In case you’ve missed it, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, Dwayne Wade, and Iman Shumpert…in the same day. That’s over 33% of the team. While it was expected that moves take place, what WASN’T expected was such a vast shift quite literally, overnight.
Though, with any trades, there is a purpose. When the Celtics traded for Irving, it was with the intentions of adding the final piece that could win them a championship. When the Bulls traded Butler, it was the start of a rebuild.
Now, when you’re the Cleveland Cavaliers, and you have Lebron James, your objective is clear: win a ring for Cleveland. Yet, these trades aren’t that. In fact, they aren’t even close. Let’s consider the pieces they’ve acquired: a ball dominant point guard, a point guard coming off the bench for Lonzo Ball, an inconsistent hooting guard, and a young, athletic power forward. These don’t seem like pieces that are going to take the team to the next level.
What is the Cavaliers purpose? They’ve started to rebuild.
It makes logical sense. They’re holding onto the Brooklyn pick like a life raft, and they’re bringing in younger players (Clarkson, Hood and Nance all 25 years old). Why?
Because they’ve finally accepted that Lebron James won’t be wearing the wine and gold next season.
Now, while you never want to see a star go, the relationship between Lebron James and the Cavaliers has become very tainted. Let’s be clear: this isn’t the Lebron James that was drafted by Cleveland back in 2003. This is a Lebron James that has become obsessed with his legacy and with winning rings. It’s the reason he left for Miami. It’s also the reason he returned to Cleveland. And now, his legacy is threatened again. With the Celtics, Wizards and the Raptors becoming strong threats in the East, in addition to the very stacked West, Lebron isn’t guaranteed a conference championship. And this is the first time in a long time this is a reality.
There are a lot of attractive locations in the NBA for “The King” to head to. Head to Houston and create a scary big 3 of James, Paul and Harden. Get blinded by the bright lights of LA? The list of where Lebron James can go is long, and it’s unfortunately longer than the list of benefits of staying in Ohio.
This season has created another problem for Cleveland. At the start of the seaon, Isaiah Thomas was considered a top 10 point guard, Love was one of the best power forwards. JR Smith was a valuable role player, Crowder was an elite defender, and Korver was a can’t miss shooter. On paper, this team was elite. In fact, many thought this was the best team Cleveland had ever had. Yet, as the season advanced, it became clear that everyone’s expectations were horribly misguided. Thomas was a locker-room cancer, Crowder was a shell of his former self, Korver was being slowed by age…and Smith was just part Smith. Think about this: Isaiah Thomas last season was traded for Kyrie Irving, a top 5 PG, and this year he was traded for role players. Crowder was just placed in a package for a backup point guard. Any and all trade value that was present in these players was gone.
It is well reported that the Cavaliers have been active in going after Kemba Walker and Deandre Jordan. These will be hard sells that Cleveland have nothing to offer. We all laughed at it, but a trade of Shumpert, Thompson and the Cavaliers pick for the Clippers center is probably one of the best offers they could give.
The Cavaliers have been backed into a corner and are left defencless. They have nothing to offer, they can’t offload heavy contracts (we’re looking at you JR), and now their strongest asset isn’t that great because this is the year Brooklyn decided to function like a normal team. For Cleveland, their only real option they had was to start the rebuild, and these trades prove they have come to accept it.
If Lebron doesn’t stay, they have a safety net. It’s been seen often recently, with players like Hayward and Durant leaving their team and having to scrabble to save themselves. For the Jazz and Thunder, they recovered well. Then there’s those teams that don’t, most recently; Cleveland. They refuse to let history repeat itself. If Lebron does leave them dry and bails, they have a young core and draft picks to use to try and rebuild. If he stays, these pieces could be the help Lebron James has been crying for for so long.