VIP Bettin' on B-Ball | Often when trade deadlines come and go in the major professional sports the realities rarely live up to the rumors and speculations. That cannot be said of the NBA’s trade deadline that occurred last Thursday.
Often when trade deadlines come and go in the major professional sports the realities rarely live up to the rumors and speculations. That cannot be said of the NBA’s trade deadline that occurred last Thursday.
A week prior to the deadline the LA Clippers traded Blake Griffin to Detroit in what was expected to be the biggest trade as the deadline approached. But the Cleveland Cavaliers, three time defending Eastern Conference champions, took what could be termed as needed drastic measures and made a pair of major trades that reshaped their roster in an attempt to gain momentum as the Playoffs approach.
Moving to Cleveland were George Hill and Rodney Hood (from Sacramento) and Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. (from the LA Lakers). The principal players leaving Cleveland were Iman Shumpert (to Sacramento) Isaiah Thomas (to the Lakers) and Jae Crowder (to Utah as part of a three-way trade with the Kings).
Considered by some as malcontents who never fit in with the Cavs following their off-season acquisitions in the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston, the departure of Thomas and Crowder seemed to energize the Cavs even before the arrival of their new players.
After the trade was completed on Thursday, the Cavs next took the court on Friday and won at Atlanta, 123-107, despite being shorthanded, covering the pointspread by 14 points. On Sunday, when the new acquisitions made their Cleveland debuts the Cavs, 4.5 underdogs in Boston, routed the Celtics, 121-99, covering the spread by 26.5 points.
It’s way too early to draw any conclusions but at least there are reasons for the Cavs and their fans to be cautiously optimistic they will have a run in them come Playoffs time.
Cleveland was also involved in another trade of note, sending Dwyane Wade back to Miami for a future draft choice. The now 36-year-old Wade was part of three Championship teams with the Heat and is expected to provide leadership both on the court and in the locker room as Miami currently is seeded seventh in the East.
The All Star break occurs following this Thursday’s games with the weekend festivities taking place in Los Angeles at Staples Center. The centerpiece will be the All Star game on Sunday with its new format in place.
Rather than the traditional East vs. West that has been in effect since the first such game in 1951, the new format will feature Team LeBron James against Team Stephen Curry. James and Curry were named captains of their respective teams and alternated drafting players without regard to which conference they played.
It should be an entertaining experiment and, if well received by the fans, can be expected to be reprised at least for next season’s event.
Although the All Star game is generally considered the midpoint of the long NBA season, most teams will have completed two thirds of their 82-game regular season schedule by the time the break begins following Thursday’s games. The regular season will be on hiatus for nearly a week with play resuming a week from Thursday.
Most of the focus on the standings in the NBA revolves around the conferences rather than on Divisions. This makes sense as the Playoffs are geared more toward the eight teams from each conference that make the Playoffs rather than the three Division rivals and the fact that the schedule is not tilted toward Division play.
Teams do face Division foes four times each season but face teams from the other two Divisions within their conference either three or four times, differing from the scheduling dynamics involved in the NFL or Major League Baseball.
Yet it is worth noting, through Sunday, the last place team in five of the NBA’s six Divisions had a winning percentage of .345 or less. The last place team in the Northwest Division (Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah) was at .500, making it, from a top to bottom perspective, the best Division in the NBA through this point in the season.
That last place team is Utah. The Jazz had won nine straight games through Sunday to square its record at 28-28, going 8-1 ATS during the streak. Seven of those wins were on the road and one of the two home wins was that 129-99 beatdown of Golden State on Jan. 30.
The Jazz are still seeded tenth in the West, a game behind the Clippers and a game and a half behind eighth seeded New Orleans. They did have a tough game hosting San Antonio Monday night after their road win at Portland on Sunday and will host Phoenix on Wednesday in their final game before the break. They are approaching the break in great current form and will be worth watching in the short term.
With the All Star break following the games of this Thursday, here are thoughts on the two games that will mark the end of the figurative first half of the season.