With their NBA title hopes fading fast, the Cavaliers got aggressive at the trading deadline. They swapped teams.
Cleveland completely changed its look — and perhaps its chances of winning a championship this season — on Thursday with a stunning sequence of deals. Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman traded six players, including Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, and two future draft picks in moves designed to not only help them in the short term but could potentially help keep LeBron James beyond this season.
Just like that, the Cavaliers traded nearly half their roster, got younger and maybe wedged themselves back into contention to make a fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance against Golden State.
Following a long day that left him "numb," Altman said his main objective in making the deals was to alter the chemistry of a team that was no longer playing with joy.
"We were really worried that what was going on the floor and sort of our culture in the building that we were marching a slow death and we didn't want to be a part of that," he said on a conference call. "So with the window we have with LeBron and with this team, we figured it was time to do something to re-energize the group but also to have sustainability going into the future."
Watching from the West Coast, the defending champions took notice.
"They've still got LeBron James. I think everything else at that point is irrelevant," Warriors forward Draymond Green said of Cleveland's drastic midseason renovation.
The Cavaliers began their shocking overhaul by sending the disappointing Thomas along with forward Channing Frye and one of their two first-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers for guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr.
Thomas, who came over in last summer's blockbuster trade with Boston for Kyrie Irving, played in just 15 games and wasn't fitting in with Cleveland on or off the floor after he returned from a hip injury.
The Cavaliers then completed a three-team deal with Utah and Sacramento, said a person with direct knowledge of Cleveland's moves. The Cavaliers sent Rose, who has also been slowed by injury, and forward Jae Crowder to the Jazz for forward Rodney Hood. They'll receive guard George Hill from the Kings in exchange for guard Iman Shumpert, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity while the teams awaited league approval.
The Cavaliers then dealt Wade to Miami for a protected 2024 second-round pick to complete a massive makeover intended to help the Cavaliers make another title run in 2018 with James, who can opt out of his $35.6-million contract this summer and become a free agent.
In other trade news:
— The Denver Nuggets acquired veteran guard Devin Harris from the Dallas Mavericks as part of a three-team swap with the New York Knicks, who were sent guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Dallas will receive forward Doug McDermott from the Knicks and a second-round draft pick from Denver.
— The Chicago Bulls moved recently acquired guard Jameer Nelson to the Detroit Pistons for center Willie Reed, who was waived. The Bulls then acquired forward Noah Vonleh and cash from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights of forward Milocan Rakovic, who was selected in 2007 but has never played in the NBA.
— The Detroit Pistons sent recently acquired forward Brice Johnson and a 2022 second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for forward James Ennis.
— The New Orleans Pelicans sent forward Dante Cunningham to the Brooklyn Nets for guard Rashad Vaughn.
— The Orlando Magic traded guard Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick.
— The Toronto Raptors traded forward Bruno Caoclo to the Sacramento Kings for guard Malachi Richardson.
— The Boston Celtics signed free agent center Greg Monroe in their lone move at the trade deadline on Thursday. Monroe was waived last week by Phoenix after being traded from Milwaukee in November.