Koby Altman became general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 24, 2017, and didn’t exactly step into a great situation. His first order of business was to trade disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving while attempting to both “improve” (or at least mitigate the damage) the team for that season and stock up on assets in the future.
It’s been anything but a smooth ride, but all of a sudden, the Cavaliers look like they have a bright future ahead of them, especially after acquiring Jarrett Allen. Let’s take a look back at Altman’s tenure and figure out where all his moves have led.
Aug. 17, 2017
CLE receives: PG Isaiah Thomas, SF Jae Crowder, C Ante Zizic, 2018 BRK first-round pick, 2020 MIA second-round pick
BOS receives: PG Kyrie Irving
This trade was maligned for quite a while because Thomas flamed out in Cleveland, but the Celtics didn’t get their money’s worth either. At the time of the deal, that Brooklyn pick was expected to be top-five, but it ended up being eighth overall, and the Cavs selected Collin Sexton with it. Perhaps a disappointing return on its face for one of the best offensive players in the NBA (who was 25 at the time), but it ended up working out decently well since Cleveland landed a franchise cornerstone.
Feb. 8, 2018
CLE receives: PG Jordan Clarkson, PF Larry Nance Jr.
LAL receives: PG Isaiah Thomas, PF Channing Frye, 2018 CLE first-round pick
This deal was a last-ditch effort to make something happen in the final year of LeBron James’ contract with the team. Ironically, Cleveland was unknowingly helping the Lakers to create two max contract slots for the next offseason, though the second was not used. Thomas was a bust and ended up being a problem in the locker room, so moving on from him was the right thing to do. Clarkson had his moments but was too inconsistent to be a game-changer. Nance has become a key all-around player with the Cavaliers and a leader on a young team. Losing the first-round pick hurt, and it’s still odd that the Cavs both helped the Lakers accomplish their goal of acquiring expiring contracts and sent them a first-rounder in the process. Perhaps a rookie mistake by Altman in an attempt to rejuvenate a desperate team? If we think of the first-round pick as being necessary to land Nance, then there’s no issue whatsoever.
CLE receives: PG George Hill, SG Rodney Hood
POR/SAC receives: PG Derrick Rose, SG Iman Shumpert, SF Jae Crowder, 2020 MIA second-round pick swap
The Cavs continued churning their roster in one of the most active trade deadlines in NBA history. Hill and Hood ended up playing key roles down the stretch, and Hill is responsible for a painful Cleveland sports memory, missing the game-winning free throw in Game 1 of the Finals, after which the Warriors roared back in overtime and ultimately swept the Cavaliers.
June 21, 2018
Cavaliers select Collin Sexton eighth overall
Sexton has had his share of struggles, but he’s an exceptionally hard worker and the improvement he’s shown over his two-plus seasons in the league is fantastic. An ankle injury has kept him out of the last few games, but he’s well on his way to making his first All-Star team this year. He’s already one of the best eighth overall picks in NBA history, and in another year or two, should be considered the best hands-down.
July 24, 2018
Cavaliers sign Kevin Love to a four-year, $120 million extension
This was back when owner Dan Gilbert publicly intended to be a playoff team, even after James departed for Los Angeles. That goal seems laughable in hindsight, and it seemed pretty unrealistic at the time. Love has been embroiled in trade rumors since he was first dealt to the Cavs, but has never complained about his role and has affirmed his desire to remain a Cavalier. He’s been injured quite often since signing his extension but has still been effective when he’s been on the floor. Maybe it didn’t make much sense for a rebuilding team to pay an aging player $30 million per year, but Love’s contract hasn’t prevented the Cavs from making any moves.
Aug. 7, 2018
CLE receives: SF Sam Dekker, draft rights to Renaldas Seibutis
LAC recieves: Draft rights to Vladimir Veremeenko
Dekker’s nine games in a Cleveland uniform were forgettable, but this deal was shrewd; Dekker was the 18th overall pick in 2015, a young wing, and cost practically nothing to acquire. Worth a shot.
Oct. 15, 2018
Cavaliers sign Larry Nance Jr. to a four-year, $45 million extension
Considering the contract landscape of the NBA, and the all-around versatility that Nance provides, this contract is a steal for the team. And that’s before mentioning his locker room presence. Nance is one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in the league, and it’s great to have him playing for his hometown team.
Nov. 29, 2018
CLE receives: SG Alec Burks, 2020 UTA second-round pick, 2021 WAS second-round pick
UTA receives: SG Kyle Korver
One of the best shooters in NBA history, Korver could still provide instant scoring even at his advanced age, and the Cavs found a trade partner in the Jazz, landing Burks and two future second-rounders. Burks was and is a good player who provided a veteran presence during his short time in Cleveland.
Dec. 7, 2018
CLE receives: PG Matthew Dellavedova, C John Henson, 2021 MIL second-round pick, 2022 conditional MIL first-round pick, 2022 WAS second-round pick
MIL/WAS receives: PG George Hill, SF Sam Dekker, 2021 WAS second-round pick
In addition to the euphoria the Cavs injected into the fanbase by bringing Delly home, this trade also landed the team a future first-round pick, one which would only increase (and then decrease) in value later on. Turning Hill and Dekker into this package was a huge win for Altman.
Feb. 4, 2019
CLE receives: PG Wade Baldwin IV, SG Nik Stauskas, 2021 POR second-round pick, 2023 POR second-round pick
POR receives: SG Rodney Hood
Hood has always possessed immense talent, but he’s never put it all together consistently in the NBA. Perhaps that’s why his trade market wasn’t as large as some expected.
Feb. 7, 2019
CLE receives: PG Brandon Knight, PF Marquese Chriss, 2019 conditional HOU first-round pick, 2022 HOU second-round pick
SAC/HOU receives: PG Wade Baldwin IV, SG Alec Burks, SG Nik Stauskas, 2021 MIL second-round pick
Another net positive trade, the Cavs turned Burks and some of the Hood package into Knight, a lottery ticket (Chriss), and another first-round pick. They even got Stauskas back four days later after he was traded to and cut by the Indiana Pacers.
June 20, 2019
Cavaliers select Darius Garland fifth overall
Missing out on a top-three selection in this class really hurt, but the Cavs were still able to land the fourth-most-talented player in the class at No. 5. Garland missed practically his entire freshman year at Vanderbilt due to a knee injury, and it showed. Garland’s rookie season was tough, but he showed flashes of elite potential, which he has begun to realize this season. A shoulder injury has held him out of the past couple of games, but both he and Sexton were playing very well together early on, and Garland could end up having a strong argument for Most Improved Player this season.
Cavaliers select Dylan Windler 26th overall
Windler was an elite shooter and good defender at Belmont and seemed like just the player the Cavs needed on the wing. Unfortunately, a leg injury forced him to miss his entire rookie season, and just nine minutes after making his NBA debut this year, he suffered a fractured wrist.
June 26, 2019
CLE receives: Draft rights to Kevin Porter Jr.
DET receives: 2020 UTA second-round pick, 2021 POR second-round pick, 2023 POR second-round pick, conditional 2024 MIA second-round pick
All those second-rounders finally came in handy. Porter Jr. showed the potential to become an elite player at USC, but he wasn’t on the floor all that much. There were rumblings of maturity concerns (which appear to have been well-founded after what happened this past offseason), but the Cavs were confident in their team culture and decided to take the risk on the uber-talented wing. It remains to be seen whether that risk will end up paying off, but it didn’t cost much, and the potential reward is a ceiling higher than any other player on the roster.
Oct. 21, 2019
Cavaliers claim Alfonzo McKinnie off waivers
McKinnie played a decent bench role with the Warriors in 2018-19, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him waived. He didn’t set the world on fire in Cleveland, but he was at least a playable body on the wing.
Oct. 25, 2019
Cavaliers sign Cedi Osman to a four-year, $31 million extension
Osman’s inconsistency is maddening, but he’s a solid role player who isn’t getting paid all that much relative to others. Good wings don’t exactly grow on trees, so keeping him around was the right move.
Dec. 23, 2019
CLE receives: SG Dante Exum, 2022 SAS second-round pick, 2023 GSW second-round pick
UTA receives: PG Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson may be a one-dimensional player, but he’s one of the best bench scorers in the game and has played the best basketball of his career with the Jazz. With this trade, the Cavs landed two more future assets and the chance to restart the career of an athletic former top-five pick.
Feb. 6, 2020
CLE receives: C Andre Drummond
Owen Crisafulli ·
DET receives: PG Brandon Knight, C John Henson, 2023 least favorable second-round pick
Trading for an All-Star center didn’t really make much sense for the Cavs on the surface, but the fact is that this was a deal Altman could not afford to pass up. Two expiring contracts and a low-value future second-rounder for Drummond? That’s highway robbery.
June 29, 2020
Cavaliers sign Jordan Bell
Bell had some excellent defensive moments with the Warriors, but couldn’t crack the rotation in Minnesota or Memphis. With practically zero young frontcourt talent, it made some sense for the Cavs to pick him up. Alas…
Nov. 18, 2020
Cavaliers select Isaac Okoro fifth overall
This draft class was weak, and rather than swing for the fences, Cleveland went with a high floor player in Okoro, whose defensive prowess will earn him a long NBA career, even if his offensive game never materializes.
Nov. 23, 2020
CLE receives: C JaVale McGee, 2026 LAL second-round pick
LAL receives: SF Alonzo McKinnie, C Jordan Bell
This trade made plenty of sense since the Cavs were landing a future asset for practically nothing. McGee has been surprisingly effective in a backup role this season and is drawing interest on the trade market.
Nov. 27, 2020
CLE receives: SG Rayjon Tucker, 2027 UTA second-round pick
UTA receives: Cash considerations
Sure, the player who will be selected with this draft pick is 12 or 13 years old right now, but it’s still an asset, and cost the team nothing to acquire.
Jan. 14, 2021
CLE receives: SF Taurean Prince, C Jarrett Allen, draft rights to Aleksandar Vezenkov, 2024 second-round pick swap
HOU/BKN receives: SG Dante Exum, 2022 MIL first-round pick
James Harden to Brooklyn garnered all the headlines, but the fact that the Cavs were able to land one of the best young centers in the league for a late first-round pick is crazy. Prince isn’t a bad player either, and his $13 million salary next season will likely be flipped for more assets.
Altman has been incredibly active as GM, and that won’t stop any time soon. Drummond and McGee are both on expiring deals (Drummond’s contract will create nearly $30 million in cap space next offseason) and will have teams asking about them up until the deadline. This constant cycle of asset acquisition is why the Cavaliers have so much young talent now without owning premier draft picks or drawing high-priced free agents. Losing James in 2018 was devastating, but the team is set up very well for the long-term, and it’s all thanks to the work that Altman has done.