It seemed as if the Los Angeles Lakers might have a quiet trade deadline, but that quickly changed as it was reported that they were dealing Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft.
The deal gives the Lakers a couple of players who can help with shooting and scoring while also clearing out salary cap space for the summer of 2018 and 2019.
Thomas has the ability to give the Lakers as much, if not more than what Clarkson was providing offensively and according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers are expected to play him big minutes:
Lakers intend to play IT "heavy minutes " once he gets to town. Think he'll thrive in their fast paced system. However no guarantee he starts.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 8, 2018
This makes sense as Clarkson was playing some big minutes, especially recently, so there are plenty of backcourt minutes available for Thomas. Once Lonzo Ball returns from injury it would seem likely that Thomas would come off the bench as the Lakers need the defense of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup.
That may not sit well with Thomas, however. While discussing the deal on ESPN’s The Jump, Rachel Nichols revealed that Thomas’ agent texted her that Thomas would not be happy in a bench role:
“[Thomas’ agent] said, in capital letters, ‘HE IS NOT COMING OFF THE BENCH.’ The idea is that maybe they would want a buyout maybe, before they did something like that […] He’s not saying that he is looking for a buyout, he’s saying that he does want to start there and that if he wasn’t starting, Aaron [Goodwin], his agent, is saying that might make him want to look for a buyout.”
If this truly is the thought process for Thomas, it could cause some issues with the Lakers. Head coach Luke Walton wouldn’t commit to what Thomas’ role would be, but being open to whatever spot the team needs would go a long way in helping ease over things on a Lakers team that lost two of the more popular players in the locker room.
Thomas hasn’t had the best season since returning from a hip injury as he is averaging just 14.7 points on 36.1 percent shooting. Frye, meanwhile, is a good big to have coming off the bench and is a nice locker room presence in addition to shooting 33.3 percent from three-point range.
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