With the 2017-18 NBA season only ending a little bit ago, things are buzzing in Northeast Ohio. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ future is currently in limbo, with everything hinging on whether LeBron James will either leave or return. With the team at a crossroads, there will be some big changes.
If James does stay, the team is currently not equipped to battle against either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets for an NBA Championship. Outside of James and Kevin Love, no one on the aging Cavs roster strikes fear in the hearts of either team. In order to do that, the team will need to trade away the last member of their old Big Three.
Then, a light shining down from above graced the city of Cleveland that may help them change up the roster:
Bobby Marks says on the show that he's heard some rumblings about the Grizzlies attaching Chandler Parsons to the No. 4 pick and moving back in the draft.
— John Martin (@JohnMartin929) June 12, 2018
Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies put on a masterclass tank job and came up short by securing the fourth overall pick despite one of the worst records in the league. Then, team owner Robert Pera went on record saying that the team can win 50 games next year.
And yet, even if the Cavs were to move Love to the Grizzlies, they still need to keep moving assets to appease James.
But then, another light shining from above hit the city, showing that maybe God does love Cleveland and wants them to keep James:
Kawhi Leonard wants out from the San Antonio Spurs, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 15, 2018
If Kawhi Leonard wants out from the San Antonio Spurs, all 29 teams, including Cleveland should be calling. If the Cavs wanted to get creative they could try and negotiate a three-team deal between them, the Grizzlies, and the Spurs:
- Memphis Grizzlies receive: Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Pick #8 in 2018 NBA Draft
- San Antonio Spurs receive: Chandler Parsons, Pick #4 in 2018 NBA Draft
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Kawhi Leonard, Pick #18 in 2018 NBA Draft
For the Grizzlies, Robert Pera gets exactly what he is looking for in acquiring Love. They will now have their own big three of Love, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol (barring he does not leave in free agency, which seems unlikely). They can also still meet their other goal of moving down in the draft in landing a wing like Mikal Bridges or Miles Bridges to round out their starting unit. That roster, on paper, could easily win 50 games and be in the thick of the Western Conference.
For the Spurs, they will likely have a fire sale as they move on from Leonard. The best place for them to start would be acquiring the fourth pick in a loaded draft class. The best, and possibly most Spurs-like player they can likely obtain is European sensation Luka Doncic.
Doncic, who has been in the spotlight even before his voice changed, is a dynamic 6-foot-8 scoring wing who fits the mold of a point forward like Ben Simmons or LeBron James. Losing Leonard is tough, but being able to get the best player in the 2018 NBA Draft is a great consolation prize.
Finally, for the Cavs, this would be the first major step in retooling the team for another title run and keeping James in his kingdom.
Leonard is without the best perimeter player in the league and Cavs Nation recently broke down what he would bring to the table:
“With the team obtaining Leonard, along with James entering his sixteenth season next year, the Cavs finally find a proper defensive option to compliment James. Fans had to sell themselves on the tandem of James and Jae Crowder last year, but now they have the best perimeter defender in the league in Leonard. The duo can suffocate teams during the regular season, and turn it up to eleven during the playoffs.
On offense, the Cavs also takes a huge step compared to seasons before. Both Leonard and James can take turns carrying the offense, as they can create for themselves and others from all over the floor.”
If the Cavs were to obtain Leonard in a draft night deal then James will likely re-up with the team when the clock hits midnight on July 1.
At least, that is what most would assume, as Leonard would likely need a promise from James to stay in Cleveland if he were OK with going there in the first place.
But there are a few caveats that may hold the Cavs back from trading for Leonard. Most of all being the fact that Leonard is adamant about wanting to head to the Los Angeles Lakers:
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard has Los Angeles — preferably the Lakers — at the center of his preferences for a trade destination, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2018
This situation reeks a lot of the Paul George situation from last year, who the Cavs were firmly in talks in acquiring. But, the Indiana Pacers pulled out of the proposed trade, sent George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and George is still likely headed to the Lakers.
Would the Cavs be willing to trade for Leonard, then? If he has made his intentions clear, like George, that he wants to play in Los Angeles then maybe not.
The Cavs were extremely hesitant at the NBA trade deadline this year to involve their coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick, and were only able to save locker room chemistry in bringing in George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson. The team made it pretty obvious that it would take a lot to pry away their first-round pick since it serves as a contingency plan in the event James leaves again.
If James does leave, they would obviously pull themselves out of the Leonard sweepstakes. But, they still should pursue the above-mentioned hypothetical Grizzlies trade. Here is how that trade would go down:
- Memphis Grizzlies receive: Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, two future second-round picks
- Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Chandler Parsons, Pick #4 in 2018 NBA Draft
With this trade, the Cavs would begin their own major rebuild that hopefully mirrors Philadelphia’s process. Well, like for the Spurs earlier, having the fourth overall pick in the 2018 Draft is a great place to start. Also, like the Spurs, the Cavs would also select Doncic. This article could go on for weeks about why Doncic is perfect no matter where he goes so instead, here is a taste of what he would bring to the table for the Cavs:
Doncic is a very special player that could be an MVP someday. He has drawn comparisons to the late great Drazen Petrovic and when you watch him play, you can see why. Arguably the best European prospect since Petrovic, Vlade Divac, and Tony Kukoc, the Cavs rebuild would immediately start on the right path with Doncic as the new face of the franchise.
Then, the Cavs would select again only a few picks later and at eighth overall, they can still get plenty of quality players to add to the young foundation. Whether it was either Bridge from Michigan State or Villanova, or Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr., the Cavs have so many options that Nick Gilbert sums it up best.
After that, the Cavs would also be able to keep a pretty bad roster as they would still be strapped for cash due to Parson’s horrendous contract.
That might be a blessing in disguise for the Cavs, as they will need to be bad to keep their first-round pick for the next two years. If the Cavs’ first-round pick lands outside of the top 10 in 2019, it goes to the Atlanta Hawks. If it does not in 2019, the same conditions apply in 2020. If neither of those conditions are met, it then turns into two second-round picks which would be ideal for the Wine and Golders. Plus, RJ Barrett would look pretty nice in a Cavs uniform heading into the 2019-20 season.
Before any of this happens, the Cavs need to really explore the option of trading Love to the Grizzlies. Their front office is desperate, and on par with the Kings in terms of mediocrity and would easily mortgage their future to win now with Love.
For the Cavs, whether this brings in Leonard from the Spurs to keep James or brings in Euroleague superstar Doncic to begin the rebuild, the Cavs would walk away a much better team.