Nearly a week after a tumultuous trade deadline brought to you by Quicken Loans and Dan Gilbert’s wallet, the transactions are coalescing into intriguing story lines down the stretch run. We’re in peak overreaction mode, myself included, so let’s power-rank the league’s overreactions to all the deadline outcomes.
1. Jordan Clarkson Is a Sign the Cavs Are Fixed
Two straight wins and not a single postgame quote about lack of effort, motivation, or team chemistry. Cleveland’s hard reset seems to have worked — for now. Meanwhile, The Land is now apparently Jordan Clarkson’s world that we’re all living in.
LeBron James, Jordan Clarkson, and the #Cavs' celebration is everything pic.twitter.com/3AzEHPngpi— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 11, 2018
I have so many questions. Was there a pregame meeting where Jordan Clarkson explained and demonstrated his personal celebrations to everyone? Does LeBron just watch so much tape or League Pass that he knows Clarkson’s celebrations? Is he just scouting the Lakers all the time?
Clarkson and JR on the same team is hilarious pic.twitter.com/5WZKjFDb31— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 14, 2018
Regardless, two games in, LeBron looks like he inducted Clarkson into his actual family, and Clarkson looks like more than just a bench guy with some energy and a shot-happy approach. Clarkson has scored 17 and 14 points in his two games as a Cav, shooting at least 60 percent from the field in both cases. Those games are also two of his 10 most efficient shooting performances this season. That tells me a lot. Somewhere out in Los Angeles, Lakers fans are shaking their heads and muttering under their breath about how Clarkson was never this efficient. (He’s a career 33 percent shooter from 3!) He probably won’t continue to be. Cherish that celebration while you can, Jordan.
2. Koby Altman Getting Executive of the Year Love
In a Wednesday ESPN story by Adrian Wojnarowski that could have easily been a ghost-written piece in The Players’ Tribune for Koby Altman, the executive relays, step by step, how all of the Cavs’ trade deadline deals were made, including how the Kings front office is still a mess.
It’s a winding, interesting story that makes Altman look like a mastermind for pulling it off and balancing the many moving pieces (and LeBron) with great managerial dexterity. Altman did the best he could at the deadline, and he should be lauded for it. But two wins into the new team’s tenure, we need to take a step back, breathe, and remember that this front office traded Kyrie Irving, and that, well, the Cavs are still vulnerable (more on that later).
3. Blake Griffin Is Detroit’s Savior
I love seeing Griffin thrive and get a fresh start on a team not coached by Doc Rivers. In seven games with Detroit, Griffin has averaged 21.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per contest. But he’s also shooting worse from the field (40 percent) and from 3 (25 percent) than he did in Los Angeles. After winning the first four games with Griffin, the Pistons have lost their past three, against the Clippers, Hawks, and Pelicans. That sounds about right, but doesn’t bode well for Detroit, which is two and a half games out of eigth place in the East. The Pistons are a fringe playoff team without Griffin, and they’re probably a slightly better positioned fringe playoff team with him. They’ve got more work to do.
4. Tyreke Evans Was the Missing Piece
Let me start off by saying that the Grizzlies not getting anything for Evans at the trade deadline was downright malpractice. Memphis must have thought that Evans was Ray Allen in his prime, because the team’s refusal to trade him for anything less than a first-round pick will forever be mind-boggling.
Then again, we may have been overreacting in thinking Evans would help push a contender over the top. Every team on both sides of the Mississippi seemed to want him on their roster, and, sure, Evans had been having his best shooting season since 2009–10, when he won Rookie of the Year, but let’s take a look at his splits. His field goal percentage declined from 52 percent to 45 percent to 40 percent from November to January, and his 3-point percentage has gone from 42 percent in November to 29 percent in January. The regression was coming.
5. LeBron Is Putting the Cavs on His Back and Winning the East … Again
This story line is going last because it’s the most real of the five. There’s no doubt that LeBron is not only engaged again, but playing like it, too. That’s exactly what the Cavs intended to ignite with their trades at the deadline, according to the ESPN story. Now, J.R. Smith is hitting shots, Rodney Hood and George Hill are feeding off LeBron, Cedi Osman is playing well, and even Tristan Thompson is looking the part again—all while LeBron has looked like vintage LeBron in his last three games. Cleveland is back to being a contender in the East. But you still have to block out the Warriors’ existence and refuse to look at those defensive numbers to think the Cavs are all set — and to think that keeping LeBron this summer is more likely.