An exciting Cleveland Cavaliers season was never supposed to end like this.
The NBA playoffs brought a disappointing finish to a season filled with hopeful highlights and exciting matchups between the Eastern Conference’s top contenders. The New York Knicks took down the Cavs in five games, dominating on the boards for second chances, while guard Jalen Brunson kept a consistent scoring pace throughout the five contests.
“Everybody’s hurting,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Thursday, via Cleveland.com. “We talked about this a lot this season, how valuable these experiences are, these learning lessons are for us.
“These are things that you can’t experience unless you go through it. As much as it hurts, these are the things that make you a better basketball player.”
Will the Cleveland Cavaliers need to make a trade when the time rolls around? If so, who needs to go? And will they be able to find suitable options in the offseason to take things further in the NBA playoffs?
One player the Cavs should trade: Ricky Rubio
Another year will bring in another round of Cedi Osman trade talks.
A holdover from the first season without Kyrie Irving and the final year of the 4-year battle between Cleveland and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, Osman finished the 2022-23 season with averages of 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 20.1 minutes per game in 77 games played and two starts.
Osman was brought up in trade talks from early on this year, being selected as the team’s top trade candidate for the 2022-23 season by NBA HoopsHype writer Michael Scotto in November. It put him on the same list as Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen and Detroit Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic.
“When the Cavaliers expressed interest in acquiring Suns forward Jae Crowder, Cedi Osman’s name came up in the trade talks, league sources told HoopsHype,” wrote Scotto. “It’s not the first time, nor the last, his name will likely come up in trade talks leading up to February’s trade deadline.”
Osman is listed with a $6.7 million cap figure in non-guaranteed money on Spotrac in the 2023-24 season, making about $600,000 more than guard Ricky Rubio and $1 million more than forward Dean Wade. The contract becomes fully guaranteed on June 29, according to Spotrac.
Osman’s contract may be easy to point at when looking at what the Cavs need to get rid of to sign the proper free agents to strengthen the team where it needs it most.
But Rubio’s contract is nearly the same amount, and will go up by nearly $300,000 more in the 2024-25 season.
Rubio ended the 2022-23 campaign with averages of 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 17.2 minutes per game in 33 games and two starts. While he did provide valuable minutes for the Cavs off the bench during the regular season, he played in as many as many as six minutes during three games in the NBA playoffs. Osman consistently played 14 minutes or more during the postseason and as many as 23 during Cleveland’s 17-point win over New York in Game 2, according to Basketball Reference.
Rubio’s impact on players like Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell still can’t be overstated. Mitchell gave credit where it was due to Rubio ahead of Game 5 with the New York Knicks, and has played alongside of Mitchell, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, according to Yahoo! Sports Senior NBA reporter Jake Fischer.
“I gotta be the guy to continue to use my voice, but listen as well, and not be too naive to listen to what’s going on. Who really helped me with that is Ricky Rubio,” Mitchell said, via Fischer. “It’s great that he’s here, so I can lean on him, for my mental as well, so he can kind of talk about our past experiences and help steady this group.”
The Cavs will still need to look for a scoring small forward and a backup interior anchor at the center spot by the time free agency rolls around. But should options like Dennis Schröder from Los Angeles, Reggie Jackson from Denver and Dennis Smith Jr. from Charlotte become available as free-agent targets, Cleveland can at least know there are a few options they can look for should Rubio find a new home.