Hours before the February trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers engaged in a blockbuster deal that sent Larry Nance, Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The deal gave the Cavaliers two young players that can immediately contribute off the bench.
However, Zach Lowe of ESPN revealed that the Cavaliers were more interested in acquiring Larry Nance, Jr. than Jordan Clarkson. Nance, Jr. was reportedly used as an incentive to convince the Cavaliers to absorb the remaining two-year, $25.9 million deal on Clarkson’s contract.
“They made the trade for Nance. I mean, other than the George Hill thing, which was a separate deal, they made the other trade for Nance.”
The main reason why the Lakers made the deal was to clear enough salary cap space in preparation to sign two maximum-salaried players in free agency and not because they were interested in what can Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye bring to the team.
In the past months, rumors have continued to circulate that the Lakers plan to sign LeBron James and Paul George. Successfully acquiring both superstars will strengthen the Lakers’ chance of becoming a significant team in the Western Conference once again. Nance, Jr. and Clarkson have shown massive improvement since being drafted by the Lakers, but the team needed to make a sacrifice in order to achieve their goal.
In their first regular-season games as Cavaliers, Nance, Jr. and Clarkson performed well, despite mostly coming off the bench. Clarkson averaged 12.6 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.7 percent from beyond the arc, while Nance, Jr. posted 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field. Unfortunately, they only played limited minutes in the ongoing Eastern Conference Playoffs mainly because Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue decided to use players who are more familiar with the team’s strategies.
As of now, the Cavaliers are down 0-2 in their Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Boston Celtics. Though reports circulated about the Cavs’ potential rotation adjustment in Game 3, it remains questionable if Jordan Clarkson or Larry Nance, Jr. will be given enough time to play. Failing to at least enter the NBA Finals will diminish the Cavaliers’ chance of re-signing LeBron James. If he leaves his hometown for the second time, the Cavs’ future will be left in the hands of Clarkson, Nance, Jr. and other young players.