The trade deadline passed and the final shape of 2017/18 NBA season is here. Like most years, premier talent would not be moved, no matter how rumored they were, and for most teams, the imagery didn’t change much, if at all.
For the betting industry, this trade deadline presents a different kind of a challenge, as one major contender decided to use the opportunity to overhaul their roster.
If you are a Cleveland Cavaliers fan that slept through yesterday, there are several players that you won’t get to see in Cavs jersey anymore. Don’t panic. LeBron James is still there.
Aside Cavaliers’ wheelin’ and dealin’, the trade deadline was about moving some young point guards that were not what the teams drafting them hoped for, salary cap relief. The usual stuff.
Impact of Cava-Dealers trades
The Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman took this job in the summer and wasted no time in making sure that everyone knows that he’s up to the job. With a dysfunctional roster that has had the franchise name dragging across the media headline for all the wrong reasons, who can blame him for blowing a big part of it away.
Altman and the Cavaliers made three impactful trades that had much to do with cleaning up their own house as with the gain with new players coming in.
The first deal was a bold one. The Cavaliers are sending Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, together with their 2018 first-round pick, to the Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Both of the players the Cavaliers acquired will be used in the rotation, and Larry Nance Jr. could even start until Love returns from injury. The Cavs parted ways with the worst defensive player in the league, one that has seen his offensive game drift away from him. Thomas was too vocal and at the same time, too bad, for a serious contender. For what had been Lakers thinking, is beyond me. Altman knew that the Lakers management is antsy to make some deal with all the assets they’ve gathered and used this knowledge. Acquiring Thomas makes absolutely no sense for the Lakers, so the only way they can justify this trade is with his contract expiring soon.
The second move the Cavaliers pulled was a gem. It’s a three-way deal that would send Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder to Utah and Iman Shumpert to Sacramento, with Rodney Hood and George Hill coming to Cleveland, and Joe Johnson changing Jazz for Kings jersey.
Some pundits might say ‘wait, this is a blockbuster deal?’, and it’s a fair notion. With no stars moved, we have to settle for a six-player exchange that moves only a single starter. However, from the Cavaliers perspective, it’s an excellent deal. They acquired league-wide sought-after Rodney Hood and a good two-way PG George Hill at the minimum cost. They’ve had a close look at Jae Crowder, and frankly, he sucked big time. Iman Shumpert had its role in Cleveland in the past but had to be included to make numbers work, and Derrick Rose was even more outdated than Shumpert, or Thomas.
Speaking of outdated, the third move that the Cavaliers front office pulled out was a telling one. They traded Dwyane Wade back to Miami for a heavily protected second-round pick. Enough with the sentimentality, the Cavs should be looking toward the future. This entire symphony of moves was playing to this tune, so kudos to the organization. They wake up with a much cleaner and healthier squad.
But is it better?
Even with all the criticism in place, the Cavaliers were still clinging to that third spot in the East. Okay, the cart wagon was gaining speed running downhill, and Vegas was already moving Cavaliers to the ‘tier of the nones’, a group of teams that can best be described as the NBA average. The air is clearer now, but James remains the sole star on the team (especially during Love’s absence). Clarkson and Hood will have to find minutes behind or before Smith and Korver, and Hill-Calderon composition of point guards doesn’t seem to be enough to compete with the best in the league. Nance is a solid, replacement level player.
The Cavs didn’t improve in terms of talent, or at least, not by much, but there are other ways teams can become better. They got more athletic, added some defense and some youth. The chemistry will be lacking, for sure, so don’t move the Cavaliers needle just yet. The Cavs blew up a toxic locker room and added four players that could help turn their season around, but they were thinking two months from now, not tomorrow.
The Cavaliers were flirting the worst ATS record in the league with only 15 wins accumulated, and given their public appeal, the books probably liked them there. Prior to the trades, the Cavaliers were still the favorite to win the conference and make it to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, even though they were far behind the Western-leading duo in terms of actually winning it. Vegas considered them +1000 favorite to win and had changed the price to +1200 to adjust to the new look and the market response. There are some books that still give them better chances to win it, but it’s actually a wait and see approach.
The books are aware that the Cavaliers have improved, but can they compare to the Warriors and the Rockets? This seems unlikely. On a game-to-game basis, they have plenty of work to do, and Ty Lue isn’t up to the task, so they’ll continue to go as far as James can carry them. They are a bit underrated currently, so this could be a short-term window to bet on them, but this doesn’t have to do much with the trades.
Teams that traded with the Cavaliers
The Jazz let go of Hood and Joe Johnson and will get Crowder, whom they’ll like off the bench, and Rose, whom they’ll waive. Johnson isn’t the same reliable scorer he was last year, so his loss isn’t hurting them, but Hood was probably their best and most reliable scorer and shot creator. They are losing 0.5 spread point instantly and 1.5 total points in my book.
The Kings will waive Johnson and don’t seem all too interested in keeping Shumpert either. Hill barely played, so they stay put.
The Lakers are big losers. Frye will be released, but Thomas will be announced as a bona fide star and will be immediately given the ball. The timing is good, as Ball is injured, but how the two will play together when he returns is a headscratcher. Minus 1.0 for the Lakers and +1.5 on the points totals.
The Heat saw an opportunity to bring back local hero at the minimum cost, so it’s hard to blame them from the business standpoint of view. They’ve also traded Okaro White to Atlanta for Luke Babbitt, so they have become a bit heavy on the wings. Assuming that Wade takes over the starting guard position and move Richardson to the three, the Heat will have Ellington, Babbitt and Tyler Johnson (not counting Waiters, who is injured for the season, and McGruder who is off the radar with a broken leg) off the bench.
Good shooters are a hot commodity, but it’s unlikely that there’s enough balls for all the outside bombers they now have to feed. Wade would likely be better as a backup point guard, so keep an eye on it. At the moment, I’m not changing their neutral court spread mark, nor total points. However, if you feel going after a darkhorse to win Eastern Conference, adding Wade with all his playoffs experience can certainly help Miami in this regard.
The NBA world outside
Elfrid Payton was dumped to the Suns for a second-round pick. The price seems great, but the Suns were terrible defensively already, and Payton is among the worst at the position despite his reputation. He’ll be given minutes too, so feel free to up the Suns points by 1.0-2.0 points, depending on the opposition and rotation.
The Knicks had traded for Mudiay, a similar player to Payton, who hasn’t been playing much in Denver this season. This probably means that Jack will be looking for a new team this summer, but it’s unlikely that will have much impact before the break.
The Nuggets were looking for more experience and reliability at the position, so they’ve replaced Mudiay with Devin Harris. It’s a fair move, but one has to wonder why they’ve released Nelson in the first place. Don’t move the needle at all.
The Mavericks got McDermott for Harris in this three-way deal, adding to their collection of players allergic to the paint.
The Pistons tinkered with their bench, adding James Ennis and Jameer Nelson at the cost of Brice Johnson and Willie Reed, which is a positive move in my book, but won’t affect the market just yet.
The Pelicans traded Dante Cunningham for Nets’ Rashad Vaughn, getting even smaller, while the Raptors got Malachi Richardson from the Kings for Bruno Caboclo. Neither trade has any impact on the market.
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