Every Western Conference team made a trade before yesterday’s deadline. 13 of the Eastern Conference’s 15 squads pulled off a deal. The Cleveland Cavaliers did not.
For all the talk of searching high and low for wing upgrades, Cleveland ultimately stood pat at the deadline, quietly letting it pass without so much as a peep for much of the day.
After, Cavaliers GM Koby Altman spoke with reporters and defended Cleveland’s decision to watch the trade festivities from the beach instead of wading into the pool party.
“Just from a trade standpoint, we just didn’t feel like anything was going to really move the needle for us,” Altman said in a press conference Thursday, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “I think you guys know me well enough to know I scoured the market and talked to every team I could.”
There’s likely one big reason why nothing out there moved the needle for Cleveland. Though the Cavs likely had interest in several players, the team lacked much in the way of significant assets to make a deal.
At a deadline in which draft picks were traded like playground candy, the Cavaliers showed up to recess with a lunchbox of broccoli. Much of Cleveland’s future draft capital is owed to the Jazz after landing Donovan Mitchell over the summer.
Take Jae Crowder, for instance. The Cavs were rumored to have interest in Crowder, but he ultimately set the Milwaukee Bucks back five second-round picks. There was no way the Cavs could match that quantity.
Altman Speaks on Keeping Okoro at the Deadline
Cleveland’s biggest asset (among the clearly off-the-table options of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Mitchell, and Evan Mobley) was Isaac Okoro.
But Altman ultimately decided to keep Okoro, apparently buoyed by the former lottery pick’s recent success shooting the three-ball.
“I think what you’re seeing from us, and from Isaac specifically, is a dude that right away you feel that defense,” Altman explained. “As soon as you get across half court or you want to take a shooter out, and he’s making you catch 40 feet out. That sets the tone for your defense, and he does that remarkably well. And now he is hitting the 3-ball and giving space to our guards, which we really need.”
Okoro is playing much better of late. Over his last ten games, the former Auburn Tiger is up to 9.3 points per game on 42.3% from three. So it makes sense that Altman remains in a wait-and-see mode with Okoro.
Cavs Split on Okoro’s Future
But is that feeling widespread? Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney reported ahead of the deadline that the Cavaliers’ front office was split about what to do at the deadline.
“While some in the franchise want to be aggressive at the Thursday deadline, the prevailing thought is that this is still a team in development and that patience, especially with an asset like [Isaac] Okoro, is needed,” Deveney wrote.
The news came amidst significant interest in Okoro from league circles ahead of the deadline.
“A lot of teams like him,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “But he has been up and down. When he is good, it looks like he plays with some confidence, and with him, it is more about confidence and ability at this point.”
The Cavaliers will still have a shot to scour the buyout market for options, but don’t expect Kevin Love to be among the names moved.