Cavaliers trade scenarios: What I’m hearing ahead of the NBA trade deadline
With the N.B.A With the trade deadline just three weeks away, one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ biggest questions centers around their small starting point guard.
Anything can happen at this point in the season. For example, the Cavs acquired Dear LeVert just days before last year’s deadline.
I could Cleveland Looking for an upgrade at small forward before February 9th? Do the Cavs have the wherewithal to do it? Or should they roll with their current group until the end of the season? There are a few factors that influence this conversation.
Let’s dive in.
Salary limit situation
The first factor we will examine is Cleveland’s finances. According to Spotrac , the Cavs are over the salary cap by $29.6 million and roughly $2.5 million below the luxury tax line. If the Cavs pass the luxury tax, the repeat offender tax won’t be far behind.
Cleveland also doesn’t have much available in terms of first-round assets to use before the deadline. He is due the team’s first-round pick in 2023 Indiana due to the aforementioned acquisition of LeVert. The Cavs have a 2024 first-round pick, but that pick can’t be moved until next year’s NBA Draft night. His remaining first-round picks through 2029 were included in the trade of Donovan Mitchell as direct elections (2025, 2027, 2029) or selection exchanges (2026 and 2028).
If contending teams pick up the first-round price for a trade, Cleveland’s lack of those assets could prove to be a problem in sweetening a deal.
The small front point
The Cavs have tried multiple options at wing this season, starting with Caris LeVert and then moving on to Lamar Stevens i Isaac Okoro. Dean Wade was also part of that group, but has dealt with injuries in the first half of the season.
LeVert earned the starting spot after an impressive training camp and preseason. However, after the Cavs’ five-game losing streak in November, there was a change in the starting lineup, with Stevens filling in at small forward. It was a mutual decision between LeVert and coach JB Bickerstaff, as LeVert had approached Bickerstaff about coming off the bench to get more hands on the ball in the second unit to create for himself and his mates.
“He’s been aggressive, and that’s who we thought Caris was,” Bickerstaff said recently of LeVert. “We know he’s a capable goalscorer, but he’s also a playmaker. And I think he’s starting to find some comfort and to find a rhythm, to understand where his points come from.”
LeVert’s contract makes him a marketable asset as he has an expiring contract worth $18.8 million and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Cavs, however, have expressed an appreciation for what LeVert brings to their group.
His role doesn’t change much either, even with Ricky Rubio back to guard mix. Bickerstaff described Rubio’s presence as making LeVert’s job easier. Rubio can be the facilitator while LeVert can be aggressive, make a play or finish one-on-one.
When Stevens entered the starting lineup, he brought a defensive presence to that group. But in December, he missed three games with knee pain, and Okoro was inserted into the starting lineup. The starting job has been ping-ponged over the last month between the two, as Stevens re-entered the starting lineup for four games before Okoro started the Cavs’ round of 16.
In that eight-game stretch, however, Okoro has looked strong on both ends of the floor. He’s knocking down 3s, cutting to the basket for layups and being physical on defense. Okoro has shot 60.9 percent from 3 and 58.7 percent from the field over the past eight games. His 17 points against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday marked a season high.
“I mean, it’s about earning what you get and fitting in with the group in front of you,” Bickerstaff said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think Isaac has done that. Again, we’ve talked about it over and over. He’s a tireless worker and a great teammate. All he wants to do is help the team win and support the people in the best possible way. So to me, it’s like you want guys like that to be rewarded, and I think he has. You look at him, his shooting numbers have continued to improve, his aggressiveness has improved. Again, we’re trying to figure out the best piece for this team, and we’ve put a lot of time into Isaac, we believe in Isaac, and we just want to give him a chance to be successful.”
The other option the Cavs have had at small forward is Wade. The 26-year-old was working to recover from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since December 2 when he injured his ankle when he stepped on a player’s foot in the practice a week and a half ago, a league source said. The Athletic.
“He’s not [doing] five-on-five still,” Bickerstaff said after Tuesday’s practice. “Again, because of where he was before, it’s not going to take that much to get him going again because it wasn’t that big of a setback.”
Wade agreed to a contract extension in September and, under league rules, cannot be traded for six months after signing an extension. But the Cavs like what Wade brings to the table with his size, length, big feet, floor spacing, perimeter shooting and defense.
Cleveland has multiple options at small forward, and all have seen time in the starting lineup over the first half of the season. Is there a player on the trade market that Cleveland would consider a better fit?
Potential commercial targets
As the deadline approaches, other names could emerge as the landscape changes. Here are two recently reported names that the Cavs are somehow connected to.
The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported on Tuesday that the Cavs are among the teams showing interest in Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanović. The veteran forward, who signed an extension with the Pistons in October and is under contract through 2025, could provide spacing and perimeter shooting. He’s shooting 41.5 percent from 3 this season.
NBA Correspondent Marc Stein also recently reported this the Cavs have considered a three-team trade between the Utah Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks in which the Cavs would acquire Malik Beasley from the Jazz, the Hawks would send John Collins to Utah and LeVert would head to Atlanta.
(Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today)
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