Much like the Holiday Shopping season that gets started the day after Thanksgiving, the NBA has a shopping season of their own - culminating in the NBA Trade Deadline. This season, that date is February 18th.
The Cavaliers are likely to be major players in the trade market, though the potential of a deal is never a sure thing. Take 2009 for instance. There was plenty of talk about Shaquille O'Neal coming to the Cavaliers only to see it crumble at the last minute. It did end up happening, of course, during the summer, but despite all the smoke a deal never got done.
While the rumors circulating so far this season were rumblings that we have gotten used to in the past - Antawn Jamison, Troy Murphy, et al - the first real salvo was apparently fired last night when Paul Coro from the Arizona Republic reported that the Suns are amping up to trade Amare Stoudemire and the Cavaliers were one of the teams in talks with the Suns.
That shouldn't come as a shock, for a number of reasons.
- The Suns are in some financial distress - they traded Shaq for nothing more than salary relief and have sold a number of first round picks in recent years to avoid paying rookie salaries. As Brian Windhorst says, the Suns have millions of reasons to make a deal for Stoudemire -
Straight up, this type of deal would save the Suns around $3.4 million off their payroll ($6.8 million including luxury tax). However, the Suns currently are a little more than $5 million over the luxury-tax line. It is possible they could then negotiate a buyout with Ilgauskas and get below the tax, which would probably enable such a trade to save them around $10 million in real money. The cash advantage could actually increase because, if the Suns got below the tax line of $69.9 million, they would be able to get their share from the fund created by the tax-paying teams. In other words, it would be worth millions more.
In addition, because of a clause in his contract, Ilgauskas has already been paid about 75 percent of his $11.5 million salary this season. He would be owed a trade kicker of around $2 million, but the Suns could save up to $3 million in the swap from money already paid to Ilgauskas that wouldn't have to come out of their coffers. All of that is subject to negotiation, of course, but the point here is this is a potential deal worth lots of money to Phoenix if they worked all these details out. But, in short, it is complicated.
- Cavs GM Danny Ferry and Suns GM Steve Kerr are former teammates and friends. I'm not saying that Kerr would take a lessor deal from the Cavaliers because of this, but working from a position of familiarity and trust never hurts.
- While there are other teams that have interest in Stoudemire, the Cavaliers are one of the few teams willing to take on the salary, with an intent to try and sign Stoudemire to an extension.
I think the Cavaliers motivations this winter are clear. Instead of waiting until the summer to try and lure free agents to the team to pair with LeBron James, you get the sense that the team would like to bring in a big name NOW, not only to improve the team's chances to win a NBA Title, but to increase their chances to sign that player, along with LeBron James, since they could go over the salary cap to do it.
Of course, in the specific case of Stoudemire, the Cavaliers have to be sure he and Shaq could co-exist. It's no secret that O'Neal and Stoudemire struggled when they were on the court together. Their games really don't support each other and frankly, O'Neal gets in Amare's way.
The Cavaliers have the NBA's best record and play more home games down the stretch than anyone. They are in a great position to once again secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. If they are going to make a move to improve the team, they need to make a move sooner rather than later to ensure the team can get into a rhythm. That is, if a move needs to be made at all.
Keep track of the situation over at Bright Side of the Sun