Cleveland Cavaliers fans have to be thrilled with the flurry of trades that helped the defending Eastern Conference champions get younger, much more athletic on the wing, and better defensively. Plus, the chemistry issues that were threatening to derail the season have (hopefully) been fixed.
Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood should have an instant impact. Neither is a great defender, but both are better than Isaiah Thomas and this year’s version of indifferent, not-focused Jae Crowder. George Hill is a dramatic upgrade at point guard, a steady, solid player who isn’t shoot-first. Here’s how significantly they’ve upgraded the depth chart in the span of maybe 90 minutes:
But as Brian Windhorst said on TV today, LeBron was not consulted on these moves by the Cavaliers. (LeBron did give him a shout-out on Instagram.) To me, that screams: It’s our team now, LeBron.
We can all agree that former Cavs GM David Griffin and LeBron worked in lockstep in building a team that went to the Finals three times in a row. People want to bash the JR Smith and Tristan Thompson contracts, and rightfully so; but at the same time, both were instrumental in winning the first title in Cleveland’s NBA history.
But after last season, when Griffin left and LeBron refused to commit to the Cavs beyond 2018, owner Dan Gilbert had to make a difficult decision: How do I build a team for the future without LeBron? Can I convince him to stay?
Then the Kyrie Irving demand came, and Gilbert – we can all admit – botched it. He would not admit that, but he’d remind you that he did snag the Brooklyn Nets pick from Boston in the deal.
The trade deadline moves from Gilbert were impressive. He certainly improved the team. It’s a message to LeBron that the billionaire is committed – with GM Koby Altman – to rebuild on the fly. (The Smith and Thompson contracts were unable to be moved.)
I believe LeBron wants to stay, but the Lakers now can afford two max contracts, and if Paul George wants to join forces with LeBron, how can King James pass that up?