BY SAM AMICO
If the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets are indeed talking trade, as an ESPN report suggested, here is what you need to know:
1. The Cavs are exploring the idea of trading for veteran shooting guard Joe Johnson. In return, they would send the nonguaranteed contract of center Brenden Haywood to the Nets. Another potential moving part in the deal could be (gasp) longtime Cavs big man Anderson Varejao.
2. Along with angling for Johnson, the Cavs are reportedly recruiting free agent power forward David West, most recently of the Indiana Pacers. West opted out of a contract that was set to pay him just more than 13 million next season.
3. Without going into too many financial details, just know that the aforementioned moves would involve lots of salary — and would benefit both teams. Haywood has a contract worth $10.5 million, but it can be wiped off a team’s books if he’s waived before Aug. 1. In today’s cash-conscious NBA, that counts for a lot.
4. From a basketball standpoint, Johnson turned 34 a few weeks ago. West turns 35 next month. But both remain productive pros and would be an obvious upgrade over Varejao and Haywood. Injuries have greatly diminished Varejao’s value, as he’s played more than 31 games just once in the previous five seasons. Haywood rarely got off the bench last year and looks ready for retirement.
5. Varejao has also spent his entire 11-year career with Cleveland. Despite missing so much time, he’s a fan favorite, a good friend to star LeBron James, and one of the faces of the franchise. Trading Varejao would not be easy for the Cavs.
6. Meanwhile, Johnson admittedly spent portions of the last few years playing in pain. Most of his issues are in the knees. He averaged 14.4 points this past season — his lowest scoring output in 12 years. But if the Cavs lose J.R. Smith in free agency (they very well could), they need someone to score from the perimeter. Johnson remains reliable in that department.
7. West averaged 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds this past season. His scoring average was the lowest it’s been in his five years with Indiana. But there’s no doubt West could be a solid backup to Kevin Love, and when the Cavs go small, perhaps even to center Timofey Mozgov.
8. A lot will still have to happen for all of this to actually take place. For one, West will have to accept a massive pay cut. Reports say he’s willing to do that to play for a contender such as the Cavs. We shall see.
9. As for the rest, the Nets must be willing to follow through with cutting salary (namely, Haywood’s). That wouldn’t seem like a problem, especially if they view Johnson as someone who’s on the decline. The Nets also traded backup center Mason Plumlee (to Portland). So they could surely use a capable, hustling big body in reserve. Varejao is the very definition of that.
10. Finally, there’s no telling if the Cavs and Nets are close to a deal. The Cavs still have to re-sign Tristan Thompson, and yes, LeBron. General manager David Griffin appears to be working on several things at once. So a trade with the Nets may not be a high priority. But it may be something that’s being discussed, and something that may be worth pulling off in the end.