The NBA Trade Deadline is less than three weeks away on February 18. The Cleveland Cavaliers may be looking to add a piece.
Before we get into who the Cavs will target, you have to ask yourself, “What needs do the Cavs have?”
Offensive-minded Backup for Kevin Love
The Cavs offense struggles mightily with its second unit. Recently, the Cavs have played Love with the second group in order to maintain some level of offensive competency. It’s no secret that when they play Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao at power forward, they lose offense naturally.
Thompson, with his rebounding prowess, is more suited to play the center position. He can get rebounds by the handful. Timofey Mozgov can stretch the floor with his mid-range shot but he is a center and only a center. Varejao’s mid-range shot is unreliable at best. He has added it to his game over the years but has not been able to hit it consistently.
When you decide to rest Love, who do you put out there at power forward? You can go small and put LeBron there and play Iman Shumpert or Richard Jefferson at the small forward position. It is a mismatch against almost every power forward in the NBA to play LeBron at that position. However, LeBron does need his rest during games.
A solution? Find an offensive-minded power forward, a stretch four, to play when Love needs to go to the bench.
A Potential Replacement for Timofey Mozgov
Timofey Mozgov is in the last year of his contract, and with the NBA Salary Cap rising next season, he is going to get a large contract. There has been speculation that the Cavs will try and trade Mozgov before the deadline. If the Cavs do stand pat and keep Mozgov, it is likely that he will not be with the Cavs next season.
According to Nylon Calculus, a basketball statistical breakdown website, Mozgov ranks in the Top 10 in Percent of Shots Contested at the Rim of those who play at least 18 minutes per game. He is a very good rim protector. So if you are going to replace Mozgov, you have to find someone that is near his level, or has the potential to reach Mozgov’s level of rim protection.
Timofey has also developed a mid-range shot. This season, he has hit 67% (12-18) of his shots from the 16-foot to 3-point range, almost all of them from the left side of the basket.
So what happens if you trade Mozgov? You have to find a reliable backup because Thompson will take over the starting role for good. The Cavs lineup is best with Thompson in the lineup. If you can find a young center, or one with a manageable cap number for three or four years due to the luxury tax, that would be ideal.
Who to Target at the Trade Deadline?
Here are seven names (six realistically), that the Cavs could look at to add to their championship roster.
Al Horford – C – Atlanta Hawks
One Year, $12,000,000
Let’s get this one out of the way first because it is least likely. There are very few reasons why the Hawks would trade their All-Star center. Horford is in the last year of his contract at $12-million.
Horford is going to get one more large contract before he retires, more than the three-year, $60 million contract that fellow Hawk Paul Millsap received last summer. He will more than likely get a max contract, which is going to be massive due to the rising cap.
Whether the Hawks are going to pony up and give him that contract remains to be seen. They have two other centers locked up beyond this season, Tiago Splitter and Walter Tavares. Tavares is an interesting prospect and may be seen as the replacement in the future for Horford.
I could give you a hundred reasons why the Cavs would do this trade.
In order to make the trade work, the Cavs would have to give up Varejao along with other assets to even make the Hawks consider it. The Cavs do not have a pick in the 2016 NBA Draft that they own. The Clippers owe them a second round pick but it is Top 55 Protected. They would have to part with more than one first round picks.
Kosta Koufos – C – Sacramento Kings
Four Years, $7,700,000
Koufos would be a great a replacement for Mozgov. The Sacramento Kings have a loaded front-court with DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein. Koufos has been the third man in this rotation.
Koufos does not have much of an outside game, but he is an above-average defender at the rim. He would fit well defensively in the second unit if the Cavs decide to move on from Mozgov.
In order to get Koufos, the Cavs would be able to use the Brendan Haywood trade exception. They could also throw in a player like Sasha Kaun or Jared Cunningham, but what Sacramento could use is draft picks. There is a relationship in the past with the Cavs and Kings from the JJ Hickson and Omri Casspi trade.
Brandon Bass – PF – Los Angeles Lakers
Two Years, $3,000,000
The Lakers will look to be shedding more salary that is on the books for next year with this summer’s free agency class (Kevin Durant). Bass has averaged 18-minutes per game with only six points and four rebounds per game.
He would not provide the offensive spark that the Cavs need in the second unit, but defensively he would be a good addition. The Lakers would not any salary in return that would be on the books for next year. The Cavs would only be able to use the Haywood extension, which would be a complete waste. The Lakers would have to send a draft pick along with Bass for the Cavs to take the contract.
Terrence Jones – PF – Houston Rockets
One Year, $2,100,000 (Restricted Free Agent after season)
This one is interesting. Terrence Jones is a player who has completely fallen out of the rotation in Houston. Unlike Bass, Jones can definitely provide a spark offensively and is a good rebounder. He is a freakish athlete. The Rockets have recently reacquired Josh Smith so his minutes are more likely to continue falling.
For this trade, the Cavs can use the Mike Miller trade exception, which make this a possibility. The Cavs would be able to sweeten the pot with future unprotected first round picks.
Ersan Ilyasova – PF – Detroit Pistons
Two Years, $7,900,000
I have liked Ersan Ilyasova back to his days with Milwaukee. He is a good athlete, can shoot the three. Detroit does not seem to be going anywhere and they are going to need all the cap room necessary to resign Andre Drummond.
For this trade, the Cavs would be able to use the Haywood trade exception and would likely have to include draft picks. He would be the perfect fit into the second unit.
Markieff Morris – PF – Phoenix Suns
Four Years, $8,000,000
Markieff Morris has fallen out of favor with the Phoenix Suns ever since they traded away his twin brother to the Pistons. He is only 26-years old and has a team friendly contract, especially one with a high luxury tax bill, for the next three seasons.
The Suns may just want to get out of this situation with Morris. The Cavs would have to use the Haywood exception but if the Suns would like a player in return, Varejao would be the likely candidate.
Channing Frye – PF – Orlando Magic
Three Years, $8,100,000
Let’s finish with my odds-on-favorite players for the Cavs to land at the trade deadline. Channing Frye is an older Kevin Love who is not as good at rebounding, but he can definitely shoot. Frye can still give you valuable minutes off the bench behind Love.
Orlando has been trying to rebuild their team since Dwight Howard wanted out of there. At 32-years old, the Cavs would have Frye for the next two seasons and would be the absolute perfect fit in their rotation.
So what would the Magic want? Draft picks. The Cavs can use the Haywood trade exception here again along with draft picks to pry Frye away from the Magic.
The Cavs use the Haywood trade exception on Frye and trade Varejao along with say Cunningham and Kaun for Al Horford. Let’s just way that won’t happen.
Personal Favorite Scenario
Channing Frye and Markieff Morris would be two great additions to the Cavs bench and would keep this championship roster together for a few more seasons.