How The Cavaliers Actually Made The Lakers A Better Destination For LeBron

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

LeBron James is joining his third NBA team in his fourth stop.

The Los Angeles Lakers.

And the Cavaliers, unwittingly or not, made Los Angeles an even more attractive destination for Cleveland’s homegrown star.

Back in February, the team made a series of trades in an effort to cobble together a championship-worthy roster on the fly.

In a vacuum, the trade was a minor success.

They rid themselves of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Dwyane Wade, who’d fairly clearly become distractions in the locker room.

In return, they got a handful of players who in theory fit around LeBron for a playoff run.

The best asset they sent out was their 2018 first-rounder, which became the 25th pick (the Lakers selected shooting big man Moritz Wagner).

But Cleveland surrendered something else: cap space. They’ll pay George Hill and Jordan Clarkson $31.5 million combined next season, then will still owe Clarkson roughly $13.5 million a season after.

If the Cavs were smart, this wouldn’t be so bad. They could trade Kevin Love and ride their talent-devoid roster to high draft picks for the next handful of seasons. But the Cavs are not smart.

Still, overpaying for their unholy backcourt is not the worst result of Cleveland’s deadline deals.

It’s that they helped position the Lakers as an attractive destination for stars this summer and beyond, ridding them of Clarkson’s awful deal, supplying them with the expiring contracts of Thomas and Channing Frye, and giving them a draft pick that could be used in trade negotiations for, oh, I dunno, Kawhi Leonard?

As a result, the Lakers found themselves armed with enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer and trade for Kawhi. The team has instead opted to use some of that cap space to sign several players to one-year deals, meaning they can roll that cap space to next season, when the likes of Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler will hit the market.

Whether or not LeBron had a say in Cleveland’s February dealings, the Cavs helped pull the Lakers’ championship window open a little wider for the four-time MVP.