The Los Angeles Lakers' reshuffling of their roster continued Thursday, as they reportedly sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported Los Angeles plans on keeping Thomas and Frye in the immediate aftermath of the trade.
While the first-round pick will help Los Angeles' rebuilding process, Thomas is the headliner. He has struggled in his first season with the Cavaliers, watching his scoring average drop from 28.9 last season on the Boston Celtics to 14.7 this season.
What's more, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Thomas "led the charge" during a meeting when teammates questioned why Kevin Love left a game with illness.
He has also been a liability on defense for a Cavaliers team ranked an abysmal 29th in the league in defensive rating. Their defensive rating is 118.6 when he is on the floor and improves to 108.2 when he is off it.
Nance is an explosive forward averaging 8.6 points per game but is also versatile enough to guard multiple positions and could improve the defense. Opponents are shooting 3.0 percent worse than their normal averages from three-point range and 5.3 percent worse from beyond 15 feet when he guards them.
As for the Lakers, Thomas is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so they don't have to worry about a significant contract on the books if they choose not to re-sign him. Brian Windhorst of ESPN pointed to the team's "2018 free-agency dreams" while discussing the trade, and Wojnarowski noted it opens up options for the team:
Brian Windhorst @WindhorstESPN
Cavs are taking on long-term money and helping the Lakers clear cap space, opening up LA's 2018 free agency dreams. The Cavs are wagering they're keeping LeBron with this move.2018-2-8 17:09:55
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Three impactful details on trade for Lakers: They'll have space for two max contract slots in 2018 or 2019, replenish first-round pick in 2018 Draft and gets Lakers some shooting for rest of season with Thomas and Frye.2018-2-8 17:26:49
Clarkson, 25, spent his first three-plus seasons in the NBA with the Lakers but will no longer be a part of their rebuilding process as he shifts to a Cleveland squad coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals. He is averaging 14.5 points and 3.3 assists per game this season.
Clarkson signed a four-year, $50 million contract last offseason, an extremely manageable deal under the NBA's new salary cap. His base salary is never higher than $13.4 million during the life of the contract, which is a solid $5 million less per season than what Evan Turner is earning in Portland.
Cleveland will likely be able to provide Clarkson a defined role in the backcourt with Thomas no longer taking point guard minutes, which might help him develop. He was essentially the same player from year two to year three, a time when players tend to make their biggest leaps.
Advanced stats courtesy of NBA.com.