The Cleveland Cavaliers know they need help defensively and they know that help isn’t likely to come from within.
So that naturally puts them on the lookout for top-flight defenders as the Feb. 8 trade deadline closes in.
As league sources told Amico Hoops a few weeks back, the Cavs undoubtedly have an interest in Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan — and Jordan has repeatedly been linked to the Cavs.
It’s become pretty clear the Clippers are open to moving Jordan, but it’s also evident they aren’t going to just give him away for nothing. They want a draft pick, and if you’re talking Cavs, you’d better believe the Clippers would want the Cavs’ first-rounder from the Brooklyn Nets.
With the Nets looking like an actual team this season, that pick may not be as valuable as it once was to the Cavs. But it is still valued by them and the rest of the league. When it comes to the NBA draft lottery, you never know how the ping-pong balls may drop.
Basically, no one really expects the Nets to make the playoffs, so the pick is still considered an asset.
Granted, the Cavs don’t want to trade the pick — unless they think moving it will bring back a player that moves them considerably closer to a championship.
Jordan, 29, could be such a player. He is a 6-foot-11 rebounding and shot-blocking machine, finishing off passes with thunderous dunks.
He’s been especially good lately, averaging 13.0 points and a whopping 15.6 rebounds in the last 10 games. That includes a 26-point, 17-board effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, Jordan does have his flaws. He can’t shoot free throws — though he is up to 61 percent this season, a marked improvement over his career mark of 48 percent.
Nor does he solve the Cavs’ issues on perimeter defense.
If the Cavs were to make a trade Jordan, the first man to go would be center Tristan Thompson, someone the Clippers would insist on in return. Thompson is having an off season (though he’s been better as of late), but even at his worst, he can get out on the wing and defend when switched onto perimeter players.
As for Jordan, well, it’s safe to say that’s not his strength.
Either way, the Cavs would probably be willing to deal Thompson and Channing Frye in a deal for Jordan. They’d be much more willing to include their own pick (likely to be somewhere in the 20s) than the one from the Nets.
Jordan, by the way, is making $22 million with a player option for $24 million next year.
Right now, it seems like the Cavs are just sort of thinking about Jordan, and not acting on anything. As one source told Amico Hoops last month, they are merely “sniffing around” the idea of trading for the Clippers’ big man.
So a lot could still happen, with other players and perhaps teams getting thrown into the mix. Or nothing at all could happen and the Cavs could target lesser names, at a lesser cost, who may help just as much or more.
The key is to improve the D. Regardless of how the Cavs go about it or who they pursue, that is the mission before the trade deadline passes them by.