Charles Barkley reveals his new title favorites after wild NBA trade deadline


The NBA trade deadline usually comes and goes without much fanfare. It always seems that the potential trades being discussed never come into fruition and the deadline passes by with merely a whimper.

That was not the case this year, and maybe the NBA’s decision to move up the trade deadline played into that. It had always been on the Thursday after the All-Star break, which created many awkward moments, such as DeMarcus Cousins being traded during last year’s All-Star game.

This year, and for the foreseeable future, the trade deadline is 10 days before the All-Star game. That move created more excitement for fans and more of an opportunity to wheel and deal for GMs. As a result, over 5 percent of the players under contract were traded on just one day.

The team that made the most (and biggest) moves was the Cleveland Cavaliers. They overhauled their roster, trading away six players while getting four back in return.

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The Cavs added youth and athleticism to a roster that was in dire need of both. The average age of the players they traded away was 30, and they combined for 16 dunks. The average age of the players they received is 27, and they combined for 81 dunks.

By netting Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood, the Cavs have set themselves up for both the present and the future.

One person in particular who likes the Cavs of the present is Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

A week ago, Barkley said on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” that he thought the Toronto Raptors would win the Eastern Conference, but after Cleveland’s big moves, he’s now siding with The Land.

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“This team had no chance of winning or even getting to the Finals 24 hours ago,” he said on Thursday night’s show. “Now they, to me, become the favorites.”

He added, “They didn’t give up anything. They didn’t give up one player that they didn’t get something better back for. …To me, they became the No. 1 team in the East overnight.”

In addition to athleticism, outside shooting was also something the Cavs sorely lacked, and simply trading away their worst shooters means addition by subtraction. Of Cleveland’s seven worst 3-point shooters, six of them were traded away at the deadline.

Meanwhile, George Hill leads the NBA among qualifiers at 45.3 percent from beyond the arc, and Rodney Hood is shooting a career-high 39 percent from deep.

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The only downside in the trades is that the Cavs’ luxury tax bill increases, but it will be worth it if they can prove Barkley right and at least win the Eastern Conference.

Maybe just as important as upgrading the team for a postseason run is keeping LeBron James happy. He is expected to decline his player option after the season and become a free agent, but the Cavs’ roster is looking more appetizing now than it did at the start of Thursday.

James said he liked the moves the team made and now it’s on him to get his new teammates up to speed.

“It’s my job to get these guys integrated as fast as possible,” James said Friday. “I know the coaching staff and [coach] T Lue is going to do it as well, but it’s my job to get these guys on the same page with us where we want to accomplish what we want to do. I look forward to getting them here. … All four of them are pretty smart guys, and it should be fun.”

As for having his BFF Dwyane Wade sent back to Miami, James thinks the move was best for all sides involved.

“I’m happy as hell for D-Wade. He gets to go back home,” James said. “That’s how it should be. I’ve always felt that’s where his heart and his mind was. I think it’s going to be great for him.

“It wasn’t tough. We’re both 15 years in the league. We know how the business is. But more important, we know we see each other all the time anyway, so, ‘Get out of here, D-Wade.'”

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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