January 9, 2017, 4:04 pm
One Big Thing: Song and Dance Trades
The Cleveland Cavaliers committed another act of robbery last week, essentially pilfering Kyle Korver from Atlanta.
Technically the Hawks received Mike Dunleavy, the retired but not really retired Mo Williams and a first round pick. So pick 29 or 30, essentially. With all due respect to Dunleavy, who made it seem like he didn’t even want to report to Atlanta after the trade was announced, the Cavs picked up a sharpshooter for free.
Sure, there’s a chance that the Hawks connect with that draft pick. It’s a non-zero number but it isn’t much more than that. They may as well have gotten magic beans. Or a mystery box, if you’d prefer a more current reference.
Korver has to be salivating at the thought of playing in Cleveland, where he’ll be asked to plant himself behind the arc and let it fly when LeBron James pings the ball off one of his nasty drives. Considering his injury history and the amount of running off screens that was required to get similar shots in Atlanta, Cleveland’s Korver should be happy as a pig in the mud. Stand still and fire away- it doesn’t get better than that.
It bodes very poorly for the rest of the league, who already couldn’t crack the “lots of shooters around LeBron” way of the world. Now the Cavs have picked up one of the sport’s premier gunners for nothing but a song and dance.
It’s a move that fits in perfectly with Cleveland’s play style and overall strategy. It also seems terribly unfair to every team given the acquisition cost and the fact that Cleveland has now stacked its roster with a series of these laughable deals.
Channing Frye was a huge part of Cleveland’s bench success last postseason and presents a major problem for any opposing big. The Cavs picked him up from Orlando for Jared Cunningham and a Portland second rounder. They had to send Anderson Varejao and a first rounder to the Blazers (oh, the horror!) to make everything work but it’s pretty clear that the Cavs won big time. The move also happened to save them $10 million.
Iman Shumpert and JR Smith are key cogs in the rotation. They were acquired in a three team deal in which Cleveland acquired JR and Shump as well as a protected first rounder from OKC. The other parts of the deal? Dion Waiters, Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas and a second rounder.
That’s unfair. The net value of what Cleveland has given up is hovering just above zero.
Again, major credit to Cavs management for securing three elite talents and then finding cheap ways to fill out the rest of the roster with effective players. Making trades with Orlando and the Knicks seems like an easy way to rack up winning transactions, but kudos for actually doing it. There are a lot of other teams who could’ve used players like Frye or Smith when they were available, but the Cavs made it happen.
It’s hard to think of a team winning such important deals in such convincing fashion, particularly in the recent past, but you’ll generally find that it’s the really good teams that collect decent players in exchange for mostly junk. And if not straight up junk, then certainly some pieces with rapidly declining value.
Charlotte got Jeremy Lamb for Luke Ridnour and a second rounder. Toronto turned glass-ankled Greivis Vasquez into Norman Powell. Oklahoma City got Victor Oladipo so Orlando could create another roster redundancy. Boston picked up Jonas Jerebko for the husk of Tayshaun Prince and Jae Crowder for Rajon Rondo. The Warriors picked up Andre Iguodala from Denver for some expiring deals, draft picks and Randy Foye. That was a sign-and-trade so it’s a bit of a different scenario, but still. The hits keep coming.
That sort of acquisition, either for depth or something far more significant, is certainly important for any club with big aspirations. Several of the deals above were made for financial flexibility, and yet the cap-clearers somehow wind up with the better player to boot.
Top end talent is obviously the big fish in the sea, and no team will ever win without it. But once that’s secure, it takes diligent work and good timing to nab good depth at a great price.
Depth has been the main bugaboo for a promising Clippers core, as GM Doc Rivers has failed to provide Coach Doc Rivers with the right tools for the job beyond the Big Three. Even on-paper fits like Spencer Hawes and Jared Dudley didn’t click, despite good intentions and consensus approval. Fast forward and the Clippers still have a woeful bench unit compared to the rest of the league’s titans.
Compare that to Cleveland’s story above, or Toronto’s complete bench overhaul when they sent Rudy Gay packing. Boston’s crowded rotation was built through shrewd signings and small deals. There’s more than one route on the map, but you’ve just got to find it.
Good teams find a way to plug holes without opening new ones. A good GM can get a useful player in one of those Song and Dance trades. Sometimes it doesn’t take anything more.
It’s an art, but the Cavs are making it look damn easy of late.