Cleveland Cavaliers Trade Ideas

After four seasons of being buyers at the trade deadline, the 2018-19 Cavs are in a very different situation. While there are a few likely candidates to be sent away, here are some trade ideas that could serve the long-term goals of the team without damaging the already-damaged present.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently the worst team in the NBA. But while it seems like they may have nothing to offer the rest of the league, that's not entirely true. With the NBA trade deadline approaching in February, the Cavs are in a half-decent spot since they're one of the only true "sellers" in the trade market. Seeds 1-14 in the west and 1-11 in the east all think they're playoff contenders and probably don't want to give up any of their big pieces (although, I mean, come on, Washington). On the other hand, the Cavaliers can fully commit to planning for the future by acquiring picks and prospects.

Of course, they don't have that many appealing players to offer; the roster is full of guys who have led the team to a 15th seed through the halfway point in the season.

Rodney Hood is probably the most likely piece to be moved this winter, as he's on a small contract and shooting 39% on three-pointers (which is slightly above his career average of 37%). Hood can shoot, and teams need shooting. It's as simple as that. Beyond him, Kevin Love is still a possible trade-piece (although it's unlikely for numerous reasons, not least of which is his continued insistence that he wants to remain a Cavalier), and the Alec Burks/Matthew Dellavedova/John Henson trio are all going to come available for another trade before the 3:00 p.m. deadline on February 7th.

(Note: Rodney Hood has the freedom to refuse any trade because of his Bird Rights, which would be given up by the team who acquires him. In short, it probably won't be that important, but Hood may refuse a trade because he likes having a larger role in Cleveland, where he's hoping to prove his worth and ultimately earn a bigger contract this summer.)

In any case, here are some of my favorite trade ideas regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Trade #1: Rodney Hood and JR Smith (remember JR Smith?) to Philadelphia for Markelle Fultz, Mike Muscala, and a future 2nd round pick.

Philly's side: 1) They get to move on from the Markelle Fultz drama. They thank him for his time and send him on his way. 2) While Muscala is a decent three-point shooter, Hood has been better and is more versatile than the not-so-mobile stretch-4. Furthermore, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala are almost the same player, but Chandler is better. 3) If JR Smith shows up and wants to play, why not throw him on the roster as a 10th man who can come in and try to knock down five straight three-pointers? This is admittedly unlikely, but if it doesn't pan out, there's also the next point. 4) JR Smith's buyout for next season is thought to be around $4 million (per many months ago). This is appealing for Philly; it would save them a few million dollars under Fultz's $9.75 million, and every dollar counts if they're planning to re-sign Jimmy Butler to a big-time deal.

Cleveland's side: 1) Get out of the JR Smith contract. 2) Get a former #1 overall pick and put him in a situation without so much pressure. 3) Get a future asset in a late draft pick. 4) Get out of the JR Smith contract. 5) Did I mention that they're paying JR Smith almost $15 million for him to sit at home and play NBA 2K19 this season?

Would they agree? As much as I'd like to think so, no, I don't think Philadelphia does this trade. While I think they would love to wipe their hands clean of the Markelle Fultz fiasco, I don't think the Cavs could sell them on Rodney Hood as a cheaper replacement for JJ Redick next season, which is what he would need to be for the Sixers to really want to do this.

Trade #2: Rodney Hood to Indiana for Kyle O'Quinn and a protected 2020 1st round pick.

Cleveland's side: This is exclusively a trade to get a pick. Rodney Hood has been a nice guy to have around, and you generally don't want to make a trade in-division, but the Cavs aren't contending and it would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to get a pick, even if it's heavily protected.

Indiana's side: Someone who can shoot! The Pacers take just 25 three-point attempts per game, placing them near the bottom of the league. However, when they do shoot from deep, they make an awful lot of those attempts, as they're currently 5th in the NBA at 37.2%. Rodney Hood spotting up around the arc would give them another bench shooter for Domantas Sabonis or Cory Joseph to find for open looks. Giving up O'Quinn is easy. He has registered DNPs in 14 of his past 18 games, so Indiana's risk here is giving up the future first-rounder. But NBA teams wildly overvalue picks. I have pointed out elsewhere that a top-10 pick in the NBA draft has roughly a 20-30% chance of ever becoming an All-Star, let alone a superstar. Adding an offensive spark could make the Pacers an even more dangerous team come playoff time and risking that 20-30% chance should be worth it.

Would they agree? I could see a trade like this happening. Why not? Indiana protects their pick so they're not selling their future, they get a shooter, and the Cavaliers get an asset, even if it takes a few years to convey.

Trade #3: This one hurts, but...Kevin Love to Charlotte for Nicolas Batum, Miles Bridges, and a future 1st.

Charlotte's side: There are some options to alter this trade because Charlotte has two of the clunkiest contracts in the league right now (Batum and Bismack Biyombo), but I think they'd rather be rid of Batum's deal because it has one more year than Biyombo's. The Cavs would get some bonus assets just for doing Charlotte the favor of taking on Batum's remaining $51 million over the next two seasons (not counting the remainder of 2018-2019). That contract is insane, particularly for a guy who is finally shooting above 40% on three-pointers but is scoring just nine points per game.

What they get instead is Kevin Love to pair with Kemba Walker, who will most likely be getting a max contract this summer. Suddenly they have an All-Star point guard and an all-timer of a complimentary player locked up for several years. Throw in the improved play of Jeremy Lamb (who will need a new contract) or a mid-to-upper level free agent and suddenly you're looking at a 4th or 5th seed in the East. That's something you can sell to both your fanbase and your best player.

Cleveland's side: This would be a bummer. Kevin Love is a great guy and an excellent basketball player, although it's hard to tell whether or not he's still the latter. Apart from what he can bring on the court, Kevin Love’s public advocacy for better mental health among players is one of my favorite things about the NBA (as if I needed more reasons to love this league). But the basketball reality is that he just signed a huge contract despite it being unclear if he can lead a team, plus he's got a history of back problems.

The Cavs would be able to fully pivot for the future here, acquiring Bridges and a first. Bridges is obviously not a complete player at the moment - he's not yet 40 games into his NBA career so he shouldn't be - but the 12th overall pick in this past year's draft could wind up being a nice guy to slot alongside Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and (for now, and very possibly going forward) Tristan Thompson. Additionally, getting a first-round pick out of the deal helps an awful lot. There is also a version of this trade where the Cavs send out JR Smith's contract and take on Biyombo's, which would almost definitely require Charlotte to throw in another pick and/or player to make it worthwhile, but that just seems like a lot.

Would they agree? Tough call. There is some version of this trade that both teams would agree upon, but there are enough options that it's hard to say. Charlotte wants to have an improved roster to sell Kemba Walker on re-signing, so Kevin Love could be that difference-maker, as he's a huge upgrade over Nicolas Batum. Adding in JR Smith and Bismack Biyombo would probably be too much to sort out.

Last one, Trade #4: Jordan Clarkson, Alec Burks (after January 28th, when he can officially be traded again in conjunction with another player), and Rodney Hood to Portland for Evan Turner, Moe Harkless, and at least one first-round pick.

Cleveland's side: Like all of these trades, the Cavs are in this for a pick. More draft picks mean more players. More players mean a higher likelihood of finding a gem. It's that simple. Known commodities are OK, but it's slightly more realistic to think "we could draft a superstar!" than "we can turn Alec Burks into a superstar!" This trade would be another favor to a team in exchange for draft picks, although it might also be fun to have a former Ohio State stud (Turner) in Cleveland for 18 months. Of course, next season would likely see another trade as both Turner's and Harkless's expiring contracts would be valuable for teams hoping to make a big free-agent splash in the summer of 2020.

Portland's side: They get out from under the Evan Turner contract, which has been an "are they serious?" contract for years. They also get out of Moe Harkless's surprisingly high price tag. In return, they get bench scoring that they simply haven't seen from their current roster. Burks, Clarkson, and Hood can all get buckets more easily than Turner or Harkless, not to mention that Burks and Hood come off the salary books this summer, freeing up almost $15 million for Portland. This matters because the Blazers are right on the edge of the luxury tax threshold and cutting salary - or at least moving $18 million from one player to two - should help them in that regard.

Would they agree? Actually, I think they might. Portland should love to have a guy like Clarkson who can come off the bench and drop 10 points in three minutes. Similarly, where Turner is shooting 12% on three-pointers (that's not a typo), Rodney Hood could stretch things out a little bit and create better lanes for whichever craftier player is on the floor with him. The Cavs have no real allegiance to any of the guys on their current roster, so taking on bad contracts to get draft picks is a win for the next two years.

It's entirely possible that none of these trades happen. It's entirely possible that some wholly different trade happens. It's also entirely possible that the Cavs stand-pat and make moves next season when they have almost $70 million in expiring contracts.

It's not the best time to be a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, but whatever Koby Altman does in the next 12 months will most certainly make or break the next several seasons for the Cavs. Fingers crossed he acts wisely.

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