that they’d be able to drastically improve the struggling team this year, all while holding onto their only valuable asset not named LeBron James or Kevin Love—the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in 2018—so as to avoid mortgaging their future, in turn protecting themselves should LeBron bolt Cleveland this summer.

They managed to do all that and more—sending out bad contracts and disgruntled newcomers for a younger, more athletic crop of players that will immediately help a defense that’s ranked near the bottom of the league all season.

They did so through a series of trades

Here’s what their three trade deadline deals amounted to when all was said and done.

So much goodness for Cleveland fans: The team jettisoned Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, both thought to be part of the divide between long-time Cavs and newcomers; Thomas’ loss alone is enough to vastly improve a defense, but they also replaced him with George Hill, one of the best point guard defenders in the game (IT has also been trash and his contract will expire at season’s end); Jordan Clarkson is essentially a dirt-poor man’s version of what IT was a year ago on offense and an upgrade on defense, though the latter’s not saying much; Larry Nance gives the team a dynamic defensive big man they’ve been lacking for a while now (who can also throw it down with the best of them); Derrick Rose has been a scrub all season; Channing Frye can’t defend his mouth from thirst in a lake; Ditto for Dwyane Wade (who all but asked for a trade, so he was lost anyway); Iman Shumpert has never been good and will likely opt in for a crazy $11 million salary next year; And to top it all off, Cleveland might have gotten some long-term value in the form of Rodney Hood, a big scoring wing who’s got some defensive tools (as a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have the option to match whatever offer sheet he signs in the offseason; Nance is also under contract for cheap next year).

And the only long-term asset they had to surrender was their 2018 first-rounder, which won’t come until very late in the first round, as well as a little bit of their future cap space.

Then again, the trade deadline moves could backfire spectacularly—by taking Clarkson off Los Angeles’ hands, the Lakers now have enough cap room this summer to accommodate both LeBron and fellow free-agent-to-be Paul George.

Oh. My. God.