A late and seemingly inconsequential signing by the Cavs may suddenly become key to their season

The Cleveland Cavaliers temporarily called off the Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics due to concerns over Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury.

After nabbing an extra draft pick from the Celtics (a future second-rounder), the trade finally went through.

While Irving and Thomas are somewhat similar players and the Cavs did extremely well for themselves by nabbing the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick in the trade, the reports on Thomas’ hip injury should concern the Cavs.

According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Thomas could be out until the All-Star break with the injury.

“No one is willing to put a timeline on when Thomas might return to the court. The fact he isn’t running yet certainly is not a good sign. One source with experience dealing with the type of hip problems Thomas is facing predicted it could be January or even the All-Star break before Thomas returns to game action. That doesn’t leave much time for a new player to establish chemistry and rhythm with a team trying to compete for a championship.”

While Thomas pushed back against the fears over his hip, saying he’ll return and be the same dynamic player he was last season, as Lloyd notes, missing the next six months should be worrisome to the Cavs.

It also puts a direct spotlight on Derrick Rose, perhaps the last viable playmaker on the Cavs. The Cavs signed Rose to a one-year, veteran minimum contract in late July, a signing many thought was insurance or perhaps backup depth for Irving.

Now Rose may suddenly become critical to the Cavs season. Last year with the Knicks, at his best, Rose proved he could carry an offence for spurts with his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. However, many were critical of his unwillingness to pass, lacklustre defence, and continued inability to space the floor. Next to LeBron James, some of those weaknesses can be mitigated. The Cavs would need Rose to be more of a secondary playmaker — a player who could hit the open man after James initiated the offence or attack a close-out and get to the rim.

The problem, however, is that this still puts a ton of pressure on 32-year-old LeBron. Last season, LeBron was forced to play heavy minutes because of the Cavs’ shallow bench and inability to win without him. The problem led to James quite explicitly saying the team needed a “f—ing playmaker.” Without Irving and with Thomas possibly injured until February, that leaves Rose and soon-to-be 36-year-old veteran point guard Jose Calderon.

If Thomas can return quickly and at full health, it won’t be such a problem; in fact, he’d be a nice complement to James in filling a similar role to Irving.

But if Thomas is shelved until January or February, the Cavs will need big minutes from Rose, who, aside from not being able to play heavy minutes because of injuries, also hasn’t proved effective in large minutes. If Rose can’t fulfil that role, James will surely let the team know what they’re missing.

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