In one of last week’s more under the radar moves before the NBA trade deadline was the trade orchestrated by the Cleveland Cavaliers to acquire Orlando Magic power forward Channing Frye.
The move was not one which made huge news, as Frye is far from a big name, and had only started in 29 of the 44 appearances he had made for the Magic this year.
It is therefore odd that this is regarded as a very impressive deal for the Cavaliers, trading for a 32-year-old who is averaging only 5.1 points per game this season.
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But when you look closer into the deal, you begin to see how Frye could potentially be a game-changer for the Cavaliers in their quest to bring a first NBA title to the city of Cleveland.
Cavaliers forced to give up fan favourite for Frye
Frye’s deal saw the Cavaliers also clear themselves of Anderson Varejao, who was sent to Portland, before he was bought out and ironically signed with the Golden State Warriors, one of the Cavaliers biggest rivals for this year’s NBA title.
For Frye, Cleveland represents an opportunity to be part of a championship winning side, something he must have hardly expected the chance to have after being forced to sit out the entire 2012-13 season with an enlarged heart.
Meanwhile, getting rid of Varejao must not have been an easy decision for the Cavaliers front office, as the center has been a fan favourite in Cleveland for some time, having spent his entire 12-year NBA career at the franchise until last week.
However, it was necessary in order to bring Frye to the team, who will be able to offer the side more than Varejao, who was too similar of a player to the Cavs current backup center Timofey Mozgov.
Losing the Brazilian will be seen as a sacrifice the team are willing to make, as Frye opens up many more options for Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, and could possibly be key come playoff time.
Much like Jeff Green’s trade to the LA Clippers, Frye moving to the Cavs gives them an extra threat of having a destructive smaller line-up.
Cleveland are already a ‘small’ team, as they opt to start Tristan Thompson at the center position instead of the seven-foot Russian, Mozgov.
Thompson is not a prototypical small ball center though, as even though he has the ability to guard multiple positions, as was shown in last season’s Finals, he has a very limited offensive game.
Frye can stretch the floor
This is where Frye comes in. At the age of 32 he will by no means be a starter with the team, but the 10-20 minutes he will likely play could prove to be extremely important.
Throughout his NBA career so far, Frye shoots the ball from long range at a higher percentage than almost every other power forward, with his career three-point percentage at 38.6%.
So far this season, he is shooting 39% from deep, and this option will give the Cavs the opportunity to play even smaller than they already do, by shifting him along to center.
Although the move is seen as going smaller, it will actually be making the side bigger, as 6’11” Frye is two inches taller than Thompson.
But the addition means it is now possible to create a line-up where LeBron James is surrounded by four teammates who can all shoot a high three-point percentage, and may finally give them a chance to compete with the Warriors’ small lineup.
In last year’s Finals, the Warriors opted to turn to smaller starting five when two games to one down, a decision which ultimately turned the series in their favour.
Cleveland had no answer to it and lost the next three games to lose 4-2, but they may now finally have a line-up which is as strong as the Warriors.
Frye will stretch the floor with his shooting, which in turn will allow more space to let the Cavaliers’ big three of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving thrive against the opposition.
It may not have been a major trade, but the Frye move could be just as key come the season’s finale.
However, the Finals are still a long way away, and Frye must focus on adapting to his new team in Cleveland and helping the side win the Eastern Conference.
After that, he can begin to dream of a first NBA title.