NBA Trade Deadline Aftermath: LeBron Wins, Raptors Lose
NBA Trade Deadline Winners
After grinding through a dispiriting season with the aging vets of the Cavaliers, LeBron’s future suddenly became brighter when Cleveland traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 1st-round pick for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Refreshing the lineup with talented, motivated youngsters for a championship run should motivate LeBron for the rest of this season, but the trade also creates space for him with the Lakers next year.
Guards George Hill and Rodney Hood should mesh well with LeBron, serving as spot up shooters around the perimeter, with the ability to play solid defense and create off the dribble when needed. The Cavaliers looked dead in the water before the trade deadline. Owner Dan Gilbert reshaped the team in an afternoon to appease the King for one last run.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers won’t be offering contracts to Isaiah Thomas or Channing Frye. Instead, they will have a ton of cap space available for the 2018 free agent season – enough to offer a pair of max contracts to LeBron James and Paul George. If that doesn’t work out, they’ll be able to sign any free agent deemed of use to the team.
Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson weren’t fitting into the Lakers plan in the long term. Receiving a 1st-round draft pick and clearing salary prepares Los Angeles to surround Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball with superstars, reviving the showtime Lakers during the post-Kobe era.
May not seem like much, but shipping out an aging Devin Harris in return for Doug McDermott and a 2nd-round pick represents a solid win for the Dallas Mavericks. McDermott’s an outsized small forward at 6’8”, with the ability to hit three pointers at a solid rate.
Doug will fit in perfectly with coach Rick Carlisle’s offensive schemes, adding shooting depth and solid off-ball play for the Mavs. Nabbing a 2nd-round pick allows Dallas to take a flier on a longshot prospect, with the potential to stash him in the G-League for development.
There’s no guarantee that Blake Griffin will work out well for the Detroit Pistons in the long term, but you have to love Stan Van Gundy’s willingness to try. So far, the experiment has worked well. Griffin and Andre Drummond form a deadly low post duo with surprisingly strong chemistry. Instead of getting in each other’s way, these big men have dominated.
Things will become even more interesting when Reggie Jackson returns. Will Jackson accept handling the ball less and deferring to Blake? Detroit also added Jameer Nelson and James Ennis, which will make the Pistons a fascinating dark horse in the east, capable of a first-round upset.
Golden State Warriors
Neither the Rockets nor the Cavaliers added enough talent to knock the Warriors off their perch as favorites. Golden State remains likely to earn their third NBA championship in four years.
NBA Trade Deadline Losers
On top of the world as a genuine MVP candidate last season, Thomas has been traded yet again after a brief audition with the Cavaliers. Even worse, this turmoil occurs in a contract year, which has undoubtedly affected his earning power. He’ll probably serve as a sixth man with the Lakers, a backup point guard to Lonzo Ball. Thomas deserves a better fate after years of grinding away, but the association is a cruel business at times.
Sure, the Cavs will hold on to their prized Brooklyn pick, but what happens after LeBron leaves? Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance and Rodney Hood will be at the top of their games alongside King James, who tends to raise the level of his teammates when fully engaged. Hood and Clarkson will rightfully demand pay raises after this season, and George Hill might not want to stay post-LeBron. Complicating matters, the Cavaliers lineup still doesn’t match up to the challenges they’ll face against the Rockets or the Warriors.
Memphis had a truckload of assets to shop at the NBA trade deadline but managed to get nothing done at all. Tyreke Evans isn’t part of the long-term plan for the Grizzlies, who find themselves in a tough spot after the injury to Mike Conley. Holding on to Marc Gasol’s understandable, but refusing to clear salary space for a free agent simply doesn’t make any sense for Memphis.
Prior to the trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors were the favorites to win the eastern conference. Boston’s lack of offense and Cleveland’s horrendous defense opened a clear, logical path to the finals for Toronto. The Raps may be able to claim first overall in the east, but the trade deadline gave LeBron enough support to beat the Raptors in the post season for the third consecutive year.
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