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Cavaliers trade deadline moves shake up Eastern Conference and could affect the Wizards

Cavaliers trade deadline moves shake up Eastern Conference and could affect the Wizards

The NBA trade deadline amounted to a quiet day for just about every team in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers being one major exception. They didn't just tweak their roster, they overhauled it by jettisoning a whopping six different players. 

Some big-time NBA names left town including Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose. Coming in are four players in Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, George HIll and Larry Nance, Jr. The Cavs will now be aggressive in the free agent buyout market to fill out their roster like they always are.

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It was a bold move by Cavs general manager Koby Altman, to flip almost all of his roster outside of LeBron James and Kevin Love and to do so this late in the year and when his team is in a desirable spot, at third in the Eastern Confernce. But Altman saw doom in the Cavs' future and wanted to act on the very last day he could.

Time will tell how smart these moves were for the Cavaliers. At first blush, they have more security for the future, as Clarkson, Hill and Nance, Jr. are all under contract beyond this season. Thomas was set to leave in free agency and Rose and Wade are not getting any younger. The Cavs also kept the 2018 first round pick tied to the Brooklyn Nets, setting themselves up nicely if James ends up leaving in free agency. With Love at the helm, the Cavs could remain relevant and competitive post-LeBron.

The real unkown is how this will affect the rest of the East in the short-term, meaning this year. Do they have enough to continue James' incredible streak of seven straight NBA Finals appearances?

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The Wizards and others in the East will surely be keeping an eye on the Cavs as part of a large group of teams waiting to break through James' stranglehold on the conference. All this change could open the door, it would seem. Yes, the Cavs only lost one game en route to the Finals last season, but they had Kyrie Irving and a completely different cast of characters.

One thing that stands out is the Cavs are now relying on a lot of young players. Experience can be a big difference maker in the postseason and Clarkson and Nance, Jr. have never been there before. 

The Cavs are also introducing an unusual amount of new players to their lineup at this point in this season. They have played 53 games, meaning they have 29 remaining to figure out their rotation. Teams have gone through similar overhauls in the summer and made it work early in the season, like the Boston Celtics this year. But that was after a full training camp and preseason. Head coach Tyronn Lue will be doing all of his lineup tinkering on the fly.

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Cleveland now offers intriguing potential on offense with added speed and athleticism from Clarkson and Nance, plus the outside shooting of Hood and Hill. With James running the show and Love set to return before the playoffs from injury, they should be able to keep up with most teams offensively.

On defense, though, there are major questions. This team was already terrible on that end of the floor with the 29th defensive rating out of 30 NBA teams.

HIll has long been a plus-defender, but the same can't necessarily be said about Clarkson and Nance. Also, Hill turns 32 in May. It won't be easy for him to carry a large defensive load against the teams in the East with stars in their backcourt like the Celtics, Raptors and Wizards.

The most curious move the Cavs made was trading away Wade. It's a great story that he's going back to Miami, but even at 36 years old he could help the Cavs in the playoffs. Wade still has his moments and did not seem to be part of the chemistry issues plaguing the Cavs in recent weeks.

That the Cavs needed a change was hard to argue against. But the moves they made may have further opened the door for others in the Eastern Conference. They created uncertainty and lost some experience along the way. It's a bold experiment and it will be interesting to see how it works out.

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Wizards are nearing important decision involving Jordan McRae's two-way contract

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Wizards are nearing important decision involving Jordan McRae's two-way contract

The Washington Wizards return to action after the All-Star break with their next game on Friday against the Hornets. Not long after that, they could have an important roster decision to make.

Guard Jordan McRae is nearing the end of his 45-day two-way clock. Players signed to two-way contracts are allowed a maximum of 45 days at the NBA level and McRae has only nine remaining, according to a person familiar with the situation. 

Once those nine days are up, he will not be allowed to play for the Wizards until the regular season ends for the Capital City Go-Go, their G-League affiliate. The Go-Go play their final game on March 23.

After those 45 days, the Wizards would also have the option to convert McRae's two-way deal to a standard NBA contract. But it appears unlikely they will do that based on the fact they have just $153,433 separating them from the luxury tax threshold (estimate via Spotrac). They just made a pair of trades to get out of the luxury tax and have no plans of going back in.

The 45-day clock has some specific rules that could help the Wizards' cause. Travel days do not count against the 45-day limit and neither do off-days on the road. Five of the Wizards' first eight games out of the break are away from Washington.

The 45 days are also not counted until G-League training camp, which generally begins about a month after NBA camps open. So, the 45-day maximum can technically be stretched to around 70 over the course of a full NBA season.

McRae, 27, has appeared in 19 games for the Wizards after joining them as a free agent last summer. He is averaging 4.3 points in 9.1 minutes at the NBA level.

He has been a star for the Go-Go, averaging 29.9 points (most in the G-League), 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He was named a G-League mid-season All-Star.

Surely, McRae would like an NBA contract, but it's worth noting he gets paid more money the more time he spends with the Wizards. Two-way players can earn roughly $300,000 more by playing out their 45 allotted days in the NBA.

Also, the Wizards would like to keep him beyond this season, according to someone with knowledge of their plans. They see him as part of a growing group of players they would like to retain that is headlined by Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant. To keep McRae, they can make him a restricted free agent.

If the Wizards don't convert his contract, however, McRae will not be eligible for the playoffs this spring, if Washington is to qualify.

At this point, it appears likely the Wizards avoid McRae's 45-day clock from expiring. In order to do that, they may have to keep him down with the Go-Go for much longer than they would prefer to.

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Former Wizards center Brendan Haywood reflects on his time spent with Michael Jordan in D.C.

Former Wizards center Brendan Haywood reflects on his time spent with Michael Jordan in D.C.

Former longtime Washington Wizard Brendan Haywood sat down with Chris Miller in Charlotte for one all-encompassing Wizards Talk podcast interview you'll want to hear. 

After a four-year career in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Haywood declared for the NBA Draft and was selected by the Cavaliers with the 20th overall pick before being traded to the Orlando Magic, who then sent him to Washington. 

His rookie year (2001-02) just so happened to be the first of two seasons in Washington for one Michael Jordan. Jordan, well past his prime during this time, still left quite an impression on the rookie, even after all these years later. 

You really got to see the myth behind all the greatness. He wasn't good by accident. You got to see a guy that's 40 years old still get to the gym at 8 o'clock working on his game. 

The big man's best statistical season in Washington came during the 2007-08 campaign, where he averaged 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks while shooting it over 50 percent from the floor. 

To listen to Haywood's full interview, click the podcast below.

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