Isaiah Thomas has not yet made his debut at point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is there a chance his stay is shorter than expected?
Thomas, who is nearing good health and his season debut, seemed like the biggest return when the front office traded Kyrie Irving. But it seems the Cavaliers placed just as much value on the first-round pick they received from Brooklyn Nets as well as starting forward Jae Crowder.
While it seems Cleveland is reluctant to trade the draft selection they will receive from the Nets, many believe they could pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan if they think he is the “missing piece” to complete their roster. He and James could dominate in the paint, which is an area where the Warriors struggle.
Timothy Rapp wrote about why it would not make sense to trade the coveted Brooklyn pick for Jordan (via Bleacher Report):
“Jordan has a $24.1 million player option in his contract for next season, meaning he could easily opt out and leave the Cavaliers high and dry. In turn, if James decides to leave in free agency, the Cavaliers still have Brooklyn’s pick to begin their rebuild. By giving it up in a trade for Jordan, however, they would be risking losing [LeBron] James, Jordan and Thomas in free agency this summer without much of a contingency plan.”
Instead of offering their asset in the draft, it might make more sense to include Thomas — who will be a free agent in the offseason.
The team has played well without him, as they have won 20 of their last 24 games (the best record in the NBA during that stretch). Perhaps it is not crazy to think they are listening to offers when other teams come calling.
Thomas will have less of an opportunity to shoot the ball playing next to James and we don’t know his status after his injury. Rather than risk him walking or having to decide whether or not he is worth a max deal, they could see what kind of return he could yield before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
A recent report suggested the Clippers “may end up taking what they can get” for Jordan as they have not yet reached a contract extension agreement.
Cleveland would still have a draft pick almost assuredly in the lottery to rebuild their roster in case James leaves. They would also be able to negotiate a deal with Jordan, who would offer an entirely different skill set than what is provided by potential teammate Kevin Love, once James make a decision.
The Clippers, meanwhile, could have a talented guard to match with star forward Blake Griffin. Rather than two big men as their identity, they could have potential All-Stars who play a remarkably different style but both score in bunches.
The Clippers could use a point guard of the future after trading away Chris Paul. Thomas was a fantastic player for Boston and someone Los Angeles may be willing to try out.
For the trade to work within the CBA, the Cavaliers would likely need to include Tristan Thompson alongside Thomas in the deal. Another option could be packaging Thomas with Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye (or anyone else on their roster except Love).
In a recent column by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, young players Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic were included as potential attractive trade chips for Cleveland. They could also include their own first-round draft pick, though that value is not fantastic.
This would leave Cleveland with Love and Jordan in the frontcourt as well as a lottery pick even if James leaves.
The Clippers would then have a duo of Griffin and Thomas that is sure to sell seats in Los Angeles. It may not be the most likely scenario, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.