Grading Cleveland Cavaliers' Trade Deadline Performance

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Grading Cleveland Cavaliers' Trade Deadline Performance
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

When Cleveland Cavaliers interim general manager David Griffin proclaimed that no player was untouchable, he meant it.

Fresh out of All-Star Weekend, ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein reported Monday night a potential swap between Jarrett Jack and then-Brooklyn Net Jason Terry. Wednesday morning saw the narrative shift to Luol Deng, who seemingly became available ahead of concerns regarding his potential re-signing, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.

And even while no actual deals materialized as the deadline grew closer, the buzz continued. Windhorst reported another potential move involving Tyler Zeller and the Los Angeles Clippers' Reggie Bullock. After the Jack-Terry deal fell through, hope was renewed when the Sacramento Kings came knocking with an offer of Jason Thompson, via Stein.

But in the end, only one deal solidified, and it was arguably one of the relative highlights of an otherwise dull midseason window: Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers for Earl Clark, Henry Sims and two second-round draft picks.

So it goes for the Cavaliers, who had been riding a six-game win streak to that point: A lot of discussions, a lot of demands, but ultimately little return as the league in general stood pat yet again. Jack, Dion Waiters, Zeller and the rest of the crew are all here to stay.

But will the current roster and its momentum be enough for the rest of the season? Does the offseason plan change with the arrival of Hawes? Scroll down for the answers and grades for each move (and non-move) from this year's trade deadline.

 

Spencer Hawes for Earl Clark, Henry Sims, 2 2nd-Round Draft Picks

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

There isn't much that hasn't already been said and repeated about Hawes' impact on this Cleveland squad. For a 14-game stretch in November, an unleashed Hawes put up some all-star caliber numbers: 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 blocks while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and an unfathomable 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.

While he's come back to Earth since (and, as Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley points out, playing for the 76ers may have been cause for some statistical inflation), it's irrefutable that Hawes brings size and spacing to the table—both commodities that the team should be in want of, especially with Anderson Varejao's injury history catching up to him.

As with Deng, it's hard to gauge whether or not Hawes will re-sign with the team following the end of his current contract this season. But both moves have been indicative of a complete investment in this season, even if it's meant leveraging some future assets for a pair of potential rentals, as pointed out by Grantland's Zach Lowe:

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Does Hawes ultimately move the noodle for team's postseason aspirations? As it stands, the team is four games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed, and the schedule going forward isn't doing any favors. Of the 26 remaining games, 17 are against current playoff teams, and 12 are against teams with a record over .500. While the recently ended win streak carries merit, only one victory was over an over-.500 team, and only one was against a prospective playoff opponent.

On the other hand, Hawes nonetheless looks to be someone who can contribute more than either Clark or Sims. The picks that were included in the deal shouldn't be discounted, considering even second rounders can be an asset as sweeteners in any deal. But for what the Cavs are trying to accomplish, the hope of what the deal brings makes sense. Grade: B-

 

Standing Pat on Jack, Deng

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

If winning rosters are regularly rewarded for retaining players, then it's only fair to hand out an assessment for what the Cavs didn't get done at the deadline.

Nobody ever said playing the leverage game with unrestricted free agents was easy. Acquiring Deng without any assurance that he would re-sign was a risk, but it was a necessary move to jettison Andrew Bynum, just as shopping Deng at the deadline once more was necessary in order to avoid losing another premier small forward for almost nothing. Per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:

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Here's the thing: If the Cavs couldn't sell any confidence in Deng, how were they going to convince the next team to take the same risk, let alone demand a first-round pick in the process? Selling risk to an increasingly risk-averse market of general managers is never a sound idea. Still, I can't blame Griffin for trying, even if cutting Deng loose would have been counterintuitive to everything the Cavs have been trying to do so far this season.

Along the same lines, I can't blame Griffin for ultimately standing pat on Jack. If not for the team's already crowded frontcourt, swapping Jack's disastrous season for a relatively young big on a similar contract would be no-brainer. But with Hawes in uniform and Varejao's prospective return to the lineup? Jack may be a liability moving forward, but not to the extent that it would be worth throwing another wrench in head coach Mike Brown's nonsensical rotation.

Factor in the win streak entering deadline day, and it's understandable that maybe the team would be best taking a flier on this season's playoff hopes. But knowing that deals were on the table and that the team nonetheless banked on a likely ephemeral late-season push without any long-term sweeteners sours the front office's grade here. Grade: C

 

Going Forward

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

With or without Hawes, thanks to the recent string of wins, a postseason berth was still in play. The Atlanta Hawks have been in free-fall, and the Cavs have more home games remaining (14) than either the New York Knicks or the Detroit Pistons—their closest rivals for a likely first-round meeting with either the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat.

Banking on Hawes to learn the complexities of head coach Mike Brown's system on the fly is a gamble I'm not ready to make, but I don't anticipate him swinging too many games if Varejao is able to contribute to a majority of the regular season's stretch run. If not, Hawes should fill a necessary void, even though his presence alone won't provide the missing puzzle piece to the team's torrid offense or provide the type of paint presence they were expecting from Bynum.

If the team can win every winnable game or steal a few upset victories at home, Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert will probably consider the regular season a success given all that has transpired thus far. But if not, the offseason will offer more questions than ever: Who will leave? Who'll be tremendously overpaid to stay? Will the team's cap room mean anything when one-third of the league will have money to spare and fresh draft picks in the most talented pool in years?

It's ultimately more reason for why the Cavaliers should stay the course, especially with the latest collapse at the bottom of the East. For a season that has become riddled with uncertainty, that's the one certainty for this young squad at this point in their roster development: Playoffs or bust.

Final Grade: B-

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats provided by NBA.com and are current through Friday, Feb. 21.

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