The NBA Trade Deadline almost always disappoints from an “actual significant trades that happen at the deadline” standpoint and this year was no different. Only three starting players were traded and no first round picks changed hands. But for those of us who engrossed ourselves in the Twitter experience of the deadline it was enjoyable enough, even for a lack of actual trades.
There were plenty of rumors over the past several days and many of them revolved around our very own Cleveland Cavaliers. We heard that Harrison Barnes was coming to Cleveland, that Luol Deng was going to Phoenix, that Jarrett Jack was going to Brooklyn, then to Sacramento, and that Tyler Zeller was going to the Clippers for Reggie Bullock(???). The best nugget came from one of Sam Amico’s sources who claimed that the Cavs had a potential “home-run, win-the-press-conference” deal that they passed on in favor of keeping their young core intact.
In the end they only made one trade and it wasn’t a blockbuster by any stretch: Spencer Hawes for Earl Clark, Henry Simms, and two second round picks.
It’s tough to see Earl Clark go though, isn’t it?
It’s pretty insane to think that at the onset of the season Clark was this team’s starting small forward and now he’s basically an after-thought in a trade for a backup center. He’d fallen completely out of the rotation—and for good reason—in favor of giving Anthony Bennett minutes. Clark was one of the key free agent signings this past summer for the preposterous-at-the-time-and-even-way-so-more-now price of $4.25M. Clark won’t be missed and I’d say that he’ll be forever forgotten if not for that time when he stepped out of bounds with the game on the line…we’ll always have that memory.
Simms is, well, a nobody. He worked hard. He’ll probably get some decent run in Philly which is good for him. And that’s all I have to say about Henry Simms.
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the picks that the Cavs up in both this and the Luol Deng trades. Second round picks carry interesting value these days in the NBA. It’s true that very few significant players actually come out of the second round of the draft. Many guys never actually play in the league. However, many smart teams these days have found the value of those second rounders in that they provide very cheap labor and allow teams to front-load their cap money to their bigger stars. Some teams, like the Rockets, have even managed to find a few serviceable (and even good in the case of Chandler Parsons) players in that late round.
So second round picks are “worthless” as they once were. But because of this new “value” for second round picks has also opened up a new market for them in trades—and one that the Cavs have utilized lately. People made fun of Chris Grant for his hoarding of draft picks and how he’s traded second picks on draft day for multiple second rounders in future seasons and things like that. However, because of that the Cavs, now without Grant, have been able to parlay those second round picks into actual players. Now because the hit rate on these picks isn’t very high you’re never going to get a ton for them. That’s why the Cavs (among other teams) have only been able to acquire players on expiring contracts with those second round picks as currency.
This is what the Cavs should be using second round picks for at their current stage of development. They already have eight players who are currently on rookie deals so they don’t need more young guys at this point. Now, once guys like Kyrie, Tristan, Dion, and Zeller come up for new deals over the course of the next several seasons, those second round picks will once again become valuable as they’ll represent cheap labor to fill out the roster. But that’s not where the Cavs are right now. Kyrie and Tristan aren’t eligible for an extension until the 2015-16 season with Dion and Zeller coming the year after that and Bennett the year after that. So they have time before they worry about getting back into the business of acquiring second picks again. And as we’ve seen over the past couple days, it isn’t crazy tough to do that.
With all that as our basis, this was a good deal for the Cavs to acquire Spencer Hawes. They didn’t give up anything of real lasting value to the team for a guy who is able to help the team right away and potentially in the future should they choose to re-sign him. Hawes is the fifth big guy on the Cavs, essentially replacing Simms and Clark in that role. He can play both the four and the five so he brings good versatility in that way, though he’s primarily a center. He also provides nice insurance for Anderson Varejao, who we know is oft-injured…like right now!!!
However, his greatest strength is his shooting and the ability to stretch the defense out to the three point line and open up the paint for slashing guards like Kyrie and Dion. Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland tweeted out this chart yesterday and it shows a rather interesting fact: Hawes is actually the best three point shooter in the NBA from the top of the arc!
This is certainly a great weapon for a Cavs offense that is so pick-n-roll/pick-n-pop heavy. Both Varejao and Zeller have the ability to knock down an open jumper off the pick-n-pop but neither guy has range all the way to three. Bennett has that kind of range but he’s far from being a reliable player at this point and his three point percentage is still down at .234, while Hawes is all the way up at .399. This makes him an ideal player to work alongside Tristan Thompson actually.
I had initially thought with the addition of Hawes, Tristan would be kind of the odd ball of the bigs, being the only guy who isn’t really a threat to step out and hit a jumper. He’s improved, but he’s not enough of a threat yet to keep the defense honest. However, I’ve come around on it. Picture this with me…when the Cavs run the high screen for Kyrie, for example, they can have Hawes set the screen and pop for the three while Tristan waits on the block for the drop-off pass should his defender commit to a driving Kyrie. That’ll work. And you can even stick Bennett into that Tristan role as he can either step out a little for a baseline jumper or do his “specialty” which is jamming the ball through the rim.
The Cavs offense has become so guard oriented and for good reason. When you have guys like Kyrie and Dion who are beats to guard with the ball in their hands you have to take advantage of that. Early in the season Mike Brown was trying to do some post-up things with Andrew Bynum and Tristan and all that served to do was neutralize the team’s biggest assets in favor for guys who weren’t efficient enough operating out of the post. The clogging of the offense has also been issue all year because of this lack of a big who can shoot. It’s no secret why the offense has started to look better with Bennett on the floor now that he’s playing and shooting better. Space is huge for a team that has penetrating guards. This is what makes Hawes such a valuable addition.
He’s obviously going to need to show better defense than the “Oh-lay!” effort he showed when the Cavs played the Sixers earlier this week. Hawes isn’t known for being a great defender by any means but to my knowledge he wasn’t known as a sieve either until this season. But that whole Sixers team is a mess as we saw first-hand on Tuesday and as we saw with our own team the past three seasons. It’s tough to expect these guys to bust their butts every night when everyone knows that the front office wants nothing more than to see them lose games. That’s how get effort like the Sixers and Bucks have been giving all year. Hopefully Hawes can at least play average team defense in his time here in Cleveland.
In my Trade Deadline piece I ended by saying that I didn’t really expect the Cavs to do anything too major and I’m kind of glad that they held off. While I would have enjoyed a three-team deal like the one I laid out with the Cavs getting Jeff Green and Alex Len for Luol Deng, stuff like that rarely ever happens in the NBA. For this season, given how well the team is playing (albeit against weak competition), I like the group that we’ve settled into. Guys are starting to finally figure out their roles, Kyrie and Dion are playing really well together, and they’re giving very real effort that just wasn’t there two weeks ago.
So I’m fine with having them ride this squad out the rest of the season and see where it takes them. At the end of the year if they end up letting both Deng and Hawes walk in free agency it won’t be the end of the world. The team will still have plenty of cap space to add more pieces through free agency or trades. And we’ll still have the young and developing core of the team intact with many years of control still ahead thanks to restricted free agency. Sure it will be nice if the Cavs make the playoffs and these young guys get that experience of playing in the postseason. But even if they fall a little short and still keep showing the kind of improvement they’ve been making during this winning streak then I’ll be happy(ish) with how this season has turned out.
But if you look at the landscape of the Eastern Confernece and see how teams are playing it’s not hard to envision the Cavs making the playoffs if they continue to play like they have, especially with the addition of Hawes. They’re three games back right now and have some pretty big games coming up against playoff teams. So we’ll find out pretty soon if this winning streak was a mirage of improvement or something real and tangible.
 But we got one of those starters!!! Though, a starter on the Sixers isn’t like a real starter.
 This was probably nothing more than one of the Cavs front office guys trying to put something out there to make the team sound like they’re standing firm with their young guys or that they were really burning up the phone lines and exhausting all their options. Also helps to boost the morale of players like Dion and Tristan and Zeller who were rumored to be traded. Lets them know that the team is behind them.
 You’ll remember that Grant used a couple second rounders in the 2012 Draft to move up several spots to get Tyler Zeller. Another nice benefit of carrying extra “worthless” picks.
 The Sixers are currently cornering the market on second round picks, having traded for something like six or seven yesterday alone. In the 2014 draft the Sixers will likely have seven total picks (depending on some protections) with five of them coming in the second round. There’s no way they use all those picks on players they intend to bring to the team next season.
 If he’s still on the roster for the 2015-16 season don’t be surprised if you see Jack’s expiring contract traded away for some second round picks.
 Ultimately I had high hopes for this team so they’ve already fallen well short of my expectations. So, given how I felt coming in, anything short of the second round of the playoffs is a disappointment. But they sunk so low this season that if they can keep showing real improvement I can be happy with that.