Why the Cavs should move Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson at the trade deadline
The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in the midst of what could wind up being their worst season in franchise history. Halfway through the season, the Cavs are on pace for 16 wins and they’re spared by two seasons in which Cleveland — an expansion team — only recorded 15 wins (1970-71, their first season in franchise history, and 1981-82).
While the Cavs have been devastated by both injuries (chiefly to power forward Kevin Love, point guard George Hill (who has been traded to the Milwaukee Bucks), center Tristan Thompson, forward-center Larry Nance Jr. and guard-forward David Nwaba), they’re also trying to find their identity after four seasons of revolving around and relying on the talents of superstar forward LeBron James (who is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers) and point guard Kyrie Irving (who is now a member of the Boston Celtics).
Couple their talent deficiency with the need to erase bad habits and there’s no question as to why the rebuild has Cleveland looking the worst that they have in nearly 40 years.
Yet, while the Cavs have a willing teacher to help guide and mold them in head coach Larry Drew and a few young players they like in rookie point guard Collin Sexton, second-year forward Cedi Osman and Nance Jr.) — as well as what’s likely to be a top-3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft given that they have the worst record in the NBA — they need to establish what players will be there for the future.
Outside of those three young pieces, and Love, no player in Cleveland is under contract past the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, with the way the season has gone for the Cavs and the city’s lack of drawing power for free agents, bringing players in the offseason will be a hard sell. That means for Cleveland to improve, then they need to find a way to move players to improve the roster, and decide which players they’ll be.
If you’re looking to keep Sexton, Osman, Nance Jr. and Love on the roster, shooting guard Jordan Clarkson and Thompson become the most likely candidates for a trade.
Especially as swingman Alec Burks and shooting guard Rodney Hood have already expressed a desire to remain in Cleveland and thus may just be on the roster next season if their agents and the Cavs can agree on their market value.
However, while Burks and Hood have said they want to continue playing for the Cavs, Clarkson and Thompson (who are both having career seasons) don’t seem to have the same level of commitment to remaining in Cleveland. Thompson has been visibly frustrated with the state of the Cavs and vocalizing it all season.
As an aside, while Thompson’s desire to hold players accountable are necessary on a young team, he too often paints a picture of division in the locker room. Further, he rarely points the finger of blame at himself publicly — as true leaders often do — and says that he needs to improve individually in order to help the team win.
It always seems that he’s saying veterans are in the right and the new guys don’t know what it takes to win, dismissing any success his teammates may have had prior to being his teammate and constantly speaking with a tone of condescension. While many feel as if though center John Henson may be traded away, their decision to acquire him when they traded Hill to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Matthew Dellavedova seemed to indicate their willingness to move Thompson.
Clarkson has masked whatever frustrations he has much better than Thompson but in his case, the reason to think he’d leave is that there’s no reason for him to remain in Cleveland outside of how much the Cavs may choose to pay him.
To be frank, if Cleveland wants to have the best chance of improving their roster (and don’t want to give up Love to do it), then Clarkson and Thompson are the two players who have to be moved.
Thompson has already been receiving trade interest and, looking around the league, teams like the Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings could be interested in acquiring his services. The Cavs won’t get a king’s ransom for any of their players but Thompson should be able to net Cleveland a first-round draft pick and/or a solid young player.
Especially if they take on less-than-desirable contract in a deal or add on a player like Clarkson to sweeten the pot.
By himself, Clarkson could possibly net a first-round pick or a good young player. Making a full $5 million less than Thompson ($12.5 million compared to $17.5 million), Clarkson has a more team-friendly deal though they both last through next season. Further, wings who know how to score as well as Clarkson do will entice plenty of teams looking to aid their bench scoring.
If you just trade Thompson and Clarkson, here are the main rotation players that would remain, aside from whatever players they would acquire in a trade:
Sexton, Hood, Osman, Love, Nance Jr., Dellavedova, Burks and Nwaba (as well as a healthy Henson).
As far as the 2018-19 season is concerned, Cleveland doesn’t get better by trading Clarkson and Thompson. Make no mistake about it.
However, with an eye towards the future, they can secure players that are under contract for the long-term — whether they be current players or draft picks that turn into players) and be proactive before they have a bevy of players leave in free agency over the next two seasons.