On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cavaliers' protected first round pick in 2018 ahead of the trade deadline.
When analyzing why the Lakers would make this trade, one should keep in mind that Thomas and Frye both have expiring contracts, so this move will free up more cap space for the Lakers' front office to go out and attract top level free agents in the upcoming summer or provide enough space to sign a big free agent and sign restricted free agent Julius Randle.
By getting Clarkson off the books and taking on two expiring contracts, the Lakers now have the means to make the pipe dream of signing both LeBron James and Paul George a reality. Whether or not that dream comes to life, though, remains to be seen.
So, why did Cleveland make this trade? Well, Nance is a great role player and a strong front line defender. Clarkson, meanwhile, promises instant scoring off the bench and better size than Thomas provided the Cavs defensively. In truth, both Clarkson and Nance improve the Cavs defensively when considering the two players Cleveland sent to LA.
In short, Cleveland improved its chances of returning to a fourth straight NBA finals with the trade.
Judging how successful this trade is for the Lakers will come down to what the team does with its salary cap space in the summer of 2018 and beyond. Frye should not be expected to be a long-term fit in LA, while Thomas could be part of the team's future if he can bounce back to the level of play he displayed in Boston only a season earlier.
Still, the Lakers have a rookie point guard in Lonzo Ball that expects to be the future of the franchise, so Thomas' long-term future in LA is suspect at best.