Remember when the Cleveland Cavaliers were headed toward a massive decline that would possibly force them to consider becoming sellers at the NBA trade deadline? Neither do they. The Cavs have overcome injuries to core players and are just two games out of third place in the Eastern Conference standings. Now, they are looking like surefire buyers ahead of Feb. 8.
Specifically, Cleveland is seeking a perimeter threat who could also disrupt high-level scorers on opposing teams- best known as a 3-and-D guy. Two potential targets are emerging, both of whom can instantly improve the team’s 35.2 percent 3-point shooting (ranked 26th in league).
Brooklyn Nets forward Royce O’Neale has already been linked to the Cavs and should continue to be a popular name in the rumor mill, considering that his contract expires at the end of the season and the Nets are currently 16-23. He can be effective off the bench and is reliable from 3-point land (38.2 percent lifetime). But president of basketball operations Koby Altman could have his eyes on a younger wing who offers more upside.
“Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter is said to be another name to watch in Cleveland’s ongoing search for a 3-and-D upgrade — although absorbing Hunter’s contract (which has three seasons and $70 million left on it after this season) makes him a challenging payroll fit (and, frankly, difficult for the Hawks to trade anywhere),” NBA correspondent Marc Stein reported.
Hawks’ De’Andre Hunter could be a solution for Cavs’ biggest issue
Time is running out for the Atlanta Hawks to figure things out. They nearly blew a double-digit lead against the lowly San Antonio Spurs and are tied with the Nets for 10th place in the East. Hunter’s hefty contract makes him a natural candidate to be dealt ahead of the trade deadline. But is Cleveland willing to take on his salary?
Hunter is quietly making strides on offense this season, scoring 14.9 points per game while shooting a career-high 40.4 percent from distance. He can be a nice compliment to a Cleveland team that is expected to get back All-Star guard Darius Garland and two-way center Evan Mobley in the near future.
While defense is an undeniable strength for the Cavs, they can run into trouble on the offensive end. Acquiring a 3-point sniper who can help ignite the squad during a dry shooting spell could be a vital difference-maker come the playoffs.