Much has been made of the Cavaliers inability to use the Free Agency market as a means to the end of improving their roster. The implication is that the NBA Draft and trades are the primary areas that GM Chris Grant and the Cavaliers' front office must use with efficiency. Just last season the Cavaliers were able to use several assets to swing a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that ultimately led to a major upgrade at the point guard position, and the beginning of the Kyrie Irving Era in Cleveland. Can the Cavaliers trade into the lottery again this year? Are the Cavaliers well-positioned to use trades to upgrade their roster even after the draft? Take a look after the jump to see what the Cavaliers have to offer.1. Kyrie Irving - Pretty close to untouchable, but he is by far the most attractive asset the Cavaliers could possibly put on the market. They won't, and this is good. Regardless of the semantics Dan Gilbert wants to use in terms of building with Kyrie, or around him, any future Cavaliers success will be a result of stellar play from Mr. Irving.
2. First Round Draft Picks - We have, in short, a lot of these. The Cavaliers have the right to the 2012 4th and 24th picks, their own 2013 1st round pick and either the Lakers or Heat 2013 1st Round pick, and a conditional pick from Sacramento that will likely vest in 2014 or 2015. It is hard to know how other teams value these picks. It seems to me that other teams around the NBA might be more inclined to think the Cavaliers are likely to have another top 5 lottery pick than is actually probable next season. The Cavaliers are unlikely to use each and every one of these picks, and can package them to make trades more palatable to other teams when the players we can send don't match the quality of player we are receiving.
3. Salary Cap space - With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement making it more difficult for teams to spend in the luxury tax, the Cavaliers ability to give cash-strapped owners some financial relief could be incredibly helpful. Even the Lakers are said to be working hard to find ways to cut down on their luxury tax bill. But it works with teams who actually do have dreams of bringing in free agents, as well. The New Orleans Hornets are under the cap but are looking to deal C Emeka Okafor and SF Trevor Ariza. The Cavaliers are said to be working on a way to get the 10th pick in draft in exchange for paying Okafor's remaining salary, which is considerable. Dan Gilbert has shown he has no problem incurring financial costs for the good of the team.
4. Tristan Thompson - It is certainly more likely that Thompson gets moved than Kyrie, but that doesn't change the fact that it probably won't happen. Thompson has both not shown enough to draw serious interest from teams around the league, and not shown enough warning signs to convince the Cavaliers to move him. He will be in the Wine and Gold for the considerable future. This is a good thing.
5. Anderson Varejao - The Wild Thing has been a valuable Cavalier for quite some time now, and it would be hard to see him in an opposing uniform, but it seems likely that at some point Cleveland will move him for a younger piece to add to the Kyrie puzzle. Anderson is just old enough that he likely won't be incredibly helpful by the time the Cavaliers are ready to contend in serious fashion.
6. Expiring Contracts - Here is looking at you, Omri Casspi ($2.3 million), Luke Walton ($6.1 million), and Daniel Gibson ($4.7 million). It certainly seems like the time for any of these players to be helpful for the Cavaliers in actual basketball games has passed. While Daniel Gibson's 2007 Eastern Conference Finals was wonderful, those positive feelings can't get in the way of a deal that might make the Cavaliers a better team. Expiring contracts like these will be more valuable around the trade deadline than on draft night.
In summary: We only have three basketball players that are attractive to other teams based on their ability to play the actual game. This means whoever we bring in during the draft will have a real opportunity to help immediately. If the Cavaliers retain SF Alonzo Gee, things get a bit better. It also means that Chris Grant has a lot of work to do. There are opportunities though, and the Cavaliers have more, and better, assets at this time than they did a year ago. It will be fun to see where things go, but the margin for error is small.