The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Drafting Season Part 4: Thinking Short Term

drafting season 4

 

Now that we’ve looked into the Cavaliers’ piggy bank and took notice of what’s inside it’s time to gaze outward at some other NBA teams and see what might be for sale.  A wide variety of players are going to appear on this list which is fitting for the Cavaliers.  Despite having a lot of young talent the Cavs have no real system in place and thus it is hard to imagine exactly how these pieces will fit together.  Exacerbating this problem is the fact that Mike Brown was just reinstalled as head coach and his plan for the roster, specifically the offense, is widely unknown.

Before I proceed I want to make it clear that risks are inherent in most trades.  If you propose a trade and one side immediately says yes then there is probably something wring with it.  Few, if any, of the trades I will list are no brainers for the Cavs.  Also note that I place a premium on getting this team playoff experience and the increased expectations that come from making the playoffs.  The Rockets put themselves into contention for Dwight Howard and gained a certain level of confidence in these playoffs that you don’t get from sending a bunch of bow-tied local celebrities1 to the NBA Lottery.  What if the Cavs manage the 7th or 8th seed and push a Miami/NY/Indiana to 6 or 7 games?  You don’t think that would effect LeBron’s decision at all to perhaps come back versus watching this team go back into the lottery?  It isn’t just LeBron either, but any highly touted free agent.  It is time to grow up.

 

WARNING: RAMPANT SPECULATION AHEAD

 

Short Term Fixes

 

Danny Granger – The two most glaring needs on this roster are some outside shooting and a true starting caliber NBA small forward.  The less I see of Alonzo Gee in the starting lineup this season the happier I and all Cavs fans will be.  If the Pacers commit to David West, who is entering free agency, then they aren’t going to have a ton of room to improve what is already the glaring weakness that is their bench over the next few seasons.  Granger would augment their depth significantly were he to stay with the team, but in the immediate aftermath of the Pacers game 7 with the Heat, Granger was already expressing his expectation to regain his starting spot for the 2013-2014 season.  The problem with that is the Hill-Stephenson-George-West-Hibbert 5-man unit was the most productive such unit in the league this season.  Not only did it log the 2nd most amount of minutes together out of any 5-man unit, due to the Pacers weak bench, but it absolutely pummeled opponents racking up a +288 plus/minus, which is highest in the league per 82games.com.  If Granger is expecting to start he might find himself severely disappointed come next season.

Granger has one year left on his deal and is owed 14 million for the upcoming season.  He’s also coming off knee surgery, has hit his 30s, and barely played this past season.  If he can get back to anywhere near his 2011-2012 production, mainly hitting 38% from 3 and  scoring 18 ppg, he would be a great player for the Pacers to bring off the bench, but they would almost assuredly let him walk following season’s end.  The main reason is that they are going to have to give George a significant extension in terms of money and years soon and won’t be able to afford keeping Granger.  If the Pacers are at all interested in cashing Granger in for some more long term assets then this upcoming season would be the only time to do it.

Properly assigning value to Granger and his contract is the difficult part.  The expiring contract is a mixed bag in terms of value.  If he doesn’t fully recover from his injury or play well, the size of the contract could still be useful as a tool in a trade deadline deal and as such would not be a complete loss if he proves ineffective.  The downside is that he is most likely a rental unless the Cavs were willing to commit to him long term.  Given his age and recent knee injury that seems doubtful.  Still the ability to rent a upper echelon small forward for a season to help  get this team valuable playoff experience while simultaneously keeping our cap sheet clean for the 2014 offseason is rather appealing depending on the  trade cost.  If they were willing to take on Andy, Wayne Ellington, the 19th and the 33rd, pick for Granger that is something I would definitely consider.  That would allow the Pacers to supplement their bench in two positions with experienced role players while not taking on any future salary.  They’d also be able to add two draft picks that they can mold into a future bench contributors or gain access to some overseas talent. The Cavs would still have CJ Miles to back up the two guard and there wouldn’t be quite the log jam at the PF/C positions.  This would be even more appealing if Speights decides not to opt out.  Seeing as how Granger isn’t a long term asset the only current young talent I’d be willing to part with in a package for Granger is Zeller and I’m skeptical over how much value he’d have as a back up big in Indiana.  Though with Psycho T hitting restricted free agency they definitely have a void to fill in the oh so important “random white big man 4-year Tarheel alum” role.  Or maybe the Cavs could dye Tyler’s hair blonde, give him an IU tattoo, and pawn him off as his brother Cody…

Overall I really like the idea of adding Granger, but I’m not sure if the Pacers want a few quality rentals and a late first round pick, or just someone to absorb the contract and send some picks in return. We all saw in what the Cavs pulled off with Memphis this season how valuable being able to take on salary without sending any out in return can be in trade discussions.  It might take a moderately protected future first rounder of our own instead of the 19th, which is a tough swallow for a one year rental, but it might be worth it to Grant if he wants to take Noel while simultaneously showing Gilbert and the fans that this team can make the playoffs.

 

Pau Gasol –  The Lakers roster is a mess when it comes to the cap and though their ridiculous TV deal makes it more affordable to them than any other team they need to get younger whether Dwight Howard stays or not.  Gasol is on an expiring contract and is owed 19 million this upcoming season.  The fact that the Cavs can essentially just absorb that contract for a year makes them an appealing trade partner for the Lakers who will probably be without the services of Kobe Bryant for much of the upcoming season.  It is no guarantee that they will look to offload Gasol, but if they do I would definitely give Mr. Kupchak a call.

Tyler Zeller doesn’t project as a starter this season and even if Andy is healthy he is more of a PF than a center.  According to Kirk Goldberry’s s presentation/research at the MIT Sloan Conference on interior defense, Andy was one of the easiest centers in the league to score on in the paint.  He has lost a step laterally and has never been a vertical rim protector (a fancy way to say shot blocker) which has made it difficult for him contest shots at the rim.  Though it doesn’t help that our perimeter defense was like a sieve for most of the season.  If the Cavs go ahead and draft Noel they could still use a center to fill in for the season and Gasol, when healthy, is still a top player in this league.  Gasol’s versatility on offense and unselfish play is a great example to set for this young team while also giving them a consistent post option to spell Kyrie and Dion in terms of facilitating the offense.

Not many teams have room to take on this sort of contract and since it is unlikely that the Lakers want to take long term money back in any trade, the Cavaliers are ideally positioned to grab Gasol.  The other huge perk is that it wouldn’t take all that much to pry him loose from the Lakers.  Not many teams are going to pay 19 million dollars for a rental because few can afford it, and though a large expiring contract is appealing to some teams, any team looking for a large expiring contract is trying to get rid of some long term deals which I’ve already noted that the Lakers are not likely to fancy.

I might be overestimating the Lakers desire to unload money in order to lessen the damage of the luxury tax on their 2013-2014 ledger.  It is not a guarantee that the Lakers will shop Gasol and if Howard stays they might be looking for role players instead of future draft picks in return for him, but it is definitely a situation to keep an eye on.  Once again this is move that would keep us in contention for LeBron in 2014 while improving us rather drastically for a season.

What would it take?  I originally heard Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal  on 92.3 The Fan cite Sam Smith, a long time Bulls reporter, saying this trade as a possibility if the Cavs package their 19th, 31st, and 33rd pick for him and it got me interested.  The problem is that the trade that Smith speculated on above isn’t possible under the CBA.  The Cavs will only have enough cap space to absorb Gasol’s contract come July 1st which is the equivalent of the New Year in terms of the NBA salary cap.  The draft is of course before this date and thus the Cavs would not have the requisite cap space needed for the trade.  I suppose it is possible that they could have a back room deal with the Lakers and select the players that they want, but I can’t see any precedence for this since it wouldn’t be a draft day trade.

The Lakers have a lot of questions to answer on their future, but if they do look to cut costs and rebuild then I would not be surprised if the Cavs try to rent Gasol for a year due to the relatively low cost/risk.2

 

Shawn Marion – By all account the Dallas Mavericks would love to get rid of Shawn Marion and their lottery pick, #13, in order to free up cap space for a max signing to pair with Dirk.  If the Cavs could do something like trading their two 2nd round picks for the lottery pick and Marion then I definitely would go through with it, but it might take a future pick as well.  At that point I’m on the fence about it.  The Cavs are doing the Mavericks a favor by taking on Marion’s contract straight up without sending any salary back.  This trade would also involve the Mavericks and Cavs selecting the players each other wanted and completing the trade after the draft since the Cavs don’t have the cap space to absorb the contract until free agency begins on July 1st.  Complicating the matter is that Marion has a player option for next season, which he almost will certainly take, but no trade can happen until he does.  Everyone I ask seems to brush this off as not a huge factor, but I can’t help but feel Marion can complicate any 2013 draft trade involving himself if he wants to.

Assuming the trade can happen, lets look at Marion himself as a player despite the pick coming along with him being a huge part of the appeal to this trade.  Marion is clearly on the decline, but he is still posting impressive rebounding numbers, almost eight a game, and scoring an efficient twelve points a game on 51% shooting.  He isn’t a great floor spacer, only taking one three a game while shooting a low percentage.  Despite still being thought of as a good defender, the Mavericks actually performed slightly better this season on defense with Marion off the court. And though playing against opposing team’s starters skew those numbers against him a little, they also don’t suggest that he is an great defender like he used to be.  He definitely would be an improvement on Gee at SF and also add veteran presence, but his production isn’t all that exciting.  Rebounding, especially with Andy back, isn’t something the Cavs necessarily need more of.  Still, if he is coming with the #13th pick and the price isn’t too high, I would welcome him aboard for a season though it definitely isn’t my favorite trade on the list.

 

Paul Pierce – When I started writing this piece I didn’t have Pierce on it because despite the trade making sense to me I figured Pierce would either retire a Celtic or find his way to a contender.  Things have changed.  The Cavs have reportedly offered their two second round picks to the Celtics for Pierce.  Once again this trade would be made possible by the fact that the Celtics would find it appealing not to have to take any salary back plus they would acquire a trade exception in the deal that they could use.  With Doc Rivers out of the picture in Boston it is clear they are trying to reload and Pierce/Garnett probably aren’t sticking around for it.

Like everyone else on this list, Pierce has just one season left on his deal.  He is still playing at an All-Star level and was the Celtic’s playmaker once Rondo went down with his ACL injury.  The whole idea of there being real value in having a “veteran presence” has been thrown around in this article and in the general dialogue over this Cavaliers team.  How much value a lot of these veterans would offer in this area is questionable, but Pierce is one player who I find it hard to believe would not provide a real benefit in this area while still being a great player simultaneously.  Pierce is a Final’s MVP and the only player on this list who has been a clear leader on successful teams.  Despite being of a questionable attitude early in his career he has transformed into by all accounts a true professional.  He is someone who not only possesses an impressive career on paper, but is also someone who seems to have the force of personality to actually be an influence on younger players.  The combination of production and leadership he could offer this team could transform it into a legit 5th or 6th seed if the roster can remain relatively healthy.

On paper this trade makes a lot of sense and I’d be all for it, but it surely is complicated by Pierce’s long history with the Celtics.  If it could get done though two early second round picks, which are hit or miss to begin with, is a small price to pay for helping this Cavs team grow up.

 

Next Up – I think it is most likely the Cavalier’s go with some sort of short term fix for the 13/14 season in order to keep their cap space open for 2014. By not committing to anyone long term they leave the possibility open of snagging a potential star if they become available via trade a la James Harden.  If the press can be believed, then the Cavs have been rebuffed on approaches for players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, but the NBA landscape can change quickly and circumstances could come about where such a player is available.  Regardless, in the next rendition of this series I am going to take a look at more long term gambles the Cavaliers could try and make.

See you Wednesday.

 

Same draft time.

 

Same draft channel.

 

Or something…

 
 
-Joe Mastrantoni

 (This is Part 4 of Joe Mastrantoni’s ongoing series for the 2013 Cavaliers ‘Drafting Season’)

(Click here for Drafting Season Part 1)

(Click here for Drafting Season part 2 )

(Click here for Drafting Season Part 3)

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  1. I actually enjoyed this, but still the playoffs are a preferred alternative []
  2. By low cost I obviously mean the picks, not the 19 million the Cavs would be paying for a year []

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Posted by on Jun 25 2013. Filed under Featured, Hands Down, Man's Down. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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