Given that the insanity of the draft season is in full swing, it's time to take a look at the crazy trade rumors that have encompassed the Cavaliers. It's time to discuss whether or not the Cavs should move their pick for a veteran.
Joakim Noah was an MVP candidate last season in the way that everyone not named "LeBron James" or "Kevin Durant" was. That's to say that he had a great year that was extremely valuable to the Bulls, but ultimately he was not a real MVP guy. That great season has not stopped the media from speculating on whether or not trading the first overall pick for Noah would be a good idea. For instance, among other times over the past couple weeks, Chad Ford did it yesterday!
But I think the Cavs' preferred route would to be a trade that thins out their roster and adds a young veteran who could immediately lift the Cavs' long-term chances. The Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love has been the most often mentioned pickup. But the Cavs also have their eye on several other bigs, including the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah, the Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge and the Atlanta Hawks' Al Horford.
Before we talk about the idea of value, let's talk about how good Noah would be for the Cavs. Like Marc Gasol, Noah does a lot of the small things that help a team win. He's excellent defensively obviously -- he won the Defensive Player of the Year trophy this year, after all -- but his offensive value went up by leaps and bounds this year. Joakim Noah puts the Cavs in the playoffs next year, even if he has to drag Anthony Bennett's bench-ridden body with him.
More specifically, he's another player that would be excellent for the Cavs' ball movement. He averaged 5.4 assists this year per game, and is always looking to reverse the ball or use his excellent vision to find cutters, as a lot of his offensive value doesn't come from being completely involved in the play. Noah's not someone that can get a shot for himself, but he makes everyone around him better through his work and vision. He's among the best offensive rebounders in the league, as he uses his length and positioning to get easy put-backs. It would be fair to call him okay in the pick-and-roll, but he doesn't possess the midrange consistency of a Gasol or Horford, which limits his high post value slightly. In reality, Noah is a good secondary offensive piece, but not one that you can build around in the front court.
Defensively, there is no one better overall in my view. He creates turnovers through sheer athleticism and hustle, and those turn into tangible points. Beyond that though, he protects the rim despite being skinny and -- most importantly given the Cavaliers' defensive ails -- he's incredibly strong on the perimeter and in pick-and-roll defense. Noah could legitimately turn the Cavaliers' defense around this ability, as that's where they got destroyed over the past three seasons. His ability to defend in space could allow Irving the extra split seconds he needs to recover on ball handlers. He's also a spectacular defensive rebounder.
While he and Gasol are similar players -- with Noah probably being the better player in a vacuum due to sheer unmatched dedication and hustle -- there's a pretty real difference in their skill sets which makes Gasol a better fit for the Cavs. First and foremost, Gasol has the consistent jumper that pushes the defense away from the rim. He's stronger as a screen setter and general weapon in the pick-and-roll as well, with better instincts and better natural skill. Because of this, Noah ends up being more redundant to Tristan Thompson than one would like to see. Both are more hustle-laden players that get by through energy and rebounding. Noah's just way better at it and possess far superior basketball intelligence.
Beyond the front court fit issues, there is another major issue. Injuries have dogged Noah throughout his career. He's missed at least 16 games in four of the past five seasons. None of the injuries have been recurring injuries, but there is something to be said for the fact that a guy with that frame just being unable to stay on the floor. He's not nearly as unreliable as Anderson Varejao, but you can't move a pick of this magnitude for a 29 year old that is only on the floor for 75% of your team's games to begin with.
He does have two years left remaining on his deal at a very reasonable $12 million per season, but overall this seems like a major risk to me in a way that even a Gasol move doesn't. It's a solid roster fit as well, but not perfectly in the way that Joel Embiid would at 20 years old. Plus, his history of injuries are more frightening given his age than even Embiid's are. Finally, Noah also doesn't help any of the other Cavaliers young players develop in the way that someone else could because he's been in the Thibodeau system for so long. He's a piece that you acquire when you're one move away from winning the title as opposed to one move away from the playoffs and still have a developing roster.
Joakim Noah in a vacuum and when healthy is one of the most effective players in the NBA, and among the best players the Cavaliers could possibly acquire. Unfortunately, the NBA and professional player acquisition does not exist in a vacuum.
[Editor's note: It's probably worth mentioning that Noah, by all accounts, loves Chicago and has been open about his distaste of Cleveland. If you are going to trade the number one pick, you'd want more than two years of Noah. Would he re-sign here? Also, Noah being traded might cause Tom Thibodeau to burn down the city of Cleveland in a fit of rage.]
Tomorrow, I'll discuss three more trade ideas that have been brought up by the basketball universe.