After a hot start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers cooled off as All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell has come back to earth. However, while Mitchell’s sudden inability to find the rim was a major reason for the Cavs inability to keep their momentum, there were myriad factors in their decline.
Cleveland is just 26th in the league scoring average with 111.8 points per game, and that doesn’t fall on Mitchell or backcourt mate Darius Garland. The duo is averaging 48.8 points per game combined, and when factoring in their combined 13.0 assists per game, it’s clear that the offense is all but dependent on their success.
On the other end of the spectrum are wings Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert, as well as veteran forward Kevin Love.
Okoro, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is averaging a career-low 6.3 points in 20.7 minutes per game. However, as Okoro has never held a double-digit scoring average for a complete season, the problem extends far past his current production. Though an impressive defender, one now has to wonder what Okoro’s ceiling is realistically rather than ideally.
The Cavs essentially picked LeVert over guard Collin Sexton because they preferred his length, defensive potential and play style. However, the seven-year veteran is averaging just 12.4 points in 30.8 minutes per game and shooting just 41.3 percent from the field to boot.
Lastly, Love, who has been declining for years. Defensively, Love is nearly unplayable. Offensively, the 15-year veteran is averaging a career-low 8.5 points in 20.0 minutes per game. Even worse, the 34-year-old is shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from 3-point range.
With the NBA trade deadline only one day away, the Cavs have to address these issues. That means trading LeVert, Love and Okoro in order to acquire starting small forward that they can rely on offensively.
The Cavs must acquire forward Bojan Bogdanovic by the trade deadline
The NBA landscape is a bit barren if you’re looking for an efficient starting small forward that’s available but there is one team and one player that could help the Cavs more than most ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline: the Detroit Pistons and forward Bojan Bogdanovic.
Currently in a state of rebuild while navigating past the season-ending injury suffered by 2021 first overall pick Cade Cunningham, the Pistons can afford to move the 33-year-old Bogdanovic. Keep in mind that when the Pistons acquired Bogdanovic, they only had to send big man Kelly Olynyk and guard Saben Lee to Utah.
However, recent rumors suggest that Detroit — who signed Bogey to a contract extension soon after the trade — has him in their long-term plans.
Nonetheless, plans can change. Especially for the right price.
As for whether Bogdanovic would be worth going the extra mile, the former second-round pick is currently averaging 21.4 points per game on 48.9 percent from the field and 42.0 percent from 3-point range. He’s averaged 19.0 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.1 percent shooting from 3-point range over the past four seasons.
Elite when scoring off-ball and off screens, he’s exactly the type of player Cleveland needs offensively. Especially as a former teammate of Mitchell, which should only make it easier for him to gel with the Cavs’ offense.
In terms of the trade parameters, the conversation should start with LeVert. Though he’s underwhelmed with the Cavs, reputation carries players a long way, and his reputation is that of a wing with plenty of untapped potential. He also has an expiring $18.8 million contract that could be enticing to the Pistons.
Cleveland could also offer the Pistons cap relief by offering Love, who has a $28.9 million expiring contract and could be a post-trade buyout candidate.
However, the player that could entice Detroit the most is Okoro. With a starting backcourt of Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, players relied on for their offensive contributions, Okoro’s on-ball defense will complement them when he comes off the bench. Furthermore, although he struggles as a jump shooter, Okoro’s athleticism, ability to finish at the rim and playmaking ability could make him the perfect backup to Ivey and a potential spot-starter in the event of injury.
Okoro’s contract has an $8.9 million team option for next season. As a result, not only could the Pistons keep him past this season, but they can offer him a contract extension at a reasonable rate.
Ultimately, a between the Cavs and the Pistons could look like this:
DET receives: Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro and two second-round picks
CLE receives: Bojan Bogdanovic and Rodney McGruder
With Bogey in Cleveland and the offense playing at a high level, the Cavs would be legitimate Eastern Conference Finals contenders. Thats why it’s the one trade Cleveland needs to make before the clock expires.