By Randy Norman
Thursday February 8th marked the trade deadline for the NBA, and it was quite an interesting and eventful day. While a number of players were traded before the deadline, the most surprising and notable trades came from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs completely rearranged their roster, trading away Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder. In return the Cavs received Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as George Hill and Rodney Hood from the Kings and Jazz, respectively. It is a week before the All-Star break, and the Cavs have had a tough year to say the least. While they remain the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, something needed to change and this may be the answer to the Cavalier’s problems.
In the newcomers’ debut on Sunday afternoon, the Cavs looked like a completely different team from just a week ago. The Cavs seem rejuvenated as they played with energy, aggression, and camaraderie, which led them to a twenty-two point victory against Boston. Each of the four new players for the Cavs played exceptionally well for their first game with the team. George Hill started at point guard and scored 12 points, while Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson scored a combined 32 points coming off the bench. Larry Nance Jr. did not contribute much offensively, however his defensive efforts and energy did not go unnoticed (McMenamin, 2018).
With the new additions, the Cavs have gained youth and athleticism, which was something that they lacked with the players from their previous roster. Cleveland has also been one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season, allowing on average 110.1 points per game. However, the four new players that the Cavs acquired should be able to help turn around the team’s defensive struggles.
In addition to now having a younger, more athletic, and better defensive roster, the Cavs have also gained more scorers and playmakers. Veteran George Hill is averaging 10.3 points per game this season and currently has the league’s third highest three-point percentage at .453. Rodney Hood is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game and shooting .389 percent from the arc. This season, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. are averaging 14.5 and 8.6 points per game, respectively.
With the All-Star break a week away and only 27 games left in the regular season, many have questioned whether or not the Cavs have enough time to gel and build chemistry before the playoffs. Moreover, many doubt that the additions to the Cavs roster will be enough to push them over the edge and defeat the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors – assuming both teams win their conference titles. Certainly though, the Cavs have improved their chances of coming out of the Eastern Conference. Prior to the trade, the Toronto Raptors were the front runners to win the east, however the Cavs have now reclaimed the spot as the favorite team.
There may be a limited amount of time before the end of the season, but team chemistry certainly did not seem like an issue for the Cavs on Sunday. The Cavs played with tenacity and dominated on both sides of the ball as if the team had been together all season long. After the game, LeBron was undeniably pleased with the team’s performance. “It’s still going to take a little timing. This was an impressive win on the road, that’s a good start,” said James in a postgame interview with Doris Burke. When asked what excited him the most about the new players’ ability to help the Cavs succeed this year, LeBron responded, “The IQ and the passion that they play with is going to help us out a lot.”
While it is too early to say for sure, after their performance against the Celtics, the Cavs should have a positive outlook on their success for the remainder of the season and continuing into the playoffs. Although they have had their series of struggles this season, the Cavs now look like the team to beat in the east once again.
McMenamin, D. (2018, February 11). Cavs kick off their new era with a statement win in Boston. ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22402516/cleveland-cavaliers-kick-their-new-era-road-rout-boston-celtics-nba