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The Cavaliers are the favorites in the Eastern Conference again

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The Cavs went through one of the most dramatic overhauls we’ve ever seen.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

That’s the headline we’re going to use because we want you to read the piece, but it also feels right in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic reset for the most underachieving team of LeBron’s second Cavs tenure.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’re going to go through this point by point.

This Cavs team was so bad they seemed intent on wrecking the age-old theorem that they are the favorites in the East as long as they have LeBron. Before these trades, were they a threat? Yes. The one that keeps everyone awake at night? Absolutely. But the favorites? No.

The Cavs could score with anyone but they couldn’t defend and that was their undoing. No doubt there will be some locker room talk made public in the coming weeks, but it doesn’t take Jerry West to see the chemistry simply wasn’t there.

You can’t keep giving up 120-plus points every night and blowing big leads against some of the worst teams in the league and continue to insist that everything is fine, LeBron or no LeBron.

What the Cavs did at the deadline was stunning: George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson are headed to the Land, while Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade are gone for good. The Cavs threw a first-rounder on the pile en route to Los Angeles and may have opened up Pandora’s free agency box, but we’ll deal with that in a minute.

This was also inevitable. In trading away a bunch of slower, older players and adding young, athletic players, the Cavs that we’ll see on Sunday against the Celtics and for the rest of the season will look dramatically different. It had to happen. The status quo was untenable.

The Cavs are suddenly way more versatile. In George Hill and Rodney Hood, they now have size and the ability to switch defensively at guard and on the wing. In Larry Nance, they have a young, athletic presence in the middle who also happens to be the son of a franchise icon. In Jordan Clarkson, they have some added scoring punch off the bench.

Now, there are question marks all around. Hill has been mostly checked out during his half season with the Kings. One assumes the veteran will be able to crank it back up again in a winning environment, but that’s an assumption. Hood is a versatile scorer who can hold down two positions, but he hasn’t always been able to stay healthy.

Nance should be perfect as a third big man with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Clarkson can score, but he’ll have to find his way playing off the ball when he’s on the floor with LeBron. He’s talented enough to make it work, but there will be pressure on both him and Nance to perform in the playoffs for the first time in their careers.

And what did they give up? Honestly, not much. For whatever reasons, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were poor fits in Cleveland. Perhaps going the Lakers will revitalize IT before he hits the free agent market. It’s been a stunning fall for a guy who finished fifth in the MVP voting last season.

As for Crowder, he never thrived in his role with Cleveland the way he did in Boston. He still has value as a versatile wing and has a great contract. Utah did well to pick him up for a player they had no intention of re-signing (Hood).

As for the others, Iman Shumpert has been injured and inconsistent. Channing Frye is a super-great dude who cranked a lot of big threes during his tenure, but was a liability on defense. Poor Derrick Rose just isn’t very good anymore. Bron and the Cavs did Dwyane Wade a solid by sending him back home to Miami.

Don’t underestimate the impact of addition by subtraction. In clearing out more than a third of their roster, the Cavs get a fresh start and a chance to take a deep detoxifying breath.

The first-round pick to Los Angeles is the cost of doing business, and shedding first-round picks has been the Cavs’ preferred way of doing work since LeBron came back to town. Former general manager David Griffin remade the team into a defensive juggernaut and then built the most devastating shooting team this side of the Warriors with deadline deals the last few years.

Koby Altman, his young successor, is trying something even bolder and more audacious. This is a full-scale reboot in the midst of one of the most pivotal moments in franchise history. It had to be done and it still might not be enough to keep LeBron in Cleveland long-term.

This could all blow up in their faces, of course. The Lakers now have room for two max free agents this summer and hey, Paul George sure is keeping the homefires burning on that one. A Laker team with Bron and PG, plus the remainder of their young core, is a lot more appealing a thought than it was before the deadline.

The new-look Cavs will need time to come together and there’s not much of the season left to work out the kinks. They still wouldn’t be favored against the Warriors, and as much as this puts them back in the driver’s seat in the East, the Raptors and Celtics are much better teams than they were last season.

Maybe the Raps will play their best basketball in the spring for a change. Maybe the young Celtics will rise to the postseason moment and figure out how to score when Kyrie Irving isn’t in the game. Maybe the Wizards will get over each other.

Maybe … but the biggest variable in the East is LeBron James, and now he has the kind of team to help him achieve that quest.

The worst-case scenario isn’t as daunting as it was 24 hours ago. Hood, Nance, and Clarkson are all 25 years old with their primes still in front of them. Hill is a vet with some mileage on him, but he’s always tradeable. There’s a future here that also includes Kevin Love -- and the fabled Brooklyn pick.

That’s not the greatest core, but it’s a hell of a lot more to work with than what LeBron left in his wake when he went to Miami.

Perk? PERK! Sorry, NBA Twitter, but there’s a reason why everyone loves that dude. Give us this one, Ok guys?