The Cleveland Cavaliers look playoff-ready as the team boasted a five-game winning streak prior to their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. They have actually won 10 of their last 12 games, largely in thanks to head coach Tyronn Lue’s lineup adjustments in mid-March.
With the adjustments came a decrease in playing time for some players, specifically Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, who have both been relegated to the bench in favor of the returning Kevin Love and veteran guard Jose Calderon. There are rumors that this could be Thompson’s last season in Cleveland as Sam Amico of Amico Hoops said there is a possibility that the Cavaliers may offer the former Texas Longhorns star and the 2018 first-round pick from Brooklyn to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.
Thompson, who turned 27-years-old last month, is only in the third year of his five-year, $82 million deal that earns him an average of $16.4 million per season. His numbers are disappointing, though, as the fourth pick of the 2011 draft currently averages 5.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 0.3 blocks in 20.5 minutes a night.
The one-time NBA champ has been scoreless in two of Cleveland’s last three games, as he only played 14, 10, and six minutes respectively. In the Wizards game on Thursday, he did not even register a single statistic as he finished the game with all zeroes across his stat line.
Due to his string of bad games, Chris Fedor of Cleveland Plain Dealer said that Lue may have to “pick between” Thompson and Larry Nance, Jr. when the playoffs come, and it seems like the head coach may have already made his choice.
Cavaliers Nation reported that Thompson and Smith are likely out of Lue’s postseason rotation as Calderon, Nance, Kyle Korver, and Jordan Clarkson all increase their minutes. The report said that Thompson’s “exclusion from the playoff rotation would be far less surprising” than Smith’s as the big man has only been producing 1.3 points and 4.3 boards per game this month.
While a trade with San Antonio for Leonard would definitely improve Cleveland’s chances of retaining LeBron James next season, Amico said that this kind of deal largely depends on the Spurs’ willingness to deal their superstar forward.
Rumors abound that the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs is slowly coming to an end with the forward choosing to leave his team to continue rehab as the playoffs approach. However, the two-time All-Star is set to gain a five-year, $200 million supermax extension this summer, which could be enough to keep him in San Antonio.