The 2021 NBA trade deadline is looming large. The Cleveland Cavaliers have made significant moves at the deadline each season dating back to LeBron James’ return in 2014-15, save the 2016-17 campaign. This year, the team has two veteran big men who could be of interest to other organizations, so it should be another eventful week for Cavs fans.
With that said, let’s take a look at the current situation and what could end up happening.
Who could be on the move?
The better question to ask is probably “who isn’t on the table?” The answers are probably Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., Isaac Okoro and Collin Sexton. There are others who are less likely to be moved, but those five players are the team’s core. Let’s examine each of the most likely departures.
Andre Drummond: Acquired at the 2019-20 deadline for approximately a bag of peanuts (the expiring contracts of John Henson and Brandon Knight, neither of whom is still in the NBA, along with a 2023 second-round pick), and the move was puzzling from the start. Sure, Drummond is objectively worth more than what the Cavs gave up for him, but he didn’t make sense for the long-term future of the team–his $28.7 million cap hit in 2020-21 has been an unsurmountable roadblock to a trade, and his ball-dominant throwback playstyle was never going to mesh with what the Cleveland wanted to do under J.B. Bickerstaff.
Perhaps the thought process was Drummond would give Sexton and Garland a capable pick-and-roll, lob, and post threat to play with, something the two young guards have yet to experience. Drummond’s volume stats were good with the Cavs, but they were just that, volume stats. They weren’t significant, and there’s no arguing the fact that the team played better with him on the bench.
It’s nothing Drummond did or didn’t do on or off the court. In fact, he has been a great teammate, even during his hiatus from the court. Things just didn’t work out, and they were never going to. Now, he provides an opportunity for a playoff team to add some post scoring, or to shed a bad contract. The problem is that it is unlikely any other team feels Drummond is the secret to their success, and there really aren’t a ton of bad contracts floating around, much less those large enough to match Drummond’s hit.
There is a reason that a Drummond buyout has been rumored for months now, but the Cavs have no incentive to do that until they find themselves wholly unable to trade him.
Kevin Love: The same goes for Love, who is in the second year of his four-year $120 million extension. He has appeared in just four contests this season due to a nagging calf injury. There are reports that he has been on the trade block for a while now, but obviously nothing has materialized. It’s hard to see a team taking on his $30 million salary given his increasing injury history. Love is still a very effective player, but availability is the best ability.
JaVale McGee: The most likely player to bet dealt, if the team is willing to part with him, McGee has been surprisingly effective in a reserve role, although he’s shooting at his worst clip (51.5%) since 2013-14. He is throwing in 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 15 minutes per night, and he has even made a couple of three-point shots. McGee is very cheap at just $4.2 million and could provide some great depth for a contending team. From a pure resource standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world to trade a nearly-34-year-old backup center on an expiring contract, but the team loves having McGee’s presence in the locker room.
Cedi Osman, Damyean Dotson and Taurean Prince could be dealt for the right price, but it’s hard to see that happening.
Who could be coming to the Cavs?
Marvin Bagley III, John Collins, Norman Powell, Kristaps Porzingis, Lauri Markkanen, Buddy Hield, Andrew Wiggins, and Aaron Gordon are some names who are reportedly on the market. Not all will interest the Cavs, and even fewer will be realistically attainable, but all things are possible through multi-team deals.
If the Cavs could somehow land a young, ascending power forward to pair with their guards, Allen, and a top-five pick in this loaded draft class, that would be nice.
A potential Drummond-Celtics package would be quite difficult to match salary-wise, and while the Heat have an easier path, it would almost certainly require involving Kelly Olynyk. For what it’s worth, bringing him to Cleveland would be as heretical as allowing a human to destroy a Sacred Halo Ring. Toronto can make a deal happen, but if they aren’t willing to part with Norman Powell (who objectively provides more value than Drummond would), things get very difficult.
Who are some potential partners for the Cavs?
The Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have all been rumored to have interest in Drummond, though some of those teams have an easier path to a trade than others. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are reportedly top destinations if Drummond is bought out, which is hardly surprising. It would follow that some of those teams would also be interested in McGee, for a much lower price of course.
Drummond will not be a member of the Cavs for much longer. The question is whether he gets dealt sometime over the next three days, or whether he’s bought out shortly thereafter. Drummond is the main event for Cleveland’s trade deadline this season, but he’s not the only spectacle. The show will begin shortly.