The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently preparing for another season in which they will be one of the favorites representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. The team, however, is going to look vastly different from the one that carried the organization to the last three Finals, including one championship two years ago.
Now that Kyrie Irving has been shipped off to Boston and replaced by Isiah Thomas, and Dwyane Wade has reportedly agreed to a one year deal reuniting him with old teammate LeBron James, the team will have a very new dynamic. Wade, who secured a buyout with the Chicago Bulls on Sept. 26, has all but committed to come to Cleveland.
When recapping the offseason for the Cavaliers, you see a shocking change in team personnel. The team lost Irving, obviously a huge blow to the organization. What they gained, however, was Thomas, Wade, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder, along with the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and the Miami Heat’s second round pick in the 2020 draft. This team simultaneously positioned itself both for success in the future and success right now.
Just a few short months ago, the Cavaliers were reeling from a series in which they were clearly outmatched by the Golden State Warriors and subsequently fired general manager David Griffin. In addition, the team was already over the luxury tax threshold and tried to limit their spending as they watched superstar players change teams all across the league. From the perspective of a Clevelander, it really looked like the Cavaliers were about to enter a very tumultuous season that could see their chokehold on the Eastern Conference end.
Nothing would prepare anyone for what happened next, however, as Irving requested a trade from the organization.
Initially, the news was devastating to Cavaliers fans and the organization as a whole. When a player publicly reveals his desire to leave an organization, it typically means an organization will receive less attractive offers from interested teams. At that point, every team in the league is aware that said player wants to get out and has a lot of leverage in trade negotiations. The scenario leads to the team with the disgruntled player having to accept a much lower offer than if the player did not reveal his intention to leave.
For the Cavaliers, this was not entirely the case, however, as they were able to amass quite a haul from the Celtics. Even while taking the Celtics’ best player in Thomas and the highly coveted Nets’ first round pick in 2018, the Cavaliers were still able to acquire another All Star caliber player in Crowder.
Despite the revelation that Thomas’ hip injury is more serious than previously anticipated, he is still expected to be back by January and will likely assume the role of the starting point guard. In the meantime, the Cavaliers will be led at that position by the former MVP, Rose, while only paying him the veteran’s minimum, crucial for a team trying to spend conservatively.
And of course, the Cavaliers will still have James, the best player in the NBA and one of the all-time greats.
The Cavaliers front office, despite the shock of Irving’s departure and firing of Griffin, have done a masterful job of retooling the lineup to best set them up for success now and, through the acquisition of multiple draft picks, in the distant future.