Trade season is upon us, with the deadline to make a deal now less than a month away. And man, the Cleveland Cavaliers could use a deal. Or two.
1. So, the Cavs are struggling. They’ve lost four straight and nine of 12. You knew that already. The defense is terrible and the offense is suddenly down to three guys — LeBron James, Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas. And Thomas is 5-foot-9 and still finding his legs. You probably already knew that, too.
2. Basically, there are reasons I keep writing the Cavs need to make a trade. It may soundscrazy, but I honestly think the Cavs can get out of the East as currently constructed. I do not, however, think they can beat the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series with this roster and this rotation. I’m not even sure they could beat the Warriors once. And James has been as magnificent as ever.
3. According to multiple sources, the Cavs are indeed trying to make a move before the Feb. 8 deadline. That’s not exactly breaking news. The New York Times already quoted one source as saying general manager Koby Altman will “definitely swing at least one deal.” Altman is expected to be especially aggressive as the deadline gets closer. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if the Cavs have several trade options heading into the deadline’s final hours.
4. Plenty of available names are already popping up around the league as potential trade candidates — from Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic and Justin Holiday, to Utah’s Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood, to New York’s Michael Beasley and Courtney Lee, to the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. Expect even more to come out within the next week or two. Expect the Cavs to take a look at them all.
5. The Orlando Magic, in town tonight, are another team that is supposedly having a fire sale. Swingman Evan Fournier is intriguing and supposedly available. But opposing teams, including the Cavs, don’t view him as someone who would put a contender over the top.
6. Also keep a close eye on the Sacramento Kings. They have already indicated the plan is to focus mostly on their young players, with the older guys taking a back seat or getting shipped out. Actually, the Kings have said nothing about possible trades, but you can read between the lines here.
7. My sources keep telling me the Cavs are interested in Kings guard George Hill, who seems to want out of Sacramento. If true, the Cavs may hold off on such conversations until they get another piece or two first.
8. The Cavs don’t need to land a superstar. They only need a player or players who fit. If they do make a trade, don’t expect it to knock your socks off. It could happen, but the odds are against it. For one, not many true game-changers are available, and for two, the Cavs may not have the goods to get one. At least, not if they plan to keep that Brooklyn pick.
9. That said, the Cavs will indeed move the pick in the right deal. They aren’t expecting to find that trade, but you never know what can happen in the final hours before the deadline, when desperation tends to set in for opposing teams.
10. Aside from James and Love, the Cavs don’t appear to have any untouchables. I doubt they would move Thomas. And while they would be open to trading just about anyone else, good luck finding takers for Jae Crowder and especially J.R. Smith. Neither starter has exactly put together the type of season that will have opposing executives knocking down Altman’s door.
11. Either way, again, all the Cavs really need is to do is find someone who fits. A rim protector or wing defender (or preferably, both) are the priorities. Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert appear to be the starting points when it comes to potential talks with other teams. Also, rookie Cedi Osman is drawing lots of interest across the league. The Cavs’ preference is to keep him.
12. Thompson has two years and more than $35 million left on his contract after this season. It would likely take attaching a draft pick to trade him. The Cavs are more than willing to move their own first-rounder, likely to fall somewhere in the mid-20s.
13. Meanwhile, Shumpert has a player option of $11 million this summer. With the way things have gone for him lately, most teams need to assume he will take the option. The Cavs really struggled to move him over the summer, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. It should be easier to deal him now, if that’s the path they choose.
14. A lot can and will happen between now and Feb. 8 in terms of opposing players who become available. There is also the post-deadline buyout market. Trades are a hard thing to predict, because it takes two (or sometimes three or even four teams) to tango.
15. Some teams that are faring well now may go in the tank within the next few weeks. That will alter who’s available and open more doors for the Cavs. On the bright side, this is always a good time for contenders in the NBA. They usually find help via the teams looking to dump salary and start over or land more draft picks.
16. The Cavs don’t have a ton to offer, but they do have enough to get some help. They are set up well, or at least well enough. It’s up to Altman to take it from here, and that appears to be his plan.