NBA Trade Deadline – Preparation for the Summer of LeBron

By Luke Penner

The NBA has had an eventful few days with the trade of Blake Griffin to the Pistons, Cleveland trading 6 players, and many teams not testing the waters.  Who are the big winners from the deadline, and why?

3. Toronto Raptors

While many people may say the Toronto Raptors did not do enough this trade deadline, I firmly believe that they should be considered a winner.  The Raptors are currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference and poised to make a run to get out of the East this year.  The only piece they really need is an athletic defending wing, such as Wesley Matthews of the Dallas Mavericks.  This trade would provide the Raptors with an elite defender, with the added bonus of a shooter.  However, the asking price for Matthews may have been too high.  Logically, the Raptors would have traded Jonas Valanciunas, draft picks, and possibly Delon Wright.  By not making this trade, the Raptors do not lose future assets, and do not sacrifice long-term success for the short-term.  Grade: B+ 

2. Los Angeles Clippers

While the Detroit Pistons got the best player in this trade, Blake Griffin, I think the Clippers got an amazing return in two solid starters and draft picks.  Tobias Harris slots into the starting 3 spot, averaging 21.5 points a game, Avery Bradley becomes the starting 2, averaging 10 points and 1.5 steals a game since the trade (albeit in a small sample size).  Meanwhile, Blake Griffin is averaging 21.5 points a game since the trade.  The draft picks, a first rounder and second rounder, are nice, but the biggest reason the Clippers are a winner is they got rid of Griffin’s 5-year, $171.2 million contract.  By getting rid of it, the team has opened up a max contract, but have officially put their stake in the LeBron sweepstakes this coming summer.  While James is not a guarantee in a Clippers jersey, the fact that the team made space to be able to go after him is huge.  The reality is that even if they miss on LeBron, there are many other stars who are free agents this summer including Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, and Chris Paul.  The Clippers may have created a short-term drop (a minor one at worst), but they have set themselves up for a huge summer, while still remaining competitive.  Grade: A-

 1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The biggest winners of this trade deadline are the Cleveland Cavaliers, mainly from their trades with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz.  Prior to the deadline, the Cavaliers looked like they were going to crumble and lose LeBron in the process.  By making the trade with the Lakers, the Cavaliers gain a scorer in Jordan Clarkson, and become more youthful inside with Larry Nance Jr.  They gave up Isaiah Thomas, but I think this is a great trade.  The common thing with Thomas is that he needs to be the star, the primary ball handler, to succeed.  He wasn’t in Sacramento, Phoenix, or Cleveland, while he was in Boston.  This resulted in his best year being in Boston.  I think the Cavaliers got the best bang for their buck in this trade.  The second trade involved the Jazz with the Cavaliers receiving George Hill and Rodney Hood.  The Cavaliers gave up an oft-injured Derrick Rose, a limited Jae Crowder, and Iman Shumpert.  These two trades allowed the Cavaliers to do three things: get younger, stay active in the LeBron sweepstakes, and do not lose the coveted Brooklyn Nets first round pick.  Ultimately, I didn’t see Thomas’ fit, and the Cavaliers got some great youth in Hood, and Nance coming back in the two trades.  They have become better now, and have positioned themselves well for this coming summer, both in free agency and in the draft.  Grade: A

Every NBA team’s prize free agent next summer – LeBron James
(image credit: Tony Dejak – AP Photo)

I think that many teams received assets that they wanted, but these three teams put themselves above the rest.  The Raptors through not overpaying for an asset, the Clippers for staying competitive while positioning themselves at the top of the LeBron sweepstakes, and the Cavaliers for becoming more competitive both now and in the future.

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