Last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers dramatically remade their roster, acquiring four new players through trades while sending out six incumbents. But according to a long and thorough report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday, the overhaul was nearly even more drastic.
Per Woj, the Cavs came quite close to picking up DeAndre Jordan in what would have been a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, conversations between the two teams were so serious that general manager Koby Altman brought a potential deal to LeBron James for his blessing.
When Altman visited with James in the Cavaliers’ practice facility a week ago, he let him know that there were still talks alive with the LA Clippers on a Jordan deal. What’s more, there was significant progress: Altman had ownership approval to send the Clippers Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and the Cavs’ 2018 first-round pick for Jordan. The Clippers were willing to accept the trade, but on one significant condition.
Clippers general manager Michael Winger explained to Altman that LA didn’t want another shooting guard. He hoped to find a third team that would take Shumpert and his $21 million with draft compensation, and have the Clippers get a center back. Altman and Winger agreed to make more calls to try to find a third team to make the deal work. Winger wondered whether Altman would let him talk to Shumpert’s agent about a possible contract buyout, but Altman wanted trade talks to be further along before granting that permission.
But the sides reached a stalemate on whether to include Iman Shumpert in the final deal and on Wednesday night, Altman and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka worked out a trade that would send Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick to Los Angeles for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. That agreement ultimately scuttled talks with the Clippers about Jordan.
Altman stayed on the phone with Winger on Thursday morning, keeping the DeAndre Jordan deal within reach. The Clippers were closing on a third team to take on Shumpert, and Altman had to determine whether he could create a pathway to a deal with that first-round pick still on its way to the Lakers. What’s more, he had to decide: Were the Cavaliers motivated to extend Jordan’s contract at over $100 million? The answer to both questions was no, and that’s why Altman turned his attention back to selling the Jazz on a $1.1 million payment to the Kings.
As it turned out, the Cavs consummated their deal with the Lakers, then worked out a three-way trade with Utah and Sacramento that netted them George Hill and Rodney Hood. The Clippers, meanwhile, held onto Jordan.
A trade for Jordan would have rebuilt the Cavs in totally different way than their trades with the Lakers, Jazz, and Kings did. Jordan would have given Cleveland a true center to start alongside Kevin Love (once he returns from injury), giving coach Ty Lue a more traditional, big-bodied crunch-time group. Adding four smaller and more versatile players, meanwhile, instead forces the Cavs into quicker lineups that can switch more screens against, say, the Warriors.
Of course, all this information about the Jordan trade-that-wasn’t allows fans to wonder whether Cleveland would have been better off sacrificing the Lakers trade to add the former All-Star center or if Altman made the right call in choosing Clarkson, Nance, Hill, and Hood. Given the results so far, decisive wins over the Celtics and Thunder, no one is likely to complain about the Cavs’ choice, but if things go sour, expect fans and detractors alike to wonder what could have been with Jordan in Cleveland.
Woj’s piece is loaded with fascinating behind-the scenes details about the Cavs’ trade deadline operation and is worth reading in full, right here.