As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to consider whether or not to trade their newly acquired 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, many fans and analysts have speculated that the team could look to flip the selection for a star player such as Memphis’ Marc Gasol, or New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins, in order to further compete with the Golden State Warriors this year, and to increase their chances of retaining LeBron James next offseason. But with only so many shots and touches to go around, adding another ball-dominant elite player may not be the best option for Cleveland.
The current roster situation
As of right now, the Cavs’ projected lineup and rotation should look something like this:
Released – PG Kay Felder, SF John Holland, SF Richard Jefferson, C Kendrick Perkins
Isaiah Thomas will not start the season on the active roster, so Richard Jefferson will probably remain on the roster until Thomas returns.
The tradeable(or non-core)players right now are Shumpert, Osman, Green, Fyre, Zizic, and Jefferson.
- A point guard capable of defending Stephen Curry while contributing offensively.
- Another player capable of defending Kevin Durant.
- A rim-protecting center who can score inside against the Warriors’ bigs.
If Dwyane Wade is completely motivated defensively, he can fill the first need, but that is a big ‘if’. The Cavs do rely on the defense of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, which has served them well overall. Jae Crowder and LeBron James can try to defend Durant, as can Jeff Green, but there’s only so much anyone can do against Durant. Neither Kevin Love nor Tristan Thompson can protect the rim at a high level, and Ante Zizic cannot be relied upon due to his inexperience. Of all these issues, the point guard situation seems least certain.
This may make some Cavs fans unhappy, as Isaiah Thomas has already endeared himself to the city, but he will be a liability defensively. As bad of a defender as Kyrie Irving was and is, he was still capable of slowing down opposing players because of his size(6’3”). Thomas doesn’t have that luxury; at just 5’9”, he’s essentially helpless against bigger, quicker players, and that was before his hip injury. He will be comparable to, and possibly even better than Irving offensively, but after a historic offensive performance in the playoffs, offense is not the problem for the Cavs.
As players such as John Wall, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, and Chris Paul are most likely unattainable for various reasons, Cleveland acquired multiple two-way players this season but still lack clear versatility defensively.
One such player is Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. Last season, he scored 23.2 points per game on 44% shooting, while adding 5.5 assists and shooting 40% from three-point range; his stats are quite similar to a certain former Cavs point guard. His height(6’1”)is not necessarily ideal, but he is a better defender than Irving, which would be crucial in the Finals.
Walker has three current teammates that could also of interest to the Cavs. SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would perfectly fill need #2, as he is one of the NBA’s premier wing defenders, and wouldn’t need touches offensively, as he is one of the league’s worst three-point shooters(11%). PF Marvin Williams is a reliable shooter and shot blocker, but that would give the Cavs a surplus of 3-and-D players. Then there’s Dwight Howard.
Howard gets a lot of bad press due to his immense potential that hasn’t been lived up to, but he is still a very good player. His rebounding prowess and rim-protecting ability would give the Cavs a dimension that they haven’t had since Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Neither Draymond Green nor Zaza Pachulia can match up physically with Howard.
Due to salary cap constraints and the Cavs’ player situation, they would only be able to afford Walker and either Howard or Kidd-Gilchrist, unless they gave up a valuable rotation player.