The February 8th NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have to make a big move. The Cavs are 30-20, coming off of an ugly win against the Miami Heat. Dysfunction and under-performance have dragged down the team all season, and now, Kevin Love is expected to miss the next two months with a hand injury.
With the improvements of the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, The Eastern Conference does not appear to be the cakewalk for Cleveland as it has been for the past three season. And if the Cavs do manage to make it out of the East, the buzz-saw that is the Golden State Warriors will be waiting for them.
The Cavs have been linked to a few different players recently. The Sacramento Kings’ George Hill was rumored to be a target of Cleveland’s, but head coach Tyronn Lue reportedly voted against a deal that would have brought him to the Cavs in exchange for Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye. This trade made sense from a pure basketball perspective, as Hill is shooting 45% from three-point range, can play either guard position, and is a solid defender.
But Frye may be responsible for preventing the Cavs’ locker room from imploding. Losing him would be a death blow to the team’s morale, and Cleveland should do everything it can to make a deal(or deals)without including Frye.
Cleveland has also targeted the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, but those talks have stalled as of now. Another target is the Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans. Depending on the price, Evans could be an excellent addition; a shooting guard who doesn’t have a 7.64 player efficiency rating, unlike a certain Cavs player.
The Cavs biggest problems are lack of defense, lack of size, and lack of dependable scoring outside of LeBron James and Love. Williams and Jordan would solve these problems, but if that deal doesn’t go through, there is another option for the Cavs at center.
The Charlotte Hornets’ Dwight Howard is having his best season in years. He has started all 50 of this year’s games, averaging 16 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 31 minutes per game. His athleticism isn’t what it was in his Orlando Magic prime(mostly due to nagging back injuries), but he is still a force in the post both on offense and defense. He has the ability to take any center in the league and score on them at will, with an athletic layup or a high-flying dunk. He remains one of the league’s elite rebounders, pulling in 3.5 just on offense. His 6’11” 265lb frame makes him an imposing presence not only to opposing big men, but especially to smaller guards and forwards. But this begs the question: If Howard is having a career rejuvenation, why would Charlotte be interested in trading him?
Despite having a solid roster which includes Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, and rookie Malik Monk, the Hornets are 21-29 and on the outside looking in to the playoff race. Charlotte is shopping point guard Kemba Walker, much to Walker’s surprise. They are also looking to move on from Batum’s $22 million dollar per year contract. Charlotte looks to be in rebuilding mode, and what better way to jump-start that than acquiring draft picks?
The Cavaliers may trade either their own 2018 draft pick or the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 pick, but not both. This is due to the Stepien rule, which states that a team may not trade away first-round picks in consecutive seasons, and since the Cavs traded their 2019 first rounder for Kyle Korver last season, they may only trade one of their picks this year.
Howard will make over $23 million per year over through the 2018-2019 season. The Hornets won’t be looking to increase their cap hits, so shedding salary would be a must in any deal. Tristan Thompson will make 52$ million over through the 2019-2020 season, so his total cap hit will be higher than Howard’s, but it will be spread out over an extra season.
Although Thompson(26)is six years younger than Howard(32), it’s extremely unlikely that Charlotte would be interested in a straight up swap. Even if they were, the Cavs would have to add players to match salaries. Thompson, Ante Zizic, and Jose Calderon would work. The Cavs would also throw in their first-round pick. Charlotte would get younger and save cap space with Thompson, add a young center with potential in Zizic, and add another draft pick.
Fully healthy and playing up to their potential, a Cavs lineup of Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Green would give the Warriors some trouble.
Of course, the Cavs could also look to make an even bigger move and replace Thomas with Kemba Walker. Walker has been much more efficient on offense and has the size needed to play at least passable defense. A deal such as this would require the Cavs to give up the Brooklyn pick, as well as other players to match salary, which could include Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Smith, and Channing Frye.
Howard would give the Cavs the rim protection they have not had since James’ return, as well as a legitimate offensive presence in the post.
Against Golden State, he would be able to dominate whichever big man the Warriors threw at him, and help limit the easy buckets that Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were able to get last year. If Howard is available for a fair price, Cleveland would be smart to acquire him.