Answer: Based on the pattern of the leaves coming out, it is possible the tree suffered some freeze damage earlier this spring and lost foliage buds at the upper part of the tree. (The lower part of the tree would have had some protection due to the branches above and might have avoided damage as a result.) If this is a possibility, it should releaf sometime in May or so.
It is better to avoid pruning cherries unless it is really necessary such as when the branches are truly dead. Live wood will be supple and have a layer of green just inside the bark. Dead wood will be off color gray or brown, be brittle, and snap off in your hand.
Root disturbance could weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to pest or disease or cold damage, yes. However without seeing the tree it is difficult to make a diagnosis. You might also want to consult with your local county extension before assuming it is dead or dying.
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