The recent struggles by the Cleveland Cavaliers are partially the result of the injuries, but also an indication that the current roster wasn’t working.
We just wrote a couple of days ago that it was incumbent on GM David Griffin to do something to improve the bench.
That’s the reason Griffin chose to make a significant change, dealing Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a three team deal that netted guard Iman Shumpert and swingman J.R. Smith.
Griffin parted with veteran Lou Amundsen and rookie Alex Kirk as part of the deal.
Really, it appeared more and more that Waiters wasn’t accepting his role with the current group of Cavaliers. In Sunday’s loss to Dallas, he kept trying to drive to the basket when a lane wasn’t there and took a series of questionable shots that didn’t appear to be part of the offense.
While the focus of many have been on the enigmatic Smith, the real key to the trade is Shumpert, a 24-year-old who can be the wing defender needed by the wine and gold.
Although he is currently sidelined with a shoulder separation, Shumpert is a capable shooter from behind the arc (34% lifetime), but he makes his bones on the defensive end. And that has been a huge problem for the Cavs over the last month.
Smith is a scorer, averaging 13.3 points per game in his career, and is known as a guy who when he gets it going can turn a game around. He has made 37% of his three-point shots during his time in the NBA.
Smith will take the role that coach David Blatt wanted Waiters to have, that of instant offense off the bench, and Griffin picked up a solid wing defender as well. And outside of James Jones, who is limited in other areas, mainly defense, Smith is needed because Mike Miller hasn’t provided the outside shooting the Cavs thought they were getting when they signed him.
And, by the way, picked up a first round pick from Oklahoma City, which can be an asset in a future move, probably in bringing a big man, which the Cavaliers also need.
Which brings us to Samuel Dalembert, who was released by the Knicks as part of this trade. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Dalembert, who is a solid, defensive oriented big man, eventually winds up in Cleveland for the veteran minimum.
He’s a “rim protector”, the new lexicon for a guy who can block shots and rebounds.
The deal will likely put Shumpert in the starting lineup at the two guard with Miller going back to a reserve role, along with Smith to provide shooting. If they sign Dalembert, it would give the coach four solid players off the bench along with Matthew Dellavedova.
And Shumpert and Dalembert should also improve the defense which has been the main weakness for the Cavs over the last month.
With the trade exemptions and the first round picks Cleveland possesses (Memphis and Oklahoma City), Griffin still has ammunition to go out and get yet another big man. Even when Anderson Varejao was healthy, the wine and gold was one big short, so there is still a need to add another.
Yes, the adjustment period will probably get longer now with new players coming aboard, but if the Cavs are clicking in March, they will be the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. And with the core still being LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, they can still make a long run in the East.