The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and their own protected 2018 first-round pick to the Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This was well-needed for a Cavs team that’s been withering.
The real surprise here is that Cleveland was willing to part with Thomas, who came to the Cavs over the summer in a blockbuster trade with the Celtics for Kyrie Irving. Thomas has struggled mightily since his return from a major hip injury in January, and ultimately the Cavs decided they couldn’t risk waiting for him to return to full health.
Instead the Cavs made a panicky trade for guard help, opting for a pure scorer in Clarkson and a rotation forward in Nance Jr.
Is this enough to get Cleveland back in playoff form? Maybe not. But there’s still time before the deadline.
Why this trade makes sense for the Cavs
Aside from LeBron James’ Wednesday night heroics, the Cavs have been dreadful, dropping down among the league’s worst defenses. On top of that, there’s been drama, with Thomas clearly not fitting in with his new teammates. Kevin Love handed the ball off to him in a game like he was a small child, the team had a miserable team meeting in which he held a spotlight, and his shot selection was questioned among his teammates in the locker room.
The Isaiah Thomas experiment was failing miserably inside the locker room and out. His offense was his saving grace with the Celtics, and he couldn’t even get that to click with the Cavs. It was time to move on.
Clarkson isn’t a true point guard, but he’s a scorer. He’s averaging 15 points per game on an OK 45 percent shooting (32 percent from deep) and three assists. He’ll fill a role that Thomas couldn’t while recovering from injury.
Nance Jr. can play in the rotation as a power forward as well, giving Cleveland another defensive option past the injured Love and a struggling Jae Crowder.
This doesn’t feel like a season-saving move, but with James under contract for a few more months before his contract expires, they had to do something.
Why this makes sense for the Lakers
Unloading Clarkson’s $26 million owed over the next two seasons was vital for the Lakers aspirations of landing a big talent — maybe even James — this summer. The Cavs just made it all possible.
Thomas’ and Frye’s contracts are expiring after this season, meaning the Lakers can let them both walk — and they gained a protected first-round pick in the process. That’s huge and in the process, they gave away only two players who weren’t part of their long-term vision.
It was a no-brainer even if Thomas continues to stink. This team doesn’t need to make the playoffs this season.
All eyes are on the future of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and whomever they can sign in offseason.