Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks: Lineups, preview & prediction (February 9 2018)
The Cleveland Cavaliers defined their present with LeBron James and a potential future without him ahead of Friday night’s game versus the Atlanta Hawks.
The struggles since Christmas, the lackadaisical defense, the chemistry issues and the apparent unhappiness of LeBron James all came to a head in a frenzy of deal-making Thursday by the Cavaliers (31-22).
The biggest trade involved sending guard Isaiah Thomas, a gifted scorer who never fully fit in with James already serving as the team’s dominant ball-handler, to the Los Angeles Lakers along with Channing Frye and their first-round pick for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
That first-round pick is significant because it is not the one the Cavaliers received in the Thomas deal, which originally belonged to the Brooklyn Nets and is all but certain to be a lottery pick.
The second major deal was a three-team trade with Sacramento and Utah in which the Cavaliers sent Iman Shumpert and a second-round pick to the Kings and both Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to the Jazz for Paul George and Rodney Hood.
Lastly, recognizing his playing time would be significantly reduced with these acquisitions, Dwyane Wade agreed to be dealt to the Miami Heat for a second-round pick.
This is the second time the Cavaliers overhauled their roster to create what they think is a championship-caliber supporting cast around James, also doing so in 2008. The short-term upside is Cleveland have become younger and more talented, but their defensive issues have not been fully addressed as both Hill and Hood struggle on that end of the court.
Before that flurry of activity, Cleveland won for just the seventh time in 20 games, needing every one of their season-high 21 3-pointers in a 140-138 overtime victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night.
James finished with 37 points, 15 assists and ten rebounds for his ninth triple-double of the season and hit a fadeaway over Jimmy Butler at the buzzer for the winning basket. The Cavaliers shot a season-best 59.1 percent but also allowed an opponent season high in shooting as the Timberwolves hit 58.1 percent of their shots and went 19 of 33 from beyond the arc.
Atlanta (17-38) were denied their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 100-98 loss to Orlando on Thursday night. Dennis Schroder and Ersan Ilyasova scored 19 points apiece for the Hawks, who failed to make a significant move at the trade deadline despite having nearly everyone available for a price.
The two moves the Hawks did make was sending reserve forward Luke Babbitt to Miami for Okaro White and a 2019 second-round pick to Washington fro Sheldon Mac before promptly waiving both players.