The 2018 NBA trade deadline has finally passed and boy was it a doozy. A flurry of moves reporters could barely keep up with made things interesting and may have reshaped this year’s playoff race.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers from Thursday’s craziness.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had lost 14 of their last 22 games, so something needed to happen, but no one expected this kind of a blowup. Cleveland wound up landing George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., while shipping out Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert.
OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. Hill will provide stability and solid defense in the backcourt and Hood is a 6’8″ wing who can shoot and can use his length to help on defense. Clarkson and Nance helped the Cavs get younger and more athletic. They’ll improve a second unit that clearly needed a ton of help.
The Cavs had to surrender a 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Clarkson/Nance deal, but it should be in the mid-20s. Cleveland won’t miss anything else it gave up, especially given the dysfunction Thomas caused.
LeBron James’ team got younger, more athletic and added stability and shooting to the backcourt. All were things the Cavs desperately needed.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers wanted to clear cap space for this summer and accomplished that while also landing a first-round pick. They made out like bandits.
The Lakers liked Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., but clearing cap space for two max contracts this summer was more important than two bench guys. Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye are basically expiring contracts. If Thomas proves to be a malcontent, don’t be shocked if he winds up getting cut loose.
While Paul George and LeBron James have been the two names most often bandied around, the Lakers have options for all of that cap space. They could sign two players this summer, or sign one this summer and wait until 2019 to sign another.
What they do with Julius Randle will be interesting as well, since he’s really picked up his play this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if they tried to find a way to retain him.
What’s lost in all of this is that the team’s young core have won 12 of their last 16 games. Most of those wins have come with Lonzo Ball sidelined thanks to a knee injury, and the squad is better when he’s on the floor. This is a good, young group with a ton of potential and now has the flexibility to sign two All-Stars starting this offseason.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors stood pat at the deadline, as they should have. There was no urgency to make upgrades, because they are the best team in the NBA and it isn’t particularly close.
The Warriors didn’t do anything to improve, but their rival Cavaliers did. You’d think that would be bad, but while the Cavs got better, they may have actually lowered their ceiling. Cleveland looks like the favorite in the East right now, but is the roster as currently constructed capable of topping the Warriors? I don’t see how it could.
If Isaiah Thomas had somehow captured his form from last year, there was a chance to Cavs would have challenged the Lakers. He’s gone now.