Cavs need to decide whether they're in or out on Isaiah
Despite all the reports of discontent in the Cleveland locker room, LeBron James knows how to put on a public face. For the leader of a team that is 3-7 in its last 10 games and owners of the league's worst defense, per NBA Stats, he appears loose enough to be congratulating other players on their own accomplishments.
There's a sense, however, that something is coming to a head with the Cavs. And with Kevin Love now out of action for a reported six-to-eight weeks, you can probably forget about the annual trade rumors centered around him.
The flaws with the Cavs are not unlike what they've been the last few years when the team resolved them in time for the postseason. The bigger issue now is the team is older and a step worse. And despite the poor play of J.R. Smith and rancor about Love or head coach Tyronn Lue, the one player who is sticking out like a sore thumb is Isaiah Thomas.
The Cavs have two options: Deal him by the Feb. 8 trade deadline, or keep him and try and make the best of it.
Thomas is still clearly not 100 percent after offseason hip surgery. There is a hesitation with his shot, and it is manifesting itself with a career-low 38.6 field goal percentage. As a result, the market for his soon-to-be-free-agent services is limited.
(ESPN NBA Trade Machine)
Given Thomas' expiring contract, the Clippers could be interested. Given the expiring contract of Lou Williams, the Cavs could be interested. Tristan Thompson needs to be included for salary purposes and because DeAndre Jordan represents his upgrade, but in truth, this deal only gets done if Cleveland includes one of its first-round draft selections - and there's virtually no chance it gives up the likely lottery pick it received in the Thomas-Kyrie Irving trade.
With LeBron's future in Cleveland up in the air, Dan Gilbert and the Cavs are straddling the line between trying to get another title run out of this team while planning for tomorrow. Jordan works in the sense that he has a player option for next season, while Williams shapes up as one of this spring's ultimate rentals.
Go all-in on Thomas
This is not optimal given Thomas' health, but the Cavs may not have a choice. Listed at 5-foot-9, the diminutive guard has always been a non-factor on defense. The problem now is he can't shoot, so he's a minus all around. Yet with Love out of the picture, for the time being, Thomas' usage is set to rise.
How this is handled could help turn things around for Cleveland. Despite all the talk last summer about how Thomas and Irving were statistically identical, at this point in time it appears the Celtics completely fleeced the Cavs in landing Irving for Thomas and an underperforming Jae Crowder.
One thing, however: Thomas is a better off-ball guard than Irving. And even playing at less than 100 percent health, one thing that can help a cold shooter is open looks. While it came in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Thomas' best game as a Cav featured some decent looks.
Furthermore, the Cavs need to get Thomas more involved off screens and dribble handoffs. While nobody will confuse Lue's coaching acumen for that of Brad Stevens, Thomas is still playing alongside one of the greatest facilitators of all-time in James.
Whichever way the Cavs go, however, the hour is getting late to flip that switch.