The Cleveland Cavaliers at are a crossroads. The decision on what road to take is seemingly muddled by the inability, or unwillingness on the part of Lebron James to express clearly a desire to continue the relationship or put an end too it. Is GM Koby Altman looking to rebuild, or reload?
They attempted a rebuild on the fly, an experiment that looked brilliant on day one when they trampled the Celtics on national television following the trade deadline. A result bolstered by what appeared to some to be an improved defense, but in reality was the Celtics missing open shots. The Cavs still had poor defensive rotations, and no consistency in the performances outside of Lebron James and Kevin Love.
They had added George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, and Rodney Hood, believing it made them younger, and more athletic. About four months later, if being honest, the only player acquired they can be happy with is Larry Nance Jr. who did provide a lift off the bench during the playoffs and can’t be accused of taking plays off.
The issue with improving the roster is that the Cavaliers have a bare minimum of tradable assets. They’re over the cap, so any trade in of talent would require a jettison of matching salaries. They have the 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, but would need to acquire another first rounder this year before they could trade #8, as they did not use a 1st rounder last year.
Of their hefty contracts, the only one that is possibly expiring after the 2018-2019 season is Kevin Love (he has a player option for 2019-2020), and if you trade him, it is likely a lateral move, as in spite of him being the whipping boy of the Cavs locker room, he is still an all star caliber player.
So lets for a moment say that the Cavs are gonna fight for their man, what moves can they make to try to bolster their roster? Here are some thoughts:
POSSIBILITY #1: A Combo Meal
Cavs send Cedi Osman to Atlanta for the #30 pick:
This is done to satisfy the every other year draft pick rule. Osman is one of the few tradable assets they have due to his age and contract, and Atlanta has 3 first round picks. They likely couldn’t do better at 30 than Cedi Osman.
Cavs send Jordan Clarkson & #8 pick to Charlotte for Kemba Walker:
Clarkson is sent to make the salaries work, but the primary components are the #8 for Walker. At that point the Hornets can look to pair their own first rounder (#11) with #8 to move up, or look to walk away from a draft with quality throughout the lottery with two selections. Walker is a free agent after this season and this would be a case of the Hornets getting a valuable pick instead of seeing him walk for nothing.
From the Cavs perspective they would be adding an all star caliber point guard, HOPEFULLY letting Lebron play off the ball more (I say hopefully because if Lebron was on a team with Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, and Damien Lilliard I still don’t think he’d want to play off the ball), while creating their own “big 3” with James, Love, Walker.
POSSIBILITY #2: Combo Meal #2
Cavs still send Cedi Osman to Atlanta for the #30 pick
Cavs send Jordan Clarkson, Tristan Thompson & #8 pick to Memphis for Mike Conley:
Why would the Cavs do this? Because as good as the #8 pick player (whomever that may be, see our Mock draft post for whom I’m projecting to Cleveland there) is, a youth movement isn’t likely to make Lebron keen on staying. Conley is an all star caliber point guard (I understand he’s not an all star, but that speaks more to the depth of the point guard position in the west then it does to Conley’s skill level).
Why would the Grizzlies do this? Because they are in desperate need to kick off a rebuilt. This would give them 2 picks in the top 8, while still having a tradable asset in Marc Gasol. They may hold out and try to get the Cavs to take Chandler Parsons as well (which would inolve the Cavs then including players such as J.R. Smith & Kyle Korver to make the money work). The idea of getting 2 picks in this draft has to be enticing as it is a deeper draft than what next year’s draft is expected to be, and they need to get the young pieces in the door now, as they owe a first rounder to Boston in the next few years. It is protected top 8 in 2019, top 6 in 2020, and unprotected in 2021. Which is to say that they’ll be pickless one year soon.
POSSIBILITY 3: Reboot the reboot
Cavs send Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Ante Zizic to Detroit for Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson
In this scenario the Cavs would have to hope that Lebron has no interest in keeping J.R. Smith, which if he is sane, he would have interest in. The Pistons are bringing in a new coach, a new regime. This would give them an opportunity to move on from the big financial commitments made by the prior crew when they traded for Griffin and handed Jackson a large contract extension. Love is still an all star talent, and though far more durable, has a bit lower of a ceiling than Griffin does, that and his perimeter skills likely pairs better with Drummond on the block rather than Griffin.
From the Cavs point of view, they’d be banking on health. If healthy Griffin and Jackson are an upgrade over Love and Smith, while allowing the Cavs to retain the #8 pick (or to flip this pick, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to pair this trade with one of the above combos)
POSSIBILITY #4: Trying to get young, because they’re restless
Cavs trade Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson #8, and 2020 1st for Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and #30 pick
The Hawks currently own 3 first rounders in this year’s draft. Their rebuild started off decently last year as John Collins provided quality minutes as a rookie, but they could begin their own version of the process with three picks in the top 16 (3, 8, 16), while also adding another future first (likely with protections JUST in case Lebron leaves).
The Cavs would be interested for a couple of reasons, one being Denis Schroder being an upgrade at the point guard position (and he has grumbled recently about not wanting to be part of the Hawks rebuild), and the others being getting the Hawks, with cap room, to take on the contracts of Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson. The bonus being Kent Bazemore. Bazemore is a player that has little to no value as a 3&D player on a rebuilding squad, but would fit in perfectly with the Cavs. It wouldn’t provide what I’d consider to be a “Big 3”, it would improve the Cavs financially moving forward, while also providing a slight boost to the talent level, as Schroder isn’t “Big 3” good, but he’s not to far from it.
These are just some possibilities, I’m sure in the 3 weeks between now and when free agency kicks off every permutation of outcomes will be reviewed. The only thing we know is that the Cavs have got to take a page from Shawshank Redemption, they’ve got to get busy living, or get busy dying. Maintaining the status quo is not going to work for anyone.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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