The fireworks started early for Thursday's NBA trade deadline. The Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a deal sending Channing Frye, its first-round pick and point guard Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers for guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr.. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported the trade.
For Cleveland, the move signals the team's desire to fix a divided locker room where confrontation seemed to occur more often than wins since Thomas' return to the court. Acquired as a major piece in the Kyrie Irving trade this offseason, Thomas played poorly on the court and frequently used the microphone postgame to express his thoughts and openly criticize the team and coaching staff.
In 15 games with the Cavaliers, Thomas averaged 14.7 points, 4.5 assists and struggled to make his shots. Thus far, Thomas is on pace to set dramatic career lows in field-goal percentage (36.1 percent) and three-point percentage (25.3 percent), all while he served as a liability defensively on the court.
The move from Thomas to Clarkson should serve as an upgrade for the team's chemistry alone. On the court, Clarkson averaged 14.5 points on a 44.8 field-goal percentage this season, though he can't be relied upon from deep with a career 33.2 three-point percentage. He'll provide scoring off the bench, but Clarkson is a one-dimensional player who is locked in with three years remaining on a contract that pays him over $12.5M AAV, a contract the Lakers desperately wanted to get rid of.
From a fantasy perspective, this move doesn't really help Clarkson's existing fantasy value. Even with Thomas out of Cleveland, Clarkson will be behind multiple players for potential shots and usage. While his fantasy stock could have gone up if he landed elsewhere, Clarkson's current fantasy value is likely right where it existed yesterday. Though keep an eye on him for 2019 when LeBron James leaves the Cavaliers.
Nance comes over to Cleveland and will serve as a rotational player. He averaged 22 minutes per game this season with the Lakers with 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per night. The 25-year-old should continue to see similar minutes with his new team, though he isn't a compelling name fantasy owners need to have on their rosters.
Los Angeles walks away from this deal as the biggest winner. Gaining Cleveland's first-round pick in 2018 should serve as a nice potential trade chip this offseason for deals to try and improve their roster or potentially move up in the draft. The greatest part of this deal for the Lakers is getting out of Clarkson's contract and landing Frye and Thomas' expiring contracts. As a result, Los Angeles will now be able to offer two max contracts in a summer where Paul George and LeBron James are free agents.
For fantasy owners, this move will serve as a boost for the stock of Thomas. While he is clearly still hampered by the hip injury and isn't near 100 percent, a change of scenery and landing spot in a fast-paced Lakers' lineup should help him return to more of the lead dog role he saw as a member of the Boston Celtics. He'll also be on a team with significantly less pressure and weight on its shoulders, which could allow him to be more free and relaxed on the court.