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. I don't actually believe the Cavs should move their pick, but it's worth discussing some options.
There are a lot of teams with young talent that can give the Cavs a godfather-type offer for the ability to draft one of Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, or Andrew Wiggins. The Magic could offer the fourth pick, the 12th pick, and some combination of Victor Oladipo, Nik Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, or Tobias Harris (not great, but okay). The Nuggets could do the 11th and something around Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and/or Danilo Gallinari (still meh). Phoenix has a cavalcade of picks starting at 14 that they could offer. The Lakers could offer...well, okay the Lakers can't offer anything enticing for the first overall pick outside of their own pick.
And yet, I think the best one of those offers probably could come from Utah, who has the fifth overall, plus a stampede of youngsters including Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward (or at least his RFA rights), Enes Kanter, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and anything not named Rudy Gobert because I still don't think that guy is an NBA player. Plus, the Jazz have incentive to want to move up into the top three beyond the simple "hey, the top three prospects are in a tier by themselves in this class." Parker would become an immediate sensation in Utah, where the Mormon population would embrace him as their savior (figuratively speaking).
This deal was brought up by Chad Ford on May 28th. It's a bit more creative than your typical "here's an all-star 29-year-old vet for the pick." This is what he said:
They have a lot of assets and I think they could tempt Cleveland if they threw together several of them into a package that rounded out this team. For instance ... what about a sign-and-trade that delivered Gordan Hayward and Enes Kanter -- fixes holes at both the three and the five long-term for the Cavs. Both are ready to go now. The question will be ... Hayward is a restricted free agent. Free agency doesn't start until after the draft. So the Cavs would have to take Jabari at 1 and then hope they could get Hayward to play along. Derrick Favors could also tempt them I'm told. But the Cavs would need another piece -- perhaps the 5th pick?
So what he suggests here is the 5th pick, Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter, and the restricted free agency rights to Gordon Hayward. Would that be enough for the pick? Would the Jazz think that's too much to give up for Parker? I don't know the answer to the part about the Jazz because, well, I don't work for them. My guess is that the Cavs would need to add a Tristan Thompson to that deal, and I'm not sure it's worth it. Let's take a more in-depth look at each of these pieces though and discuss if it works.
First, let's start with Hayward, as he's probably the most intriguing piece to me (we'll get to the fifth pick later). Hayward is a blossoming star wing that has All-Star potential, even if people haven't been watching him in Utah. Hayward averaged 16/5/5 this season for the Jazz, with a 52% TS% and a 24% assist rate. Prior to this season, Hayward had never been below a 56.4% TS%, but that dropped for two reasons. First and foremost, he missed an inordinate amount of three pointers in a way that doesn't belie his 40% 3P% coming into this season. His 30% rate from that distance was mostly because of a 32% catch-and-shoot 3P% that was far below his career average. Also, after shooting 39% above the break in his first three seasons, Hayward's percentage plummeted to 32% this year. The second part of that has to do with the fact that he was simply asked to initiate a lot more offense this year than he's used to. While this helped his counting numbers, it ended up tanking his efficiency.
The thing is though, Hayward would take a step back in Cleveland in the shot creation department. Hayward is at his best when he's able to get open catch-and-shoot jumpers, and when he's creating off the dribble for others off the dribble. He's one of the few players in the league who is equally adept at running off of screens and getting free as he is at operating in the pick-and-roll. How rare are guys like Hayward generally? Well, here's an idea. I've used basketball-reference.com to compile a list of the player seasons over the past four years (since Hayward came into the NBA) to average 16/5/5. It's not a long list:
Over the past four seasons, six players have put up 16/5/5 seasons. Hayward is among the group with four other probable hall-of-famers -- yeah I went there with Westbrook -- and Michael Carter-Williams, who played on the highest-paced team of the sample size. Utah's pace this season was fifth-slowest in the league, meaning not only were Hayward's numbers depressed by his atypical shooting from distance, but also his team playing a slow pace. This was not a cheaply accumulated achievement for Hayward. He earned it.
Given that they'd be swapping picks, this would have to happen before the draft, and there would need to be some sort of understanding on what Hayward's contract would be. There is a distinct chance that someone maxes him this offseason. At 24 years old, this is a guy you can bank on continually improving past this level. His "worth" -- based on his play -- is probably a four year, $50 million contract. But in reality, you're worth what someone will pay to steal you away, and it wouldn't surprise me if someone tried to steal his rights by maxing him and hoping the Jazz don't match. That would be something the Cavs would have to deal with. He's a guy that's decidedly not worth the max, but could end up getting it. But I think they'd be hard-pressed to find a small forward better than Hayward that also fits their timeline of contention, regardless of having to max him or not.
The next piece of this deal is the big man, which would either be Favors or Kanter. They're somewhat different players, in that Favors is more of a defensive, athletic, rim-protecting big who can clean up the glass on both ends; whereas Kanter is more of an offensive big man who can finish in the post and be active -- if as of right now unspectacular -- in the pick-and-roll. Both are clinging to their "all-star potential" by its last thread, and probably will settle in as solid starters. These aren't throw-in pieces by any means; anytime you can pick up a starter, it's a worthwhile investment. My assumption is that it would end up being Kanter in the deal. Favors is too strong of a fit with whoever they would end up picking at #1, and they made a four year, $48 million commitment to him last season. Looking at Kanter, the biggest thing he needs to improve upon is his ability to draw fouls. He makes about 50% of his shots, but that, along with his points-per-game and other efficiencies, would go up if he could simply start absorbing contact better and drawing more than 3.4 fouls per-36 minutes.
Kanter would also need to get paid after this season, as he's in the final year of his rookie deal. I probably would take the risk of not extending him and letting him go to RFA unless he accepted something around 4 years, $32 million. The odds are high that recently-turned 22-year-old Kanter improves his toughness on the block and starts drawing fouls. However, you need to know that you aren't getting a player who can defend the rim at all, and he's rather slow in space. His best case scenario is probably Nikola Pekovic with a better midrange jumper, which is totally okay but it also creates the need for a power forward who can block shots.
Finally, the fifth overall pick is the other important part here. The Cavs would be getting another potential all-star here, but more than likely just a guy who ends up as a solid starter. The biggest problem here is that there isn't a whole lot that impresses me from a Cavalier perspective, as the four guys who are worth this pick -- Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, and Noah Vonleh -- aren't really fits for the organization positionally. If they got this, I'd probably advocate taking Gordon, as he could provide the athleticism and versatility to help Hayward and Kyrie Irving on the defensive end. Plus, while Hayward excels in the half-court, Gordon could provide a running partner for Irving and Dion Waiters.
This trade would provide a lot of versatility to the Cavs, and only a little bit of potential star power that would most likely simply settle into solid starting pieces. The Cavs would immediately become a massively deep team, and one that probably has quite a few logjams. A trade with the Jazz would necessitate a lot of other moves, especially in the front court. Thompson (or Kanter, I guess) would immediately become available, as there's not really a long term fit between those two. Same with Anthony Bennett if they move down to 5th overall and take another combo forward. The Cavs would still also have Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao on the roster.
As far as accepting this deal, it basically comes down to whether or not you buy Hayward eventually becoming one of the best second options eventually in the NBA. If you think he ends up as a 20/5/5 player eventually -- even without defense -- you make this deal. If you don't, then you better love what you can get at fifth overall. Personally, I don't love it for this team. It creates too many positional logjams for a guy like David Griffin who preaches "fit" above all else.
Value-wise, it's an interesting offer that Utah potentially (probably, even) turns down anyway unless they realize they're losing Hayward (or that they don't want to pay him the max). If the Jazz make that choice, I can't see them getting better value than the first overall pick, even if they have to package other things with it. This is pretty much the only circumstance I see the Jazz parting with Hayward. I don't think a Waiters package works for them because of Alec Burks (Waiters is better than Burks, but teams tend to go with the devil they know when they think the value is close), and I don't think Thompson or Bennett works because of their front court.
Ultimately though, it's a tough pill to swallow for Cavs' fans as well because it relies on lesser high-end talents being more likely to reach their full potential. I don't think I'd be outwardly angry with this deal, but I also don't know that I'd pull the trigger and tie up the Cavaliers' cap space for the foreseeable future unless I knew for sure they could pick up another piece in free agency this season before getting their money tied up.