The Cleveland Cavaliers finally traded Brendan Haywood's contract yesterday, sending the contract, Mike Miller, and two future second round picks to the Portland Trail Blazers for a $10.5 million trade exception and a $2.85 million trade exception. The move is clearly a salary dump for both sides, as the Cavs finally move their most consistent player from last year, as well as the artist formerly known as Mike Miller, off of their cap sheet, in order to receive the trade exceptions. Portland will likely waive both the contract and Miller, in order to clear a healthy amount off their cap sheet as well.
When a trade is announced, our next step is to break down how the trade affects the Cavs in the upcoming season. So the question poses itself: What do $10.5 million trade exception and $2.85 million trade exception bring to the Cavs' roster?
The most reasonable expectation is that the two new assets will definitely be able to fill the shoes of BHC and Miller. BHC was required to be a contract last year, and the trade exceptions (Hereafter referred to as "$10.5" and "$2.85") don't even have to do that. As amorphous financial constructs, they don't require the same physical demands that BHC placed on the team. $10.5 and $2.85 won't need chairs on the bench, creating more comfortable space that guys like James Jones and Joe Harris, while they surely thought BHC was awesome, will greatly appreciate. The trade exceptions also definitely won't shoot 13.5 percent lower than their career average from the field, as Miller did last season, and Miller also created the same spacing issues on the bench that BHC did for much of the second half of last season. As #analytics followers here at Fear the Sword, we know that spacing is very important for success, and if the bench has the same good spacing that the five players on the floor have, that should make things twice as good, at least.
On the court, $10.5 and $2.85 do bring some nice benefits, as well. Neither is prone to shooting poorly, so you'll never have to worry about a shooting slump with either. Playmaking is also a plus, as both go beyond playmaking. They don't just make plays - both are capable of creating new players out of thin air! Can John Wall create new players out of thin air? I've never seen him do that (Yet another thing Wall can't bring to the table, am I right?). But that's the biggest strength of the Cavs' new additions. $10.5 is probably better in this regard, as this exception is able to potentially create better players or multiple players, but both have value in their ability to both create for others and create others.
There is an unfortunate flip side to the exceptions' on-court ability. I'm not going to sugarcoat this. The trade exceptions can't defend at an NBA level. They can't even defend at a collegiate level. If charged with even guarding the lowliest of NBA players, $10.5 and $2.85 will both just let that player waltz straight to the rim or get an uncontested shot off. The Cavs had plenty of defensive woes last season, and while their Finals run was built on defense, the memory of the first half of last year sticks with me, and I have to say, the idea of letting these two clear defensive zeroes on the court for any amount of time worries me greatly. It worries me even to the point that it outweighs their shooting consistency and creating ability. Simply put, these trade exceptions cannot play at an NBA level.
There is hope for them though, in the long term. Both of the trade exceptions have immense potential, probably even more than BHC did. These trade exceptions' ability to turn into players of equal or lower value has high likelihood of coming to fruition, and it's easy to see how, with the right coaching, these two can become valuable members of the team. I'm going to go out on a limb ad predict $10.5 will become a better player than $2.85, but both can become valuable NBA players. And even if they don't, they don't cost anything to get rid of, which is yet another huge bonus. The Cavs simply just have to wait one calendar year, and the trade exceptions, if unused, will just disappear (Presumably to China. Andray Blatche is rumored to have had a scoring duel with an expired $4.3 million exception from the Celtics last season. I can't reliably source this, but I trust the report implicitly). That's the ultimate value of $10.5 and $2.85, and why I'd claim the Cavs "won" this trade, even if the two are probably unplayable this year.
Welcome $10.5 and $2.85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I have no doubt that you'll both be valuable assets in the future..