Cleveland — With their NBA title hopes fading fast, the Cavaliers got aggressive at the trading deadline.
They swapped teams.
Cleveland completely changed its look — and perhaps its chances of winning a championship this season — on Thursday with a stunning sequence of deals. Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman traded six players, including Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, and two future draft picks in moves designed to not only help them in the short term but potentially help keep LeBron James beyond this season.
Just like that, the Cavaliers traded nearly half their roster, got younger and maybe wedged themselves back into contention to make a fourth straight Finals appearance against Golden State.
Watching from the West Coast, the defending champions took notice.
“It’s interesting, really interesting,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said of Cleveland’s drastic midseason renovation. “It’s probably obviously something that they felt was needed. I feel like they made some good moves. I don’t know, we’ll see. A lot of action. That’s a completely different team now than the team we faced the last three years.
“They’ve still got LeBron James. I think everything else at that point is irrelevant.”
The Cavaliers began their shocking overhaul by sending the disappointing Thomas along with forward Channing Frye and one of their two first-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers for point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr.
Thomas, who came over in last summer’s blockbuster trade with Boston for Kyrie Irving, played in just 15 games and wasn’t fitting in with Cleveland on or off the floor after he returned from a hip injury.
As the Thomas swap was being digested around the league, the Cavaliers completed a three-team deal with Utah and Sacramento, said a person with direct knowledge of Cleveland’s moves. The Cavaliers sent Rose, who has also been slowed by injury, and forward Jae Crowder to the Jazz for forward Rodney Hood. They’ll receive guard George Hill from the Kings in exchange for guard Iman Shumpert, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity while the teams awaited league approval.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the Cavaliers then dealt Wade to Miami for a protected 2024 second-round pick. It’s a homecoming for 36-year-old Wade, who played 13 seasons in Miami, winning three NBA titles — two with James. Wade has said he wanted to end his career with the Heat, and he’ll get his chance.
James went on Instagram to endorse the move for one of his best friends, posting “truly happy for my brother @dwyanewade!! It’s how it’s suppose to be. Love you my guy!! #WadeCountyBack.”
While he was reunited in Cleveland with James, Wade was coming off the bench and his role may have been further diminished by the other additions. Wade, though, had an impact during his short time with the Cavaliers.
“A definite Hall of Famer when his playing career is complete, his basketball legacy is cemented by how he carries himself both on and off the floor,” Altman said. “His work ethic and commitment to the game of basketball with such an illustrious career was greatly respected by his Cavaliers teammates and everyone in our front office.”
The massive makeover is intended to help the Cavaliers make another title run in 2018 with James, who can opt out of his $35.6 million contract this summer and become a free agent. James, 33, has said he would like to finish his career in Cleveland and Altman, who has only been in charge of the roster since July, gave James a team he can lead back to the Finals.
In Jordan and Nance, whose father played for Cleveland, the Cavs are adding a pair of young players with upside.
The Trail Blazers traded forward Noah Vonleh to the Bulls for Milovan Rakovic.
... The Pelicans agreed to trade veteran forward Dante Cunningham to Brooklyn for third-year guard Rashad Vaughn.
... The Nuggets traded Emmanuel Mudiay to the Knicks and acquired Devin Harris from the Mavericks in a three-team deal.
... Mavericks guard Seth Curry underwent season-ending surgery for a stress fracture in his lower left leg and is expected to resume full activities within three months.
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