Based on their moves this offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers want to make the playoffs. Without LeBron James, this will be a tall task for the Cavs. Boston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Washington have all but locked up playoff seeds.
This leaves two spots left, with Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Cleveland as the group fighting for them. In order to make sure that they are better than these other teams, the Cavs should look into making some more trades, with winning this season in mind. Here are a few candidates.
Kent Bazemore, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks
Bazemore had one of his better seasons in 2017-2018, averaging 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 39% from beyond the arc. He is a tough and athletic wing who defends at a high level and is at his best when he is not relied upon as the primary scoring option.
Even after the additions of Sam Dekker and David Nwaba, the small forward position is still Cleveland’s biggest weakness. Bazemore would start instantly and slide into a role as the third scorer behind Kevin Love and Collin Sexton.
This would allow him to focus on defending and playmaking, his two best attributes. Bazemore is available for trade because of his contract, which will pay him over $18 million this season and includes a player option for over $19 million next year.
At 29 years old, Bazemore has likely maxed out as a player, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to a playoff team. He fits perfectly what the Cavs are looking for in a wing, and would be a solid addition to the team.
Allen Crabbe, SG/SF, Brooklyn Nets
The Cavaliers already have a logjam at shooting guard, but Crabbe would start over all of Cleveland’s current 2’s. He is a 26-year-old sharpshooter who is also a capable perimeter defender. In 2016-2017, he shot 44% from downtown. That number fell to “just” 38% last year, but that’s because he attempted a ridiculous 7.1 shots per game from distance. That’s the same amount as Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
Like Bazemore, Craabe is not suited to be the leader of a team, but he’s a very good role player. As D’Angelo Russell was injured for much of the season, defenses were able to devote more attention to Crabbe than usual, but he still performed well. Playing with Sexton and Love would be a perfect fit, and would allow him to do what he does best; nailing three-pointers.
Nicolas Batum, SF, Charlotte Hornets
When the salary cap exploded before the 2016-2017 offseason, Batum was one of the largest benefactors. A solid role player who had averaged 9.4 points the year before, Batum was given a five-year $120 million contract. Three years later, he is still a good player, but not nearly worth his deal.
He is still owed $49.5 million in guaranteed money, and has a player option worth over $27 million for the 2020-2021 season. The Hornets have been trying to trade Batum for a while now, but have been unable to convince a team to take him. The Cavaliers could rid themselves of Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson while acquiring a draft pick or two in exchange for taking on Batum’s contract.
Batum is still a very good player to have in a rotation. He averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game last season. He shot 34% from deep, which is decent, and because he can play power forward, that shooting ability is made better.
Batum stands 6’8″ 200lbs but has an insane reported 7’4″ wingspan, which allows to wreak havoc on defense, contesting shots and eliminating passing lanes. Batum would start at small forward and give Cleveland some added versatility in a small-ball lineup.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins was a member of the Cavalier organization for about a month back in 2014, when the team selected him first overall in the NBA Draft. Once LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland via open letter and did not mention Wiggins, the writing was on the wall. He was traded along with 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett to the Timberwolves for star power forward Kevin Love, a move that has worked out pretty well for the Cavs.
“Maple Jordan” hasn’t quite lived up to the ridiculous hype that surrounded him as a rookie, but he’s developed into a great scorer at the very least. In 20162-2017, he scored 23.6 points while shooting 46% from the field. His numbers dipped a bit last year due to the addition of Jimmy Butler, but Minnesota still signed him to a max contract extension worth $146.45 million over the next five seasons. The T-Wolves’ cap situation is poor and they would likely consider dealing Wiggins if they could improve their standing there.
While he doesn’t play defense well, Wiggins’ scoring ability would greatly help Cleveland both this season and in the future. While team defense is a concern, the biggest roadblock to the Cavaliers making the postseason is a lack of scoring outside of Kevin Love and Collin Sexton.
Wiggins would solve this problem instantly. And while Kevin Love has missed 57 games over the past four years, Wiggins has played in all but one. This durability would be a safeguard against another injury to Love, which unfortunately seems likely.
The Cavs have many trade options on the market, and even though they are devoid of first-round picks over the next few years due to short-sighted trades, their contract assets will be valuable to teams looking to make their way out of cap hell. Adding one of these players would put Cleveland in a great position to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year.