The Cleveland Cavaliers will need to sign one more high-level option to round out their roster before the 2023-24 season starts.
Cleveland has 13 players under contract for the 2023-24 season, according to sports contracts and salaries website Spotrac. Excluding their two-way contracts, the NBA requires teams to carry a minimum of 14 players on their 15-man roster, according to a February article from The Rockets Wire Editor Ben DuBose.
The Cavs addressed their need for extra shooting with the acquisitions of Miami Heat forward Max Strus, Philadelphia 76ers forward Georges Niang and Golden State Warriors guard Ty Jerome. They added extra size with the trade for Utah Jazz center Damian Jones. They kept guard Caris LeVert on board after they signed him to a two-year extension.
Who will take what could be the 14th spot on the Cavs’ roster before the start of the 2023-24 NBA Season?
Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor responded to a question about how likely a sign-and-trade for Charlotte Hornets forward PJ Washington was and who the Cavs could need to give up in a Monday edition of “Hey, Chris!”
“Sources say the 24-year-old Washington, who is a restricted free agent, is hoping for a contract around $20 million annually,” Fedor wrote. “The Hornets have reportedly been unwilling to give Washington the long-term contract he is seeking, and the two sides are currently in a contract stalemate.
“If a financial deal can’t be reached, with Charlotte unwilling to budge on its stance or Washington agreeing to a shorter deal for less money, the Hornets’ options aren’t very appealing.”
Should the Cavs try to pursue a sign-and-trade for PJ Washington?
Why Cavs must pursue PJ Washington sign-and-trade with Hornets
Acquiring PJ Washington from Charlotte could be a difficult task.
But his all-around play could make him a decent fit for Cleveland if they managed to pry him from the Hornets via a sign-and-trade.
The Cavaliers have worked out sign-and-trades for forward Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls and Strus from the Heat in the past few years. Markkanen spent plenty of time at the small forward for the Cavs as the team’s younger options started to blossom during the 2021-22 season, but he would ultimately be included in the trade that sent guard Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland in 2022.
Washington, a former first-round pick from Kentucky, has played in 260 games and started in 219 since the Hornets selected him with the 12th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He earned a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team in 2020, joining now-Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, now-Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis II and Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro. Washington has shot at a comfortable 36.6% from the 3-point line throughout his career, but ended last season with a 34.8% rate from the perimeter.
Former Hornets head coach James Borrego incorporated Washington into small-ball lineups earlier in the former Wildcats forward’s career. The 6-foot-7 forward played an estimated 46% of his minutes at the center spot during the 2020-21 season, according to Basketball Reference.
“(Playing small) definitely prepared me for the future,” he said in 2021, via former Hornets Senior Manager of Digital Development Quinton Wash. “Playing the five, four or wherever I need to be, being able to be at different positions and do different things is big for me. I just need to get better at each and every area where I wasn’t really good this year. For me, it’s going to be a lot of work and I can’t wait to see what happens next year.
“Before, I felt like I was a true four-man and now, I just feel like I’m a player. I can play any position out there no matter what it is. Whatever the team needs me to do, I can go out there and do it. (It’s about) being true to myself, as versatile as I can and doing everything on the court, whether it’s blocking shots, rebounding, guarding the big man, guarding a guard, being able to shoot threes, scoring at the rim.”
Washington minutes at the five peaked at 53% during the 2021-22 season, but quickly fell to 3% last season. He played 95% of his minutes at the four during the 2022 season. Forward Dean Wade, a four-year NBA veteran and a two-time All-Big 12 First Team selection with Kansas State, spent a decent amount of time at the power forward spot for Cleveland last year. The Cavs experimented with three-guard lineups and shifting forward Evan Mobley to the center spot throughout the 2022-23 season.
If Cleveland can find a way to match the salaries without taking away too much from its rotation, Washington can be a solid fit off the bench with Niang and Jones.