As the Cleveland Cavaliers prepared to take the court against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, shooting guard Dion Waiters was prepared to start in front of his hometown crowd. Instead, Waiters and big men Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson left the team bench prior to tip-off—causing the rumor mill to begin to swirl.
It wasn’t long before NBA Insiders began to tweet out potential deals, with teams like the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder as the teams involved in the deal with the Cavaliers. Finally, the rumored deal was pieced together by “sources” of these insiders.
According to Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, “As part of the deal, Dion Waiters will go to the Thunder, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert would go to the Cavs and three players with nonguaranteed contracts — Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder — would go to the Knicks. As part of the deal, the Thunder are sending a protected future first round pick to the Cavs and the Cavs are sending their 2019 second-round pick to the Knicks, sources said.”
Unless there are any last minute changes to the deal, it appears the Cavaliers have acquired an older version of Waiters in Smith and a wing defender in Shumpert in exchange for Waiters. The protected first-round pick is rumored to be involved in another deal that is not imminent, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio.
While the instant reaction has been split down the middle on who won this trade, it is hard to give the Cavaliers a check mark in the win column at this time. This team’s biggest problem since Anderson Varejao went down is depth at the power forward and center positions, and the team depleted an already short-handed group in this deal. Not to mention, they moved one of their few trade assets—Waiters—without bringing in a starting-caliber big man.
If this deal was about removing the rumored “chemistry problem” of Waiters from the team, then the Cavaliers have accomplished that much. However, Smith isn’t exactly a cup of tea for the locker room himself—even if he is friends with LeBron James.
As we wait for the rest of the details to surface from this deal, my initial grade is a C on the deal.
Waiters’ upside, willingness to play defense and ability to score off the bench should bring back more than an aging Smith, injured and soon-to-be free agent in Shumpert and a future first-round pick that will likely never be one for the Cavs. If the pick is traded to another team for a serviceable big, then we can raise the grade up a notch or two.