After seemingly being left for dead thanks to a 15-10 mark over the last two months and the rival Toronto Raptors landing Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, the Cleveland Cavaliers look ready to defend their title thanks to some moves of their own.
Criticized and mocked for vocally demanding help, it appears that LeBron James’ wish for a playmaker at point guard, as well as a backup big man in the form of former All-Stars Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut will come to fruition, as both are expected to join Cleveland after being bought out and clearing waivers.
But for the sake of argument, let’s rewind back to not even a week and a half ago before the NBA trade deadline when Cleveland’s All-Star power forward Kevin Love would be sidelined 4-6 weeks following a knee injury and the forementioned Barneys from The North traded for the artist formerly known as I-blocka.
Going into the deadline, there were numerous rumors of the Cavs trading the likes of Iman Shumpert, Love and Channing Frye. Obviously, the most popular rumor was the one consisting of Love being shipped to New York for Carmelo Anthony.
Cleveland, especially after losing Love to injury and Ibaka being dealt to Toronto on the same day, only heightened the Cavs—and their fans—anxiety, especially after seeing a conference rival, as well as a team they could very well meet them once again in the East Finals this spring, get better.
It also didn’t help that long-time playoff rival—and nemesis—in the form of the Boston Celtics, loaded with a superfluous number of picks as leverage to trade for All-Stars such as Jimmy Butler and Paul George, seemed poised to add either one, in the hopes of pairing him with their NBA MVP candidate in point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Boston’s crafty and shrewd general manager in two-time NBA champion Danny Ainge was like a sniper hiding deep in the forest, loaded with draft picks as ammo to use to stalk and take down a wounded—and very vulnerable Cavs squad, that was hobbling and marked as easy prey.
He didn’t pull the trigger.
For whatever rhyme or reason, the Celtics didn’t make a move, when they were proverbially camping—Call of Duty-style—on a ammo stash with a chance to take out the reeling and stumbling Cavs.
What many failed to overlook back then, and even more so now, is that the champs may have emerged as the biggest winner of the deadline is proverbially doing nothing and being a bargain shopper waiting for name-brand merchandise to go on clearance.
After trading for Kyle Korver and signing former 2011 No.2 overall pick in Derrick Williams to a ten-day contact, Cleveland would wisely bid it’s time and wait for veterans such as Williams and Bogut to be bought out by their new teams.
So to recap, while Toronto traded swingman Terrance Ross for Ibaka, Boston remained idle—despite having picks and players to offer in exchange for Butler or George, while Cleveland quietly added Korver, Williams and two All-Stars in Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut practically for free?
Yes. you read that correctly. Did I also fail to mention that Love will be coming back by playoff time and shooting guard J.R. Smith will be back in March?
Here is how three projected lineups with Bogut and Williams will likely look with Smith and Love.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: J.R. Smith
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tristan Thompson
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Channing Frye
C: Andrew Bogut
PG: Kay Felder
SG: DeAndre Liggins
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: James Jones
C: Derrick Williams
Per the above, an argument can be made that Cleveland has now perhaps the deepest most versatile and multi-faceted bench in the NBA that comprises of crafty veterans, talented wingman and scorers, big’s that can rebound and most of all depth that will enable James, Irving and Love to have their minutes cut down for the playoffs.
Critics, haters and trolls can wail, whine and cry about James asking for help. My question to them is where was the hate and vitriol when Kevin Durant defected from Oklahoma City to Golden State to join a stacked 73-win runner-up? I’ll wait.
What I think stings these “fans” the most is that while their team is either likely lottery-bound or just simply hate James, the prospect of seeing the King and his men successfully defend their crown just became a little too real for them to handle.
Oh well, I guess we will get our answer in June, in the third act of Cavs-Warriors, Part III.