But helping the Lakers clear cap space? This is how you turn a longshot into something frighteningly more likely.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
What a terrible trade for the Cavs, one that looked necessary to them due the disastrous results of the Kyrie Irving trade. This spiraling quickly.
Isaiah Thomas has been destructive in Cleveland, as he assumed a big role and pointed fingers despite still struggling after his hip injury. Maybe he’ll never be good again, but the Cavaliers riding out his absence and acclimation then cutting bait is a disappointment.
Like Thomas, Channing Frye is on an expiring contract. This trade allows the Lakers to clear $14,772,391 from their books next summer plus Clarkson’s $13,437,500 salary in 2019-20. Luol Deng remains an impediment to cap space for two max contracts, but this moves the Lakers one step closer to their dream of signing LeBron and Paul George.
Thomas must play far better to be recognized as more than just an expiring contract. I don’t know how much of a chance he’ll get to prove himself in Los Angeles, where Lonzo Ball is the priority.
The prize of this trade for Cleveland is Larry Nance Jr. The 25-year-old still on his rookie-scale contract through next season is an athletic hustle player who finds ways to score near the basket. The Cavaliers surely hope he’ll bring some of what Jae Crowder — also acquired in the Irving trade, also disappointing in Cleveland — what supposed to provide at forward, though Nance’s non-existent outside shooting is an issue.
Clarkson plays far better on the ball than off, but when will the ball go through him in Cleveland? Not if he starts with LeBron (and Kevin Love once Love gets healthy for the playoffs). Probably not even on reserve-heavy units helmed by Dwyane Wade. Clarkson certainly won’t help the Cavs’ awful defense, either.
This trade doesn’t really solve the Cavaliers’ pressing issues (other than getting Thomas out of the locker room) and helps a team competing for LeBron next summer. And Cleveland surrendered a first-rounder! No matter the protections on that pick, this trade still leaves the Cavs even more vulnerable.