Trades the Cleveland Cavaliers Should Make this Season

Cleveland Cavaliers Trades
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From a financial standpoint, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a pretty good spot moving forward. If they simply stand pat and don’t trade any of their current expiring contracts, they will have only $68.1 million committed in player salaries heading into the 2020-21 NBA season. However, the Cavaliers have a few potential trades they should execute this season. They have a couple of veterans on expiring deals that could help contending teams.

Potential Cleveland Cavaliers In-Season Trades

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Salary Cap Situation

The Cavaliers are only committed to one major long-term contract currently. Veteran big man Kevin Love is entering the first year of his four-year max contract extension he signed last year. Next season, Love will account for nearly half of the money currently committed to their payroll. Love will be owed $31.2 million during the 2020-21 season.

Outside of Love, their current contract situation is excellent. They have several contracts that will expire following the 2019-20 NBA season. In the backcourt, Brandon Knight ($15.6 million), Jordan Clarkson ($13.4 million), and Matthew Dellavedova ($9.6 million) are all on expiring contracts. In the frontcourt Tristan Thompson ($18.5 million), John Henson ($9.7 million), and if they choose to let him walk, Cedi Osman ($2.9 million) are on expiring contracts.

If they simply let all of these players expire, they will be in one of the best CAP situations in the NBA.

Trade Number One, Sending Kevin Love Home

The main priority for the Cavaliers should be trying to shed Love’s contract. Although he is loved in Cleveland and will be the Cavaliers’ best player this season, retaining him doesn’t make much sense for a rebuilding team.

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive – Hassan Whiteside, Nassir Little

Portland Trail Blazers Receive – Kevin Love

The Cavaliers should get on the phone with the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland’s backcourt made up of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, is one of, if not the best backcourts in the NBA. However, it’s painfully obvious they need some help on the offensive end. Portland is in go for it mode and shouldn’t have a problem adding Love’s contract to their payroll.

While Portland may not want to part with Nassir Little, they have to send something back of value in return. Although Little’s potential is through the roof, he is a rookie, and he also has a history of developing slow. Little was a top-five recruit in the 2018 high school class but it took him a while to get going in Chapel Hill. Once he got his feet under him, he showed all of the tools that made him a high profile recruit.

Hassan Whiteside is a throw-in by Portland to make salaries match and he is expendable. The Trail Blazers just extended Zach Collins and they will be getting Jusuf Nurkic back at some point this season.

For the Cavaliers, they should be ecstatic about getting rid of Love’s contract which doesn’t match up with their timeline. They also get a high potential wing in return to go with their young backcourt quartet of Collin SextonDarius GarlandKevin Porter Jr., and Dylan Windler.

Trade Number Two, Sending Tristan Thompson to an Eastern Conference Rival

The Cavaliers could very well let Thompson’s contract run out this season and let him walk in free agency. However, they have a chance to get a valuable asset or two in return by perhaps taking on an additional year of salary.

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive – Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics 2020 First-Round pick, 2020 First-Round pick via Milwaukee Bucks

Boston Celtics Receive – Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova

The Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics have a very recent trade history that didn’t exactly work out for either side. The Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas swap was a disaster.

As great of a player as Irving is, he seemed to cause more problems than solutions for a Celtics team that had visions of a title run. Thomas was dealt by the Cavaliers in the same season he was acquired after still appearing to be struggling with his recent hip injury at that time.

While the Cavaliers may add an additional year of salary, Gordon Hayward has two-years and $32.7 million left on his deal, they also acquire two first-round picks. One from the Celtics and one via the Milwaukee Bucks. While these two picks will likely be towards the end of the first round in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Cavaliers could always elect to package them in another deal to move up in the draft.

Hayward suffered a horrific injury on opening night in 2017, in Cleveland ironically, it has led to him being a shell of his former self. Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge would love to get off the remaining two years on Hayward’s deal and allow Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to be the unquestioned guys on the wing in Boston.

The Celtics are in a prime position to go for it in the wide-open Eastern Conference after acquiring the services of Kemba Walker this summer. Their major deficiency is thanks to the departure of Al Horford. The Celtics lack an inside rebounding and defensive presence, especially off of the bench.

While they acquired Enes Kanter, he is not exactly known for his defense. Robert Williams III is their top bench big man option. The Celtics, with visions of being a contender in the East, shouldn’t need to rely on an unproven player as their main backup at any position. Thompson solves that need.

Trade Number Three, Sending Jordan Clarkson Out West

Just as with Thompson, the Cavaliers could choose to allow Clarkson’s contract to expire and let him move on in free agency. It would be prudent of Cleveland to get some valuable assets in return for one of the best bench scorers in the NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive – Dante Exum, Jazz 2022 First-Round pick

Utah Jazz Receive – Jordan Clarkson

The Utah Jazz made two major splashes this offseason by acquiring Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. Adding Conley and Bogdanovic to the impressive group that includes Donovan MitchellRudy Gobert, and Joe Ingles makes this Jazz team one of the most complete in the NBA. They will be title contenders in a deep, wide-open Western Conference.

However, they do lack in one area as their roster stands, bench scoring. Clarkson is coming off of the best year of his career. Per Basketball-Reference, Clarkson averaged 16.8 points per game last season off of the Cavaliers’ bench.

Being able to bring Clarkson off of the bench while Conley and Mitchell take a rest would be a huge boost to the Jazz offense.

For the Cavaliers, this trade is all about the future first-round pick. Dante Exum is an excellent defensive player but Cleveland has a bevy of young guards. They could elect to try to move Exum prior to the trade deadline.

Cleveland Cavaliers Outlook Following the Trades

While the Cavaliers are sitting well as things currently stand with future draft picks, young core, and cap space, they will set themselves up well if they can execute these three deals. They will have even more cap space if they can move Love. Adding more draft picks is never a bad thing and it could set themselves up to add more pieces to their already young core.

The Cavaliers are in no position to contend for the foreseeable future. While there is excitement around their young guards, they still need to build their frontcourt. The Cavaliers front office has to ask themselves if Cedi Osman is the answer at small forward. Or if Larry Nance Jr. can be an option as an eventual sixth man on a contending team.

However they answer those questions, this rebuild is different from the first post-LeBron James era. He is not coming back to save the franchise this time, the Cavaliers have to build it back up themselves.

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