How the time has flown by, Cavs Nation.
Not so long ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers made the blockbuster trade for guard Donovan Mitchell, instilling hope in Cavs fans everywhere that they could finally take the next step forward into true Eastern Conference contention with a young, talented starting five.
The Cavs were coming off of a 44-38 season, the team’s winningest since the final year of the battle in the finals between the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors that kept a stranglehold on the NBA for four straight seasons. Guard Collin Sexton and forward Lauri Markkanen, who were included in the Cavs-altering Mitchell trade, were two of the team’s top scorers at 16 and 14.8 points per game, respectively.
How the times have changed.
With the NBA trade deadline just one week away, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have to take one final look at their roster before they can decide once and for all if they are the championship contenders they have the potential to be.
The Cavaliers placed themselves at a comfortable 30-21 record, good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The team had almost the same record at this point last season just a few days ago, rising to 31-20 after a win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Rocket Mortgage Arena.
It may be detrimental to the team’s success to ruin the team’s tight-knit comradery, as told by forward Dean Wade before a game against the New York Knicks.
“Just how close this team is,” Wade said. “I thought last year, and the year before, the team was really close, but I don’t think it compares anywhere close to this team. Everyone’s best friends and always around each other. Hilarious. You just see that team comradery that you hear everyone talk about, but to actually see it and be a part of it is different.”
After losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and short-handed Golden State Warriors, it may be time for a change in the Cavaliers’ rotation.
The trade market may not solve every issue in Cleveland’s roster, but it can fill some short-term spots if the team needs to find a late-season push into the NBA playoffs.
Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor put it simply when Yahoo! Sports senior NBA reporter Jake Fischer reported that Portland had “given rival teams the impression” that it is open to discussing most of its players.
“Cavs fans: Keep an eye on Josh Hart.”
The 6-foot-5 inch guard is averaging 9.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and four assists per game for the Blazers this season. Hart, who made the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2017 NCAA tournament, is in the second year of a $37.92 million contract he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2021. Josh Hart was initially traded from the Pelicans to the Blazers in a move for guard C.J. McCollum, among others, in February 2022.
Josh Hart’s contract features a $12.96 million player option for the 2023-24 season and a non-guaranteed deal that became guaranteed on June 25th, according to Spotrac.
The Cavs are shooting 36.2% from the 3-point line, tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks for 12th in the NBA. Though Josh Hart certainly won’t aid with reliving the Cavs’ 3-point issues with his 33% 3-point percentage, he can be a solid passing option for the Cavs and a good backup should they try for extra bench depth.
Cleveland would be decently limited if they need to match the Pelicans starter’s contract. The Trail Blazers are $37 million over the NBA cap. Nine Trail Blazers are making less than Hart this season. Only a few players on the Cavs’ roster can match the 27-year-old’s price range and keep Cleveland in a competitive spot to make the playoffs.
Should the Cavs not be able to take Richardson’s contract and stay below the cap, they could look for one other guard before searching elsewhere on the trade market before February.
If the Cavs continue experimenting with three-guard lineups, Richardson may be a solid backup, or even a starting player, for a team in desperate need of scoring help off the bench. 71.5% of the team’s scoring comes from four of the five members of its starting lineup. Guard Caris LeVert leads all non-starters with 12.4 points per game in 31 minutes.
The real kicker may be the guard’s price.
The 29-year-old guard may be available for a second-round pick, according to a Monday article from HoopsHype. Richardson is on a one-year, $12.2 million deal he signed with the Boston Celtics. The Cavs may have to trade an extra player to match the salaries in the cap. Still, if the price for the scoring guard is truly a second-round pick, it may be more than helpful to give LeVert some competition in the backcourt until the NBA playoffs if Cleveland can manage to keep both on the roster.
Armed with eight second-round picks to spend this season, it could be beneficial for the Cavs to take a chance on the 6-foot-5-inch guard and his ability to score off the bench for the Spurs this season.
The Cavs will have to bank on Richardson wanting to resign with the team after his one-year deal expires. Cleveland has four guaranteed starters and forward Isaac Okoro locked down for next season. Other contracts include a non-guaranteed deal and a club option for forward Lamar Stevens.
Richardson will hopefully have as much of an impact as Okoro in the Cavs starting lineup. Still, if need be, the Cavs could try a nearly-impossible hand at landing the top scorer of a Central Division rival.
Quenton Albertie ·
This one would undoubtedly be the biggest long shot.
The Athletic Detroit Pistons staff writer James L. Edwards proposed a possible trade featuring guard Caris LeVert, and LeVert alone, for the 33-year-old forward.
Fischer thought differently.
“Add in Cedi Osman, and Cleveland has a stockpile of rangy wings that can be effective, but leave something to be desired,” Fischer wrote in a January article. “Are any of them the talented young player Detroit is partly searching for to offload Bojan Bogdanovic?
“The Cavaliers are indeed a Bogdanovic suitor, sources said, but it will be rather difficult, and perhaps impossible, for Cleveland to reach Detroit’s lofty asking price for the veteran sharpshooter.”
The former teammate of Mitchell is averaging a career-high 21.2 points on 48.3% shooting from the field and 41.2% from the 3-point line this season. He made his mark as the Pistons’ top scorer this season, surpassing guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey for the top spot on the Pistons. The former second-round pick logged 47 playoff games in his career, including 17 with guard Donovan Mitchell on the Utah Jazz over three different rounds, according to Basketball Reference.
He would undoubtedly be the offensive punch the Cavs need, providing the Cavs with the height needed to contest other NBA small forwards. Bogdanovic’s point total would put him at 3rd overall on the Cavs roster in front of forward Evan Mobley and center Jarrett Allen. He would also be one of the team’s top 3-point shooters for players, beating out both Mitchell and Garland for the highest percentage from shots beyond the perimeter as he fires more than 5.9 long-range shots per game.
Though the Cavs cannot trade a first-round pick during the season, Bogdanovic and LeVert’s contracts nearly match. Bogdanovic is earning a $19.34 million base salary on top of $207,000 in likely incentives, while LeVert is making $18.77 million, according to Spotrac.