As mentioned before by Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, the Cavaliers are one of the teams in talks to acquire star center DeAndre Jordan from the LA Clippers. The most likely trade is involving a package centered around Tristan Thompson, Cedi Osman, and the Cavs own 2018 first-round draft pick. The only thing off of the table for the Cavs in acquiring Jordan would be the coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round draft pick which is much more significant due to the fact that the Cavs can acquire a future superstar in an upcoming top-heavy draft.
Besides the Cavs, there are a myriad of teams that are also in acquiring Jordan from the Clippers. According to Sports Illustrated, these teams include the Washington Wizards, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. This can be a critical blow to the Cavs’ aspirations to acquire Jordan because of some teams, especially the Bucks, have a lot of young talent and trade pieces that the Cavs cannot compete with. In the event the Cavs are unable to land Jordan, something that would be 100% perfect for the team as mentioned before, they still have two extremely possible options to fill the void at the center position.
Before we get started on breaking down the other two options, one thing that should be made clear is that the 2018 Brooklyn Nets draft pick is not on the table in either backup plan for Cleveland. The selection is huge for the future of the Cavs and the only time that general manager Koby Altman should consider trading away the pick is for a player like DeMarcus Cousins or Paul George. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, the likelihood that the New Orleans Pelicans trade away Cousins or the Oklahoma City Thunder move George are beyond slim.
Without further ado, here are the two backup plans for the Cavs to help fix their hole at center, both from two bottom feeding Western Conference teams:
Plan B – Cavs land another top center in Western Conference in Marc Gasol
Before the 2017-18 season, the Grizzlies were the model of winning consistency for multiple seasons lead by Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. The team was an outlier compared to the rest of the NBA as they led by playing staunch defense instead of focusing on offense and the furthest they reached was the Western Conference Finals during the 2012-13 NBA season, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. But eventually key pieces, including Allen and Randolph, eventually left the team and with them a lot of the identity the team was known for.
Fast forward to this season and the Grizzlies, who were known for their “Grit and Grind” mentality are plummeting towards the bottom of the NBA’s Western Conference due to a bunch of factors. First, Conley, one of the highest paid players in the NBA and once a cornerstone of the Grizzlies has not been able to get healthy the last few seasons due to a nagging Achilles injury. Second, the team is strapped for cash due to the fact that they have lost a ton of money on Chandler Parsons who has been injured almost his entire time with the Grizzlies and would much rather spend his time partying instead of trying to get back to the basketball court. Third, the team fired Dave Fizdale, considered one of the best coaching minds in the Association, after he benched Gasol for the entire fourth quarter during a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
When they fired Fizdale, the Grizzlies made it clear that they will gladly side with Gasol, the face of the franchise, over a coach that could lead a team during their next rebuilding phase. But as mentioned before, the cornerstones of “Grint and Grind”, Allen, Randolph, and Conley are either no longer with the team or just not able to stay healthy anymore and they should do Gasol a favor and trade him to a contender instead of spending the last few years of his career stuck in hell rebuilding for the future. They are headed to rock bottom, and fast and should look to try and acquire assets to help keep them viable for the future in a very shallow television market like Memphis.
As mentioned before, the Cavs will not be able to land DeMarcus Cousins from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans have been awesome this season and are looking to keep together their brutal big-man combination of Cousins and superstar forward Anthony Davis.
Instead of going after Cousins, the Cavs should instead look to acquire the second-best center in the Western Conference in Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. The most likely trade scenario that can help the Cavs acquire Gasol’s talents is the same package they can offer the Clippers for Jordan involving Tristan Thompson, Cedi Osman, and their own 2018 first round draft pick.
For Memphis, they can help start their rebuild by acquiring a young center in Thompson and a young wing with a ton of potential in Osman. As mentioned before, they need to move on from the past and look towards the future as they get the best possible offer to begin the rebuild and can then look towards finding a way to shed the contracts of players like Parsons and Conley.
For Gasol, he can be freed from being stuck in a rebuilding phase and like his brother Pau can win a championship ring as soon as he moves away from The Bluff City with the Cavs. He would be able to bring his two best attributes to the table, defense and playmaking, to be able to help the Cavs succeed.
Before their latest game against the Chicago Bulls, the Cavs currently have the fourth-ranked defense, and adding a former Defensive Player of the Year would only bolster that stout defense. He is averaging nearly two blocks and a respectable 9.0 rebounds this season and this combination with superstar forward Kevin Love would be huge for a team that can struggle at times at giving up easy offensive rebounds.
Speaking of Love, the best power forward in the Eastern Conference, if the Cavs were able to land Gasol he would be able to slide Love back to his natural power forward position and his skill set would only be accented by Gasol. The thing is, both Love and Gasol are willing playmakers and the defensive attention that Gasol would demand would give Love much easier three-point opportunities and Love would have a reliable wide receiver in Gasol for his famous touchdown full-court passes.
To give you a better idea of Gasol’s playmaking ability, here are some highlights to feast your eyes on:
The fact that the Cavs starting unit could have five possible playmakers in Gasol, Love, JR Smith, Isaiah Thomas, and LeBron James would be incredible for their offensive schemes and the threat at all five positions would make their offense one of, if not the best in the NBA. If things fall through on the possibility of landing DeAndre Jordan then the Cavs have an awesome Plan B in trying to land Marc Gasol from the floundering Memphis Grizzlies.
Plan C – The Cavs make up for prior mistakes and land Nerlens Noel from the Dallas Mavericks
Heading into the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cavs had the first overall pick in the draft and the general consensus, despite his injury history in college, was to select Nerlens Noel first overall. Instead, they selected Anthony Bennett from UNLV and Noel fell to the sixth overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Nowadays, Bennett is considered the biggest bust in NBA history, never being able to put it together with his latest appearance in the NBA was with the Phoenix Suns on a training camp deal. While Noel, despite taking a year to recover from his torn ACL, has looked like a legitimate NBA center for Philadelphia and eventually the Dallas Mavericks due to the Sixers having a glut of players at the center position. In his first, and only, season with the Mavs Noel had averages of 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks while playing both in the starting lineup and off the bench for Mark Cuban’s team.
After his one year with Dallas, they only tendered their option of $4.1 million towards Noel and he tried to test free agency hoping to land a high paying deal. Surprisingly, he was not able to come to an agreement with anyone and eventually came to an agreement with the Mavs to play out his team option and become an unrestricted free agent next season. Heading into the 2017-18 season, Noel was slotted to be the starting center for a Dallas team that had arguably one of the worst rosters in the NBA but surprisingly only has appeared in 18 of the Mavs 23 games, currently slotted behind both Dirk Nowitzki and Salah Mejri on the depth chart.
The reason why Noel is not starting for the Mavs is the fact that he is in the doghouse of head coach Rick Carlisle, and all signs point to him not leaving for the foreseeable future. This was recently shown by Noel leaving the team during halftime to get himself a hot dog and it is a look into a festering divide between Noel and the Mavs locker room.
Honestly, this is a shame for Noel, who was drawing comparisons to Marcus Camby and Larry Sanders and during his short time with Dallas, he seemed like the Mavs center of the future. Now he is on the outside looking in with Dallas and the Cavs should step in to save Noel from eating his weight in hot dogs. They can rectify their mistake of drafting Anthony Bennett over him and get a player that has no needs on the offensive side of the ball but can still provide defense whether it is off the bench or as a starter.
The biggest plus for the Cavs in trying to acquire Noel from the Mavs is the fact that they can orchestrate some kind of trade that includes other players as well. A possible trade that would work for both sides is Iman Shumpert, Ante Zizic, and the Miami Heat 2018 second round pick for Noel and Wesley Matthews.
For the Mavs, they can get their rebuild rolling and still ride out the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki’s career while acquiring a possible center of the future in Zizic. They also get a defensive minded veteran in Shumpert to mentor their younger players like Dennis Smith Jr. They also can put a nail in the coffin in the ongoing toxic relationship between Carlisle and Noel before it becomes a major distraction for the Mavs.
For the Cavs, they get a huge injection of defense that can only improve with the addition of Matthews and Noel. With Matthews, the Cavs get a defensive grinder that can provide defense and three-point scoring in bursts, something that is always welcome for the newly-anointed Dinobots. With Noel, the Cavs get a player much like DeAndre Jordan that can catch lob passes in transition and provide serious protection in the paint, something the Cavs have been sorely missing all season. The other benefit is the Cavs do not give up a ton personnel-wise by being able to keep another quality player in Tristan Thompson (something they cannot do in the proposed Jordan or Gasol trades).
In his time with the Kentucky Wildcats, Nerlens Noel was seen as an NBA big man of the future and his season was cut short by an unfortunate ACL injury. NBA fans saw flashes of that same player when Noel arrived with the Mavericks and for whatever reason, he cannot get serious minutes with them this season. If the Cavs strike out on both Jordan and Gasol, they still have an option in Noel as well that can solve a ton of their problems and possibly add some bench scoring as well if they are able to nab Wesley Matthews along the way.
In the end, the Cavs are serious players in NBA trade circles due to having some attractive assets that are available to help improve the roster to compete with the vaunted Golden State Warriors. Their biggest problem right now is the fact that they are rolling out Kevin Love exclusively at center, something that is not natural for him as an NBA player. As mentioned before, the Cavs should take the chance to acquire Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, someone who would be a perfect fit for them both offensively and defensively. If they do not land Jordan, mostly due to having stiff competition from teams like the Bucks, they have other options with players like Grizzlies center Marc Gasol or disgruntled Mavericks center Nerlens Noel. There are plenty of implications for both players but the nice thing is the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Mavericks are all struggling and the asking price for all these players will only decrease. Only time will tell what the Cavs will do to try and land a great player like Jordan, Gasol, or Noel.