Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 3:04 am Post subject: Unquestionably, Cleveland has improved compared
to the dysfunctional group we saw lose 14 of its last 22 games. Since returning from his hip injury, Thomas has been one of the league's least effective players, and replacing him with a point guard rotation of George Hill and Jordan Clarkson will immediately improve the Cavaliers.
Cleveland has also added more shooting with Rodney Hood stepping into the wing rotation in place of Jae Crowder and Dwyane Wade and more athleticism and explosiveness in the frontcourt with Larry Nance Jr. replacing Channing Frye. Perhaps more importantly, the Cavaliers have reset their chemistry after the difficulty of integrating Thomas led to finger pointing in the locker room. Something had to change in Cleveland, and many things did.
All of that should concern the Celtics and the Raptors, who had to hope -- if only briefly -- that the Cavaliers might be so broken as to crash out early from the playoffs, before a possible Eastern Conference finals matchup with them. Surely, neither Boston nor Toronto wants to see even a lesser Cleveland team in the playoffs after the Cavaliers soundly defeated both en route to last year's NBA Finals.
At the same time, I don't think Cleveland's moves should cause the Warriors to fear a fourth consecutive Finals matchup. Dealing Thomas ceded the possibility that the Cavs could Womens Tarik Cohen Jersey get him back to last year's All-NBA form, which would have given them a second shot creator on the perimeter. And Crowder, sent to the Utah Jazz, looked like an ideal matchup Brandon Morrow Authentic Jersey for Golden State's versatile frontcourt. Without them, Cleveland is left with a lower ceiling.
Projections using the multiyear, predictive version of ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM) don't suggest this Cavaliers roster is in the same class as the Warriors. Let's take a look at a possible rotation once Kevin Love returns to the lineup. RPM projects Cleveland as nearly average defensively, which would be a huge improvement for a team that currently ranks 29th in defensive rating. However, the projection of an offense 2.9 points per 100 possessions better than league average would be slightly worse than what the Cavaliers have managed so far (3.4 points per 100 possessions better).
This kind of team would typically win about 47 games in a full season, similar to Cleveland's current pace but obviously much better than the team has managed recently (and better than what the Cavaliers' negative point Authentic Lorenzo Mauldin Jersey differential would typically suggest). It's possible role players such as Hill, Hood and Nance will exceed their projections playing alongside James. Still, the pressing question of who the Cavaliers' third-best player is after James and Love remains up for debate, and that's a big downgrade from when Kyrie Irving was a part of http://www.nflcardinalsofficialstore.com/YOUTH+CHAD+WILLIAMS+JERSEY Cleveland's big three.
I suggested last month that the Lakers should look to sell high on Clarkson in the midst of the best season of his career if they could find a taker who would send back expiring contracts in return. Little did I imagine then that the Lakers would be able to foist Clarkson on the very team whose star they hope to sign. To be clear, we should not consider this a "LeBron or bust" move for the Lakers. Whether they're planning to aggressively pursue multiple max players this summer or pivot to 2019, as ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week, moving Clarkson's salary was an important step.
The Lakers now have two paths available. If need be, they can renounce the rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle and waive Luol Deng and stretch the $36 million-plus remaining on his contract. Those moves would likely give them enough cap space to sign a max free agent with 10-plus years of experience (like James) and one with seven to nine years of experience (like Paul George).
Alternatively, they can hang on to Deng, try to re-sign Randle to a reasonable contract and wait until summer 2019, when http://www.denverbroncosshops.com/Bradley_Roby_Jersey_Cheap there will be additional max talent on the market. In that case, the Lakers would still have about $45 million in cap space to take on short-term salary from teams in the luxury tax or sign players to one-year contracts. They're in an enviable position either http://www.officialhornetsproshop.com/authentic-2-larry-johnson-jersey.html way.
The same can't be said for Thomas, who has seen his market value diminish dramatically over the last nine months. The best remaining hope for Thomas to get the kind of lucrative deal he was hoping to command would have been turning things around with the Cavaliers and having James re-sign in Cleveland. That would have all http://www.officialmontrealcanadiens.com/Adidas-Dominic-Moore-Jersey but forced the Cavaliers to re-sign him using Bird rights. Now, Montee Ball Jersey Thomas finds himself with a team that's unlikely to have any interest in re-signing him to a long-term deal. Perhaps if he proves a good fit, Thomas could re-sign a one-year deal with the Lakers that gives him a chance to rebuild his value. But if Thomas continues to struggle in L.A., the Brink's truck isn't coming.
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