The Cavs were a really good team for the majority of last season. They went 43-9 between January 15 and the end of the season. Of those 9 losses, Kevin Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving only played in three of them.
The Cavs do not theoretically need to do a lot to contend for a championship in 2016. The best thing for them would to remain healthy. Realistically, the Cavs can get away with bringing back every player and making a small tweak here or there and they would be in good shape for the following season.
That’s not how Dan Gilbert operates and I love it.
It’s not enough for the Cavs to commit big money to LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert. According to Brian Windhorst, there are rumors that the Cavs may be making a trade for Joe Johnson with the Brooklyn Nets.
This trade could realistically be Brendan Haywood and Anderson Varejao for Joe Johnson. The aforementioned trade works on the ESPN Trade Machine and makes some sense for both sides.
For the Nets, they would be shedding their salary of $24.8 million. At this point in his career, Joe Johnson is not worthy of being the second highest paid player in the NBA. He has very little use to a Brooklyn Nets team that is not a championship contender that has a $93 million salary due to its players in the 2015-2016 season. Making this trade will save the Nets approximately $15 million after they cut Brendan Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract. They would be on the books for the remainder of Anderson Varejao’s contract, but they are significantly under the salary cap for the 2016-2017 season at the moment. In other words, it would help them get closer to the salary floor without affecting their long-term flexibility moving forward.
The rumored trade makes the rumored David West acquisition make a lot more sense. His role on the Cavs seemed dubious at best when taking into consideration that Cleveland has Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao all making big money next year. Using the mini-MLE on David West when there are bigger needs on the team seemed like a bad idea.
An added wrinkle to the rumored trade is the human element of Anderson Varejao. He was a big fan favorite for many years, but the contract extension he received in October has many fans soured on him as a player. It is unfortunate that many people are excited at ridding the team of Varejao. Doing so makes a lot of business sense. He is going to be 33 years old when the season begins and is coming off the most difficult injury for athletes to recover from. There is very little chance that Varejao, who had a disappointing season last year, will be able to live up to his $10 million salary next year.
Varejao professed his love for Cleveland fans with tears in his eyes on the night that the Cavs clinched the Finals. It would be hard to say goodbye to Varejao, but the Cavs have to do what is best for the franchise and they do not have a lot of assets available to improve the team with. They do not have many draft picks at their disposal and they do not have any cap space. The team’s ability to improve are few and far between. The Cavs are going to have to use the $3.5 million mini-MLE and the Brendan Haywood contract to improve the team. If an opportunity arises to trade Varejao and it is one that will produce more wins, then it is an unfortunate truth that they will have to do it.
Trading Anderson Varejao will not be easy. He gave his all for the team for his whole career. Varejao has suffered many injuries while wearing Cleveland jerseys and even almost lost his life due to a pulmonary embolism in 2012. Varejao worked his way up as an energy big man who came off the bench and became a fan favorite. It is important for Cleveland fans to remember his career arc when discussing his potential exodus from the team. In the end, doing what is best for the franchise will probably take for David Griffin to be cold and calculating. That does not mean that doing so will not be bittersweet.