By: John Morgan Francis
With less than a month from the NBA’s trade deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a significant decision on the horizon. They’ve been one of the worst defensive teams all season, giving up final scores into the triple digits against sub-par teams like Orlando, Sacramento, Chicago, Los Angeles (both), Atlanta and Dallas.
Scoring isn’t an issue, as they have lethal shooters surrounding the arc waiting for Lebron James to draw away their defender for an open shot. But issues such as getting back in transition, stopping the ball and protecting the rim have to be fixed if the Cavs want to bring home the trophy in June. Over the last decade, each champion has been top-10 in defensive efficiency. The only way the Cavs get remotely close to that rank is by making a move.
Here are a few trades that Cleveland can make to elevate their odds at a second title in three years.
Cleveland gets: Hassan Whiteside, Justice Winslow
Miami gets: Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson, 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick (unprotected)
It’s hard to see Pat Riley making a deal with the team that stole James back from him. However, for a likely top-10 pick in a loaded draft, it would be hard to say no. Like I said before, Cleveland’s issue isn’t shooting and it’s not like they’re giving up their best snipers anyway. Thompson has been disappointing while Frye is at the end of the rotation. Whiteside and Winslow are both capable of defending the pick & roll as well the rim, both a necessity of Cleveland’s.
Atlanta gets: Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson, 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers first round pick (unprotected)
Cleveland gets: Dewayne Dedmon, Kent Bazemore
This is enticing for Cleveland because they get to hold onto their prized Nets pick from the Kyrie-IT deal. However, I’m not sure how much better it makes them. They don’t get much younger, as Dedmon & Bazemore are both 28, but do get slightly better with wing scoring and paint defense. It doesn’t put them over the top of the Golden State Warriors, but any move is a positive move at this point.
Cleveland gets: Deandre Jordan, Lou Williams
Los Angeles gets: JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, 2018 Brooklyn Nets & Cleveland Cavaliers first round picks (unprotected)
It’s doubtful the Clippers will climb back into playoff contention with so many good teams in the Western conference clicking at the right time. Even if they ended up slipping in, they’d likely be swept in the first round. So why not maximize the value of key players for quality assets? This trade is the best scenario for Cleveland and LA, as the Cavs obtain their best roster possible and the Clippers (while swallowing the queazy salaries of Smith & Thompson) obtain two first rounders in a loaded draft to rebuild around their star Blake Griffin.
I’m not buying Lebron James staying in Cleveland with an old, expensive roster that can’t play defense. This Cavs team may not even make the Finals, let alone dethrone which ever juggernaut comes out of the West. Surely Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is smart enough to figure this out as well, which leads me to believe the Cavs will hold on to that Brooklyn pick, even if it ends up in the middle of the lottery. However, the Cavs are notorious for making deals via trade so don’t count them out as far as making a move.