If it was drama you were looking for, then the 2018 NBA trade deadline delivered.
All told, 24 players moved teams on Thursday— 11 of those in deals involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, who stole headlines all day.
Here are the big winners and losers from a wild deadline day:
Winner: LeBron James
In one swift move (ok, it was three moves), LeBron’s Cavaliers got significantly better. With a potential starting roster of George Hill, Rodney Hood, LeBron, Kevin Love (once he returns from a hand injury) and Tristan Thompson, plus Jordan Clarkson providing a scoring punch and Larry Nance hitting the glass off the bench, Cleveland is in a strong position to reclaim their perch as the team to beat in the East.
They’ll have a challenge integrating all of the new faces, but should they click in time James is suddenly back on track for a clear shot at reaching his eighth (!!!) straight Finals.
He’ll also have the rest of the season and post-season to evaluate whether or not he wants to stick around in Cleveland. And if he wants a change of scenery? Well there’s at least one team that just created enough cap space to start a new super team in a marquee market built around him.
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) February 8, 2018
Here’s what I wrote about the trade that sent Bruno Caboclo to the Sacramento Kings on Sportsnet’s trade deadline live blog as it happened:
“In the final year of his deal, Bruno’s future in Toronto was always up in the air. He’s shown a lot of improvement working under Jerry Stackhouse in the G-Leauge, becoming a more consistent three-point threat and, more recently, redefining himself as a potent defender.
In making this trade, the Raptors get a young player under contract from one more season— which is better than letting the Caboclo experiment end with literally nothing to show for it.
I wish all the best for Bruno in Sacramento, though. I hope he gets to see the NBA floor and audition for teams down the stretch this season. I don’t know if he will, but the crap he gets from major sections of Toronto’s fan base is ridiculous.
The Raptors failed Bruno Caboclo.
The more you look back on the details of his tenure here— from the moment he arrived— the more clear it becomes. The team has learned from their mistakes in taking in a raw player like Caboclo, let alone one who underwent such a culture shock coming to the NBA, and Raptors staff members have told me as much in the past.
Bruno still has a ways to go, and may never develop into an NBA pro. Or he very well could. The Raptors never provided the right chance to find out.”
Since writing that we learned that the Kings are expected to release Caboclo, who is likely to sign with a G-League club and spend his summer auditioning for NBA teams via the Summer League and/or training camp invites. It won’t be an easy road to success for Caboclo— and his path could very well take him where he is today: out of an NBA job.
But it’s a fresh start for both Caboclo and the Raptors. And a much-needed one, at that.
As for Toronto staying otherwise quiet, that too makes them deadline winners. The Raptors are a really good team with depth at every position. No move was always the best move for this team.
Loser: Boston Celtics
Leading up to the deadline, the Celtics were rumoured to be targeting Tyreke Evans from the Memphis Grizzlies, who were asking for a first-round pick for the 28 year-old guard.
The Celts found that price too high, and similarly were said to be unwilling to move upcoming free agent Marcus Smart in a potential deal, either. Smart is an important glue guy for the team but will almost surely cost too much this summer to re-sign.
And, yes, Evans would have been a rental, but he could have filled the most noticeable need for this Celtics team by providing an experienced facilitator and go-to scorer off the bench.
Evans is averaging close to 20 points, five boards, and five assists coming off the bench in Memphis this season. Speaking of…
Loser: Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies failed to find an offer to their liking for Tyreke Evans, reportedly only getting offers of a second-round pick. So they hung onto the guard, and will now risk losing him for nothing this off-season.
More puzzling, the team reportedly received many calls exploring trades for star centre Marc Gasol— and hung up quickly.
There are few teams in need of an obvious reboot like Memphis, and Gasol, 33, is by far their most valuable trade asset. For a team needing an infusion of draft picks and young prospects, Gasol could have certainly yielded that in a trade. Instead, the Grizzlies stood pat. Good luck with that.
Winner and Loser: The Cleveland Cavaliers
In the span of sixty minutes, Cleveland dealt six players in three separate deals and completely reinvented their roster on Thursday.
The Cavs are now on pace to match Riverdale for number of plot twists per hour.
First, the Cavs got rid of their Isaiah Thomas problem by, well, getting rid of Isaiah Thomas. The team even marginally improved in the process by getting two decent young players in Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Neither project to make a big difference this season and— far worse— hurt Cleveland’s chances of either retaining LeBron James or positioning the team well for the future:
But they weren’t done there. Hardly.
An hour or so after that deal was leaked, Cleveland acquired swingman Rodney Hood and point guard George Hill in a three-team trade with Utah and Sacramento that saw Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder Salt Lake City-bound.
And then they dealt Dwyane Wade back to the Miami Heat.
In the process, the Cavaliers improved their current roster— that isn’t up for debate. They got a quality starting point guard with legitimate defensive chops (George Hill, who is also shooting an unsustainable 45 per cent from deep), a dangerous streaky shooter and solid defender (Rodney Hood), along with a solid scorer in Clarkson and an active big man in Nance.
The Cavs got younger and way more athletic after today’s action, and head down the stretch with a far better roster.
Are the roster changes today enough for the Cavs to make another run at the Finals? Absolutely. Were they enough to challenge the Golden State Warriors in a potential rematch? Of course not.
It’s a fine haul for Cleveland this season, but looking ahead to the off-season and beyond the trades make a muddy situation even murkier.
In Clarkson and Hill alone, the Cavs have added more than $31 million in salary per year until the summer of 2020. Add those contracts on top of the hefty long-term deals of Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver, and the Cavs are absolutely cap-strapped going forward.
The Lakers trade gave Los Angeles— a much-rumoured preferred LeBron destination this summer— gave the team enough cap space to sign James and another marquee star (Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins), which will no doubt be tempting for the King almost regardless of how the rest of this season plays out.
If LeBron walks in the off-season— which still feels like the most likely outcome— the Cavs literally don’t have the available cap space to sign another player of notable caliber, which will leave them in a similar situation to the last time he left: with a sad, directionless roster, only this time with no Kyrie Irving in sight.
The Cavs would have always been in trouble if LeBron bolted, but now enter that scenario with far less flexibility than before.
1,810 Likes, 34 Comments – Sportsnet (@sportsnet) on Instagram: “The @cavs cleaned house on @NBA Trade Deadline Day. “
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
You’ve probably deduced why the Lakers did very well for themselves on Thursday. They found a trade suitor for Clarkson, who they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to deal for at least two months.
They open up cap space by getting rid of Clarkson for two expiring contracts— and now will have the cap space for two max contracts either this summer or not. They’ve also obtained a first-rounder depending on what the protection on the pick is, but considering there’s a good chance the Lakers will have to surrender their own first-rounder to Boston or Philly, the possibility of that pick is huge.
Thomas may benefit from a change of scenery, and you can always use a big who stretches the floor like Frye can. Both will reportedly remain on the team, but even if L.A. were to cut both, they’d still come out on top.
Suddenly the Lakers rebuild is coming along juuuuust fine.