HELP WANTED: Shot Blockers Needed, Will Pay Full Time, Inquire Inside.
What the hell is David Griffin thinking!? The Cavs head coaching position has changed faster than you can say “Cleveland Browns” and the tension among the team and front office, as well as the expectations on Tyronn Lue have never been higher. In reality, however, this firing has been predicted by many (Blatt included, according to Peter Vecsey). An argument could be made that, with the locker room having more clique’s than a middle school playground, the Cavs need someone to bring stability and chemistry. Experienced be damned, as the Cavs believe that Tyronn Lue might be that guy. As fans, we won’t know until either the Cavs bring home the chip, or everything explodes again. One thing we do know is that David Griffin is willing to take any risk if it means stabilizing this roster, and if Lue doesn’t make an immediate positive impact on the team, be assured the Cavs will be active members of the trade game this February.
The Cavs declared they were entering the trade game earlier this month when they flipped Joe “The Assassin” Harris to Orlando for cash and a top 55 protected second rounder (that will most likely not convert). Rumor has it almost everyone except LeBron James is on the trade block, several players even thought the meeting to discuss Blatt’s firing was an announcement about Love being traded.
How surprised were Cavs players today? When team meeting was called, some players speculated Kevin Love had been traded
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) January 22, 2016
With Griffin willing to do anything to upgrade the roster and maximize talent, upgrades to the bench are almost guaranteed before the deadline if the right package is found. The real question is who these players are, and how with such limited resources the Cavs can swing them.
What can the Cavs offer other teams?
Before one can talk about what they don’t have, it would be easiest to look at what they do. The Cavs are surprisingly flexible when it comes to assets. Three *TPE’s and a plethora of second rounders/rights to players makes fitting trade together, but it’s the players that are available that could sweeten the pot. Below are a list of the available assets and then a collection of players that have been rumored as available as well.
*Trade Exceptions: Haywood; 10,500,000 / Miller 2,900,000 / Harris 845,000
Picks: LAC 2016 2nd Round pick, 2019 LAL less favorable 2nd Round Pick, MIN 2019 2nd round pick, POR 2020 2nd round pick (top 55 protected), 2017 on First Round Picks
Player Rights of Note: Cedi Osman (Turkey), Sir’Dominic Pointer (Charge), Quinn Cook (Charge)
Player on Trade Block (Rumored): Timofey Mozgov (C), Kevin Love (PF), Jared Cunningham (G), Sasha Khan (PF/C), Anderson Varejao (PF/C), Matthew Dellavedova (G)
DeMarcus Cousins & Dwight Howard – NOT!
Let’s get these out of the way first. These trades are the very top of the “never gonna happen” category. Either one of these guys would significantly improve the Cavs roster, as they are arguably two of the best true center’s in the league. If either of these trades went through, unless more drama unfolds, both would be significant upgrades to the Cavs front court. According to the NBA Trade machine, both could be traded cleanly for just Kevin Love, slotting Tristan Thompson at the starting four-slot, and leaving Mozgov to come off the bench. Here is where you run into your first problem, unless you flip more assets, there is still no backup four (sorry Sasha Khan) but I’ll elaborate more on the following page. Griffin would be foolish to not at least take a second look at these two.
Not alright Dwight:
14.4 PPG – 5.3 RPG – 61.2 FG% – N/A 3PFG%
When it comes to Dwight Howard, it would really be the Cavs that denied this trade, but he is a hot commodity so his trade potential has to be addressed. Reports surfaced around two months ago that Howard was unhappy in Houston and that if the right offer came through he would request a trade. The problem with Howard however is two-fold. On one hand, he is arguably a top three center in the league; on the other, he is a traditional center who would face many of Mozgov’s limitations. The Rockets don’t often play him against small-ball lineups, and it wouldn’t make much more sense with the Cavs. Howard is slow, and while his defense has won him multiple DPOY awards and solidified his anchor reputation down-low, those awards were won back when basketball was traditional and four guards on the court wasn’t a norm. Trading for Howard would be betting heavily on the success of the Spurs against Golden State in the West, otherwise the Cavs would have an All Star who could do very little beyond scoring in the finals. The other issue with Howard is the same game the Cavs played with Kevin Love last year, with no guarantee that Howard would stay. With his ego, playing third string might not sit well with him. Also, why would any Cavs fan want a guy who snubbed the world of a LeBron-Kobe finals matchup.
Trade: Cavs Send: Kevin Love (PF) – Rockets Send: Dwight Howard (C)
27.6PPG – 9.4 RPG – 45.7 FG% – 34.6 3PFG%
Cousins is a special player. I love Kyrie Irving, he is my favorite player in the league by a wide margin and I honestly believe that after Steph Curry, maybe Russell Westbrook he is the best point guard in the league. This being said Cousins is the only player on this list I think talent wise is better than Kyrie, and would be one of the very few individuals who would turn him into a third option. With Kyrie’s return, as well as Tyronn Lue’s plan is to speed up the tempo , which he pointed out as a large reason for his debut loss against Chicago:
It’s definitely needs to be addressed, as the Cavs have fallen behind as the 27th slowest team in the league. Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov have become noticeably worse in these scenarios. Kevin Love is shooting 15% worse in the paint since Kyrie’s return and the Cavs +/- is 9 points worse with Mozgov on the floor, and while I really like Kevin Love (and Mozgov to an extent as well) a trade for Cousins would be a monumental small ball upgrade. Cousins plays like a bigger, better Draymond Green. He can shoot three’s, he can bully the paint and he can hit mid range jumpers, but he finds a balance between being both a small ball center, and a true center. This being said, the Cousins trade is not going to happen. Cousins wouldn’t agree with it, Love wouldn’t agree with it, Coach Karl wouldn’t agree with it, Rondo wouldn’t like it and likely it would create a chemistry nightmare for the Kings (what it would do to the Cavs locker room is really just a coin flip). Karl recently declared that he thought Cousins was “the best center in the NBA right now” and Cousins is finally starting to feel comfortable in Sacramento with Rondo. The aptly dubbed “Suicide Squad” that are the Kings just might be working well enough for confidence to be regained in the franchise, and if they turned down Boston’s “everything but the kitchen sink” deal (Come on guys, someone’s going to want to take Jae Crowder and Avery Bradly for an All Star stretch 4. Spur’s? Clippers? Cavs? Anyone?), likely the Cavs cannot offer anything better. That being said, here we enter fantasy land for some trade that should happen and would be just great.
Trade: Cavs Send: Kevin Love (PF) – Kings Send: DeMarcus Cousins (PF/C) // Cavs Send: Kevin Love (PF), Timofey Mozgov (C) – Kings Send: DeMarcus Cousins (PF/C) Kosta Koufos (C)
These trade possibilities have become impossible, especially given Love’s recent play. At the Cavs’ current state, with Coach Lue at the helm and, they’d just be trading away team chemistry.
“You’d have to go a long way to convince me that we’re a better team winning in the Finals without a player like Kevin on our team. We’ve never once put together an offer involving Kevin, nor have we taken a call on an offer for Kevin.” – GM David Griffin
Now that the “not gonna happen” trades are out of the way, let’s start looking at the somewhat more feasible, and while looking at what’s feasible, notive what common factor Cavs really need.
Tyronn Lue has stated multiple times in his first few days as a head coach that he wants to pick up the pace and defensive intensity of the Cavaliers, something that the Cavs obviously were not ready for as seen by the Chicago and Warriors games. The Cavs reserves in the front court are spread thin, Kevin Love has too many defensive liabilities. Tristan Thompson was initially a spark of the bench for both defensive intensity, but now is the unofficial starting center. Timofey Mozgov has seemed to lost his touch, Anderson Varejao is a wildcard, and James can only play limited minutes at the four. The Cavs backcourt is one of the best in the NBA and likely does not need to be touched although rumors of Ersan İlyasova and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Love, paired with other front court deals could be intriguing. Really the Cavs have two realistic options: (1) find a strong two-way center to play starter and move TT to the bench, or (2) find a defensive minded stretch-four to come off the bench in place of Kevin Love. On top of this youth should be valued at a premium, now that Lue’s new system values athleticism more than anything. Here are a few options that are (at least somewhat) realistic as targets for the front office.
10.4 PPG – 4.3 RPG – 51.4 FG% – N/A 3PFG%
Just give me 5 more minutes in fantasy land, please. Noel for Mozgov, we can hire Kevin Mchale to teach him and TT offense, Thibs can come and run the defence but at the same time learn from his mistakes and not break the players, and the Cavs can just be named NBA champs for the next 4 years.
Alright, I had my fun but back to reality. Noel fits all three of the qualifications mentioned above. He is young, has ability as a starting center, but is also a defensive minded 4 that could work of the bench, and is considered to be a freak athlete. Noel will be on the trade block and he may already privately be if the right offer comes through. The Sixers have three centers. Clearly they like Okafor, his offense could potentially be one of the best from a big man, and having not traded Embiid despite his two year hiatus means they clearly see something in him as well, that leaves Noel, a defensive specialists and shot blocker however he doesn’t provide much beyond that in the Sixers system. A good enough offer might be able to pry him away this season but the likelihood of the Cavs being able to make such an offer? Almost none existent. The Cavs don’t have a first rounder to trade till 2018, and the Sixers would really enjoy not rebuilding by then, so picks are off the table (unless Sam Hinkie wants a couple second rounders). Sure a Mozgov for Noel trade works out, but what do the Sixers get out of it? A few second rounders, and a somewhat limited true center? I mean we traded Dion for 2 shooting guards better than Dion and an extra first rounder, so maybe Griffin can swing it, but unlikely.
Normally the Cavs would leave the back court untouched in a trade, but Delly provides an immediate, risk free, payout for the Sixers to add alongside Ish smith. As for the Cavs, Mo Williams has called for and proven he deserves a more prominent role and with Dellevadova still in the picture that will be hard to come by.
Trade: Cavs send: Sasha Khan (C), Jared Cunningham (G), Matthew Dellevadova (G), 2017 first round pick, 2016 second round pick from the clippers, 2019 second round pick from the lakers, 2019 second round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves Philadelphia sends: Nerlens Noel (PF/C)
Next up is a player from Chitown. If you’re talking about winning rings, he’s down…
16.6 PPG – 6.6 RPG – 46.8% FG% – 34.6% 3PFG%
Nine months ago, Pau to CLE would have been filed under the “never going to happen” category, but rumors of the Bulls shopping Pau, Taj and Noah haven’t gone away. Pau is in my opinion the best true center the Cavs could acquire and for the Chicago Bulls possibly the best option to trade. At just under 8 million a year he fits in the Haywood exception, however more likely he would come with a package deal for Mozgov and pals (I’ve also heard Pau and Taj for Love, but please no). Of any big name trades that the Cavs could pull off, Pau would be the most useful. Unlike other vets, Pau has found a way to play full starter minutes at 35, and produce numbers that make fantasy player salivate. However the biggest draw of trading for Pau would be his shot blocking and post play (You might have noticed, there is a trend with these trade targets).
Pau is one of the few trades on this list where I would be completely open to, if not encouraging the use of Mozgov’s contract. Pau would play the same role at a high level, if not better, and would be under contract for another year after this season, giving the Cavs time to find a solution at center that isn’t Tristan Thompson. The Bulls on the other hand would need to be incentivized to enter this trade, but if a third team is added (New York Knicks) and they could ship off Noah as well and receive some picks as well as a younger center under contract for longer, ridding them of the potential exodus of front court talent over the next two years, and providing them a pick(s) as well.
Trade: Cavs Send: Timofey Mozgov (C), Jared Cunningham (Human Victory Cigar) 2018 First Round Pick – Bulls Send: Pau Gasol (C) // Cavs Send Timofey Mozgov (C), Jared Cunningham (G) 2018 First Round Pick (Bulls) Bulls Send: Pau Gasol (C) (Cleveland), Joakim Noah (Knicks) Knicks Send: Robin Lopez (Chicago)
Cavs need bigs who can shoot, and there’s one team they’ve already made a deal with who could be open to a trade…
5.5PPG – 1.9 RPG – 44.2% FG% – 40.9% 3PFG%
Look at the Cavs front court, oh you’ve already been paying attention to it since this list has no guards? Cool, but look at the usage rates of the players in the front court and their general skill set. Love, while being so much more, is played at the traditional stretch-four position, Thompson is one of the best on the offensive glass since Rodman, and Mozgov… well, he’s a big Russian guy. You may notice that in fact, only one of these three provides consistent offensive threats no matter where he’s on the court, and when Love needs to rest (or when any defensive lineup needs to be played) the forwards are limited to lob-jams or being a post bully. Varejao provides a midrange game but is inconsistent in his health, and there’s no apparent need for Kaun. Enter a stretch 4 signed onto a reasonable deal, willing to come off the bench, and who brings some veteran presence that may help stabilize the volatile locker room. Rumors of Frye’s availability on the market have been circulating since the pre-season, and with the 1-8 stretch the Magic have recently been going through, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Frye moved before the deadline.
Trade: Cavs Send: Anderson Varajao (C) – Orlando Sends: Channing Frye (PF)
The Cavs have one last option they should look, especially after their recent Texas three-step…
9.6 PPG – 3.7 RPG – 45.9 FG% – 34.7 3PFG%
Towards the end of the pre-season, Chris Haynes wrote an article titled “Richard Jefferson has a chance to be LeBron James’s first legitimate backup” stating that RJ’s ability and experience and athleticism surpassed that of his predecessors. While it is true RJ is one of the most successful backups, the Cavs need to consider the future for the organization. A young backcourt in Irving and Shumpert, paired with Thompson and, if none of these trades go through, Kevin Love leave the Cavs with a respectable starting five in the post-LeBron era. however, James is the youngest small forward on the roster by at least five years. While I have very high hopes for the Turkish prospect Cedi Osman, it may be beneficial for the Cavs to find a more short term solution, as well as providing another serviceable body off the bench for Lue.
Enter Terrence Jones. With Houston trading for Josh Smith, their front court has become crowded and primed to unload an underused member of the team. With his limited minutes, Jones’ lowered usage percentage (Just had a season-low 10 minutes in a game) and the firing of Kevin Mchale may tip over onto the trade block.
Trade: Cavs Send: Rights to Sir’Dominic Pointer (G) and Cedi Osman (SF), 2 2018 second round picks and the Mike Miller TPE – Houston sends: Terrence Jones
Maybe, the Cavs don’t need anything. Maybe with the changing of the guard at coach and a new focus on faster paced games, and a renewed chemistry in the locker room will be enough, but if not an injection of new blood might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Even before Blatt was fired and the Cavs dropped an embarrassing loss to the Warriors they had declared they were in the market for an upgrade with the Harris Trade. Even after press statements saying Kevin Love was not on the market, and that the Cavs are waiting till closer to the deadline to look into making moves, I wouldn’t be surprised to see rumors of player shopping over the next few weeks.