CLEVELAND -- For the better part of the last two months, the Cleveland Cavaliers struggled with consistency, both on and off the floor, and new reports came out almost daily about issues that were permeating the locker room.
General manager Koby Altman could not stand pat and let the Cavaliers (31-22) continue to slide through the second half of the season and lose valuable positioning in the Eastern Conference Standings, or in the worst case scenario, fall out of the postseason completely, which is why he traded away six players and a draft pick to get younger and add four athletes whom he felt better fit his vision for a franchise that has made three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
“We added some talent and athleticism, and again, I think the overwhelming thing for us was to create a culture here that I think everybody wants to be a part of,” Altman said. “The building was absolutely excited, so I think this trade put some wind in the sails.”
In a span of 90 minutes, Altman changed the look of the roster by 40 percent.
The first domino fell when the Cavaliers acquired point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for point guard Isaiah Thomas, power forward Channing Frye and their first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
An hour later, the Cavaliers sent shooting guard Iman Shumpert to the Sacramento Kings, as well as point guard Derrick Rose and small forward Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz for shooting guard Rodney Hood (Utah) and point guard George Hill (Sacramento).
To complete the deal, the Jazz sent Joe Johnson to Sacramento.
Then, the Cavaliers traded guard Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat for a heavily-protected second-round pick in the NBA Draft, which they turned around and sent to the Kings.
“We were really worried with what was going on out on the floor and sort of our culture in the building that we were marching a slow death, and we didn’t want to be a part of that,” Altman said. “With the window we have with LeBron and with this team, we figured now was the time to do something to reenergize the group, but also, have some sustainability going into the future.”
One of Altman’s first moves this past offseason was to deal away disgruntled All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Thomas, Crowder, center Ante Zizic and an unprotected first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets.
Although Altman wanted to remain patient, with Thomas becoming a distraction by reportedly calling out teammates in meetings and doing the same publicly after games and Crowder having inconsistent production and losing his spot in the starting lineup, he admitted Thursday’s trades were about finding better fits.
“You make a trade, and you want it to succeed, like anything else,” Altman said. “I think the level of value that we got back in the Kyrie Irving trade was pretty good. Did it fit? Did it work? Probably not, and so, with those pieces, we decided to shuffle the deck and get younger and get some youthful talent in here with energy, with enthusiasm, great cultural pieces that I want to be a part of.”