The first big domino of the NBA trade deadline has fallen and you have to like this one from Cleveland’s perspective. The trade, as reported by Adrian Wojanarowski, is the Cavaliers sending their own first round pick in 2018 (with protections) along with Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr..
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For comparison sake, Nance Jr. has been worth 1.5 Defensive Win Shares thus far this season and Jordan Clarkson has been worth 1.2, a total of 2.7 DWS. Frye has been worth just 0.4 DWS this year with Thomas being worth 0.0 in 15 games. Throw in Derrick Rose, who Clarkson should also steal minutes from, has only been worth 0.0 as well. This is a huge improvement for the Cavaliers defensively, no matter how you look at it.
The question of playoff experience is still there, but these two are a huge improvement over what they had. Isaiah Thomas just wasn’t the same since coming back from injury and for a team with Finals aspirations, they needed to make a move. Clarkson has had some huge offensive games this season and he should fit in nicely in lineups with LeBron James. I’d also be interested to see what pick-and-rolls with James and Nance might look like. That could be unstoppable.
Clarkson is locked up for the next three years while Nance is signed for the next two. This is a move for the now as well as the future. If LeBron leaves, this could be the start of a young core. Of course, the day isn’t over yet and there is a chance that the Cavs made this move as a way to get Kemba Walker from Charlotte. I would doubt that happening though.
For the Lakers, this is all about the offseason. Both Frye and Thomas are upcoming free agents and this clears about $13 million in space for next season. There have been many rumors linking them to going after LeBron James this offseason so in some ways, the Cavaliers just sort of helped make that a possibility. It is still seemingly unlikely, but the Lakers will be ready to make a move for a big name this offseason.
For the Cavaliers, this should put them right back as the favorite in the Eastern Conference. They have been feeling especially shaky as of late, but as long as they have the best player in the world they are a threat. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the last move of the day for them or if they have something else up their sleeve.
They still have Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick to deal if the right trade comes along. Stay tuned.
CORRECTION: The Cavs are barred from trading the Brooklyn pick thanks to the rule banning teams from not having a first round pick two seasons in a row.
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