Grade the Trade: Cleveland Cavaliers make all-in push in surprise deadline proposal

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After attaining the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are positioned for a massive push for the playoffs with the trade deadline nigh.

Amid a six-game win streak, the Cavaliers have overthrown the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings en route to the top of the East. Cleveland's 14-1 record over their last 15 games and 104.8 defensive rating in that stretch both lead the NBA. The Cavs have yet to lose after regaining their young stars Evan Mobley and Darius Garland from prolonged injuries.

While the Cavaliers' depth and in-season improvement have shined since their early-season squaller, they can make a final bid for the Larry O'Brien trophy at the 2024 trade buzzer. The Cavs have reclaimed their defensive dominance with the second-best defensive rating this season, but their offensive downfalls leave them in place to take a step forward before the postseason run. Though the Cavaliers have entered the top 10 teams in three-pointers attempted per game with 37 each night, Cleveland's middling 36.2 percent from deep places them only 19th in the league.

Recent reports suggest the Cavaliers may stay quiet at the deadline, but their conference rivals have made moves before the deadline that threaten the Cavs' chances to win a seven-game series. With weighty expectations, faltering and coming up short in the playoffs again could spell serious trouble for Cleveland's future.

Before the deadline, the Cavaliers showed reported interest in 3-and-D wings, including last year's near-Cavalier Royce O'Neale. Any deal the Cavs make cannot threaten their defense in lieu of floor spacing, and finding another veteran leader for the locker room should also top their list of priorities. Few players can fill this role at the cost the Cavaliers' depleted draft options can pay, but the right deal can still emerge.

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