I was quite shocked this morning when I woke up to see that the Cleveland Cavaliers had pulled the trigger on a relatively major trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. Chris Grant is a very patient general manager and typically waits until the very last minute to make any sort of trades. If you think back to last year, we all knew that Ramon Sessions would be getting traded, yet it took until the trading deadline for him to be sent to the Lakers. We were all wondering whether or not the Cavs would make a trade to move up in the draft up until the very minute that Dion Waiters was selected. Making a deal with a month before the deadline is a bit surprising for Chris Grant. However, once you consider the haul that Cleveland got, you'll soon understand why the Cavs simply had to pull the trigger.
For several months (years?) now, we, as both fans and writers, have been talking about Cleveland's financial flexibility. There was talk about the Traded Player Exception acquired in the LeBron James trade as a way to take on salary and acquire future assets. There was talk of flipping Antawn Jamison's expiring contract for some sort of draft pick. Ultimately, those things didn't happen and many people started to wonder why the Cavs insisted on keeping their salary cap room available if they were never going to use it. After all, the free agent signing period came and went this past offseason and the only players that Cleveland signed were C.J. Miles and Jon Leuer. Neither made significant money nor made particularly large impacts on the team. So if they aren't going to sign free agents and they aren't going to make a big trade for someone like James Harden or Rudy Gay, what good is all of that cap space? The easy answer: to make trades like this.
The Memphis Grizzlies are/were in a tough spot financially. They have a very good core of players in Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and others. The problem is that those players make a lot of money and Memphis' owners are not particularly keen on spending lots of money by crossing the luxury tax line. It was no secret that the Grizzlies were trying to get under the tax line and the easiest way to do that was to trade Rudy Gay. If you've been on the internet over the past month, you'll surely have seen countless hypothetical trade proposals involving Rudy Gay. Typically, those proposals included the Boston Celtics acquiring Gay for Jason Collins and a 6-pack of Natty Ice. Needless to say, the Grizzlies are yet to have found a suitable deal in exchange for Rudy Gay. However, there are/were other ways to cut salary and avoid the luxury tax. That's exactly what this trade does for Memphis.
For the Memphis Grizzlies breakdown of the trade, go to Straight Outta Vancouver.
What the Cavs gave up:
And that's it. If you've followed Leuer's very brief career with the Cavaliers, you'll know that he was signed this offseason after being cut by the Houston Rockets after being traded by the Milwaukee Bucks. His rookie year with the Bucks was encouraging and it seemed like he was certainly a promising young big who could provide some quality minutes off the bench. The writers at FearTheSword were pretty big fans of the Leuer signing. However, Leuer's stint in Cleveland was not nearly as successful as we had hoped. He looked lost defensively and was not playing with confidence at all. He spent a lot of time with the Canton Charge and was unable to beat out the more experienced Luke Walton for minutes even once Anderson Varejao went down with injury. It reached the point where undrafted rookie Kevin Jones was getting minutes ahead of Leuer and it was clear that Leuer no longer had any role on the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Simply put, the Cavs were not playing Jon Leuer and it didn't look like he was going to get minutes anytime soon. John Hollinger (now in the Grizzlies' front office) was fairly high on Leuer when he entered the league, but it wasn't working in Cleveland. There's a chance that he carves out a nice role on the Grizzlies. But ultimately, the Cavs are hardly giving up anything of value. If Leuer is able to develop consistent three-point shooting, he's a somewhat valuable commodity as a floor stretching big man. But until then, he's merely a prospect.
In order to complete the deal, the Cavs had to open up another roster spot. Cleveland did this by releasing Jeremy Pargo. The #LetPargoDunk campaign has come to an end, I believe.
What the Cavs received:
Marreese Speights, Josh Selby, Wayne Ellington, 2015 first round draft pick (with complicated protections that I will explain in a minute)
On the surface, the Cavs got three nice-ish players that should immediately upgrade their bench. Speights played a relatively important role as a backup big man for the Grizzlies over the past two season, but has seen his minutes diminish thanks to Darrell Arthur. I have said in recent weeks that the Cavaliers desperately needed a solid big man to give Tyler Zeller some help as he matures in his rookie season. At the very least, Speights should be able to do that. He also has the ability to hit some midrange shots, giving Kyrie Irving a decent weapon in the pick-and-pop. If Speights is able to cut Luke Walton out of the rotation, I would give him a hug. Matt Moore from CBS Sports warned me that Speights is a player that fans love to hate, but he's replacing Luke Walton. Luke. Walton.
Speights is signed for $4.2 million this season and has a player option for $4.5 million next season. For a team so close to the luxury tax like the Grizzlies, that's an unnecessary and unacceptable contract. For a rebuilding team like the Cavs, that's chump change. The Cavs are dangerously close to the salary floor for next season anyway and Dan Gilbert has no problem spending that kind of money. Even with the player option for next season, Speights' contract does nothing to seriously impact the Cavaliers' cap space. This is an example of the new CBA at work. The luxury tax punishments are so harsh that a team with cap space is able to swoop in and grab some nice assets in exchange for sacrificing a bit of cap room. As we have seen, Chris Grant will not simply take on bad contracts for the sake of it (that means you, Jeff Green). He wouldn't take Kris Humphries this past summer when the Brooklyn Nets were trying to trade for Dwight Howard unless the Cavs got a draft pick in return. The Grizzlies needed a trade partner to shed some salary and keep their core intact. The Cavs are in the midst of another rebuilding year and have plenty of cap room. Advantage: Cavs. Chris Grant had the leverage and the results of the trade negotiations speak to that.
Josh Selby and Wayne Ellington are minor bench players that may or may not have a role on the Cavs. With the release of Jeremy Pargo, Selby should have a chance to compete with Shaun Livingston and Daniel Gibson for some backup point guard minutes. At the very least, Selby will light it up in Canton and provide some crazy highlights in garbage time. He's on a rookie deal and isn't owned a significant amount of money. Wayne Ellington has a chance to bring some defense and three-point shooting to the Cavs' backcourt. We all know how horrible the Cavaliers' bench has been this year. And I'm not saying that these three players automatically fix them when Kyrie, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters come out of the game, but they'll probably help. The bench was so horrible that virtually anybody will be an upgrade.
If you want more information about the players that the Cavs acquired, read this post by David.
Despite all of that, the Cavs didn't do this trade for the players that they received. Instead, they did it for the 2015 first round draft pick from the Grizzlies. This is the 6th first round pick that Chris Grant has traded for since 2010. Now, the protections surrounding the pick are a little complicated so if you can't be bothered by all of that, the TL;DR version is this: the Cavs will likely get a lottery pick somewhere between the 2015 and 2018 seasons.
Here's the full explanation of the protections: The Memphis Grizzlies owe the Cavaliers a first round draft pick. The earliest that the Grizzlies can trade that pick to the Cavs (due to other obligations) is the 2015 draft. In that draft, the pick is both top-5 protected and protected from 15-30. That means in order for Cleveland to receive the Memphis pick in 2015, it must land in the lottery between the 6th and 14th picks. If it's not within that range, the Cavs don't get the pick that year. If they do not receive the pick from Memphis in 2015, it rolls over to the 2016 season. The protections on the pick are the same for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. If the Grizzlies' pick is not within the 6-14 range in either the 2015 or 2016 draft, the protections are dropped to simply top-5 protected in 2017 and 2018. Ultimately, the pick becomes unprotected in 2019, but that's unlikely.
So what does that mean? It basically means that the Cavaliers are guaranteed a lottery pick from either the 2015 or 2016 season. If the Grizzlies manage to avoid the lottery (or are consistently in the top-5) in those years, then the Cavs will get Memphis' pick in 2017. Personally, I think it's fairly unlikely that the Grizzlies stay in the playoffs every year from now until 2017. They're a small market and will inevitably miss the playoffs as their core gets older. My best guess is that the Cavs will get a mid to late lottery pick from the Grizzlies in either 2015 or 2016, probably around the same time that they get the first round pick from the Sacramento Kings in the J.J. Hickson-Omri Casspi deal. Of course, they could just not wait until then and use the pick as another asset in a future trade if they so desired. Either way, it's a nice asset.
How did the Cavs do?
I think this was an excellent trade for Chris Grant and the Cavs. They did exactly what they needed to do with their available cap space and took advantage of a team that was in a more desperate situation than them. They did nothing to jeopardize future financial flexibility, but built up a future asset. Some may accuse me of being a suck up and being optimistic about most moves that Grant and the Cavs make, but I find it hard to criticize this deal. The protections on the pick are a little much and may make it frustrating while we wait for it to come to fruition, but other than that, it's all good.
I give this trade 3 out of 4 dancing Chris Grants.