The Cleveland Cavaliers came into existence as an expansion team in 1970 under the ownership of a young entrepreneur by the name of Nick Mileti. Over the years, the team has been involved in several noteworthy trades. Some proved to be fruitful, while others wilted into irrelevancy. In this piece, we’ll take a look back at the Cavaliers best trades in franchise history.
5: Dec. 15, 1982 – Ron Brewer to the Warriors for World B. Free
Older generations of Cavs fans will remember World B. Free as the man who brought excitement back to Richfield Coliseum in an era when then-owner Ted Stepian had emptied the seats due to his mismanagement of the team.
With his unique floater and flashy style of play, Free turned his career around with the Cavs. He played just over three seasons with Cleveland, averaging 23.0 points.
4: Jan. 5, 2015 – Dion Waiters to the Thunder. Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert
The Cavs were looking for talented shooters to play alongside LeBron James, who announced that he would be returning to his hometown team in 2014. They found what they were looking for in Smith and Shumpert — two players who would go on to help Cleveland claim its first NBA championship in 2016.
Though he had a blunder in the playoffs against the Warriors in later years, Smith proved to be an effective shooter — one that could get hot at the drop of a hat. Shumpert was also a great shooter, but pesky defense was his true hallmark. Oh, and that flat-top hairstyle.
— NBA (@NBA) May 27, 2015
3: June 6, 1986 – Roy Hinson to the 76ers for 1986 first-round pick (Brad Daugherty)
Brad Daugherty is a name that many Cavs fans love and respect to this day. If there is a Mount Rushmore for players of this team, he would surely be on it. In fact, the former No. 1 overall pick can still be found at or near the top of several all-time categories in franchise history, including points (3rd) and rebounds (4th).
“Hooch,” as Daugherty was known, proved to be one of the best acquisitions in Cavaliers history. At seven feet and 245 pounds, he was a force in the paint. And though he could throw it down with the best of them, he was also a great facilitator (7th on the Cavs’ all-time list).
Rightfully so, Daugherty was a unanimous selection to the All-Time Cleveland Cavalier team during the 1999–2000 campaign, and his No. 43 jersey now hangs in the rafters. Playing alongside other greats like Mark Price, Ron Harper, John “Hot Rod” Williams and Craig Ehlo, the Cavs became a real Eastern Conference threat in the 90s.
2: Aug. 23, 2014 – Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and a trade exception to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
Though he’s dealt with a fair amount of injuries, Kevin Love cracks our top-3.
Like the trade for Smith and Shumpert, the Cavs were looking to bring in proven talent to play alongside LeBron James. That talent came in the form of Kevin Love, who had already made a name for himself with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Love is known as a double-double machine. The former UCLA standout cleans the glass better than your grandmother, yet he can still knock down a three with a hand in his face. This is exactly the type of stretch big that most teams look for in today’s NBA.
In Game 7 of 2016 NBA Finals, Love etched his name in Cavs lore, defending Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry in the closing seconds. On an island by himself, the 6-10 forward stood his ground against one of the best ball handlers in league history to force a missed three-point shot. Curry tried his best to shake Love’s defense, but to no avail.
Love’s terrific defensive stand is now known as “The Stop:”
1: Feb. 24, 2011 – Jamario Moon and Mo Williams to the Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round draft pick (Kyrie Irving)
Chris Grant, who was serving in his second year as GM of the Cavs, used the pick acquired from the Clippers to select Kyrie Irving from Duke University, despite the fact that he had only played nine games in college due to a ligament injury in his right big toe.
Irving came to the Cavs in uncertain times. LeBron James had announced that he would be “taking his talents to South Beach” a year before (2010). As a result, Kyrie became the face of the franchise. In his rookie season, he averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and shot 46.9 percent from the field, including a 39.9 percent mark from beyond the arc.
Irving’s game continued to blossom throughout the early stages of his stint with the Cavs. His flashy ball-handling and smooth shooting was difficult to match. His popularity grew so much that he was named the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in the 2014 NBA All-Star game. He racked up 31 points and 14 assists in that game and earned All-Star MVP honors.
It wasn’t until 2014 that Cleveland’s Big 3 of James, Irving and Love came to be. In the wake of James’ decision to return to the Cavs, Irving signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension. This outstanding trio would go on to compete in the NBA finals for the next three seasons. Ultimately, though, Irving requested a trade in July of 2017, and the team obliged.
Love isn’t the only Cavs player who left his mark on Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. With just over a minute remaining on the clock, Irving rose up from well beyond the three-point line to knock down what is now known as “The Shot” over the outstretched arm of Stephen Curry. The bucket gave Cleveland a three-point lead, and the team would go on to claim its first title.
Jan. 7, 2015 – 2016 and 2017 first-round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets for Timofey Mozgov and a 2015 second-round draft pick.
Sept. 25, 1997 – Terrell Brandon, Tyrone Hill and a 1998 first-round draft pick to the Milwaukee bucks in a three-way trade that brought Shawn Kemp to Cleveland from the Seattle Supersonics.
Nov. 27, 1975 – Steve Patterson and Eric Fernsten traded to the Chicago Bulls for Nate Thurmond and Rowland Garrett.