NBA: What The Isaiah Thomas Trade Means For The Lakers And Cavs Moving Forward [Opinion]

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off what an analyst said was the most important trade of this year’s deadline, sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavs with the Lakers getting Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and Cleveland’s own 2018 first-round draft pick in return.

CBS Sports‘ Colin Ward-Henninger ranked all of the deadline day trades “in order of importance” and came up with the Lakers-Cavaliers deal as the best one. Cleveland went on to accomplish two more blockbuster deals, essentially giving away six players in an effort to correct what they now see as mistakes during their 2017 offseason campaign.

Gone are Thomas and Jae Crowder, the meat of what the Cavs acquired during the Kyrie Irving trade. Derrick Rose and Crowder were moved to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade with the Sacramento Kings where Iman Shumpert was sent. To cap off their trading-spree, Cleveland dealt Dwyane Wade back to the Miami Heat for a second-round draft pick.

In summary, the Cavs gave away Thomas, Frye, Crowder, Rose, Shumpert, and Wade while receiving Clarkson, Nance, Rodney Hood from the Jazz, and George Hill from the Kings.

However, this article will focus on the Lakers-Cavaliers trade and what it means for both squads moving forward.

For The Cavaliers

The Cavs are the winners in this trade. From the moment Isaiah Thomas stepped on the floor with LeBron James, the signs of an ill-fit were overflowing. Thomas was not only a liability on defense, but he was also a disadvantage on offense, especially when playing together with James.

Cleveland Cavaliers players LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas
Cleveland Cavaliers players LeBron James (left) and Isaiah Thomas talk to a referee during a game.Featured image credit: Jason MillerGetty Images

It is no secret that both Thomas and James need to have the basketball in their hands for them to become effective. While James has a wide experience in sharing the ball with fellow All-Stars, it is not the case with Thomas, who will now be on his fifth team in the last five seasons.

In a recent episode of The Jump, former NBA player and now ESPN analyst Tracy McGrady said that Thomas “is not himself” with the Cavaliers because of “internal issues” and the fact that he is still not 100 percent recovered from his hip injury. ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, in the same program, agreed with McGrady. Both Windhorst and McGrady said that the Cavs should trade Thomas, and that is exactly what Cleveland did.

Getting Clarkson and Nance is a huge advantage for the Cavs in the sense that they became younger and more athletic, although Thomas and Frye are better outside shooters than the two young stars.

Former Los Angeles Lakers players Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson
Former Los Angeles Lakers players Larry Nance Jr. (left) and Jordan Clarkson.Featured image credit: Harry HowGetty Images

NBA analysts Chris Broussard said in The Herd that he thinks the Cavaliers will go back to being more “defensive-minded” with Clarkson and Nance in the fold. Indeed, the two players still have the energy and are built to become great defenders with enough motivation from LeBron and head coach Tyronn Lue.

The Cavs are indeed expected to be better with Clarkson and Nance only because they had been so bad in their last 19 games that there appears to be nowhere to go but up.

For The Lakers

The Lakers are also winners in this deal, and it is easier to see why. It is widely known and reported that Los Angeles is looking to free up as much cap space as they can to accommodate two max players this summer. This trade achieved that.

After the Thomas trade, the Lakers now potentially has $69 million in cap space at the end of the season provided they “not bring back Julius Randle and stretch the $37 million owed to Luol Deng over 5 years,” according to ESPN‘s Bobby Marks.

Isaiah Thomas and LeBron James
Isaiah Thomas (left) and LeBron James.Featured image credit: Jason MillerGetty Images

What is ironic is that Los Angeles is reportedly targeting LeBron this July, and they had to trade for Thomas to make it all possible. With that kind of dynamic, it seems like Thomas is not in Magic Johnson’s long-term plans and could be bought out soon. ESPN‘s Rachel Nichols tweeted that if Thomas does not become a Laker starter, then a buyout is likely to happen.

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An added bonus for the Lakers is the Cavs’ own first-rounder (not the Brooklyn pick), which gives the Hollywood squad a first-round pick that they otherwise would not have in June. Not only did the Lakers avoid having to trade future draft picks again just to unload salaries, but they were able to gain one.

The Final Verdict

Both the Cavaliers and Lakers win in the Isaiah Thomas trade as the two teams have both achieved the goals they have set before it. Perhaps the only loser in the deal is Thomas himself.

The two-time NBA All-Star is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the coming offseason and there are no indications if any team is ready to give him the big-money contract that he had always wanted.