David Griffin is a wizard. We all know this. Ever since the savvy acquisition of Brendan Haywood, he's managed to keep a hefty trade exception in the Cavaliers’ pocket. For a team that has literally no cap room and probably won't have cap room for the rest of the century (rough estimate), this is insanely valuable.
The current Cavaliers trade exception is worth $9.6 million, and it was created by dumping Anderson Varejao's salary to Portland at the expense of a future first-round pick.
Almost every season, a player is available for the cost of taking on their salary or, at the least, at a very low price. Last year, I wrote a piece highlighting potential targets, one of whom ended up being an actual Cavaliers acquisition, Channing Frye. We now know that Frye was a long-time target of the Cavaliers front office, but it's way more advantageous to pretend like it was my doing, so you're welcome, nerds.
You can't combine players with an exception in trades, which means that in any deal in which the Cavaliers absorb salary, the incoming player's contract will have to be paying them less than $9.7 million. Also, that means the Cavaliers will have to entice the trading team with their limited assets. They have the rights to overseas prospect Cedi Osman and can trade the rights to their 2020 first round pick.
What this means, basically, these players will have to be pretty much given away for whatever reason. Who fits the bill that could actually be of use in Cleveland?
Darrell Arthur, F, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 Salary: $8.07 million ; three years remaining, player option on final year
Why he’d fit: Darrell Arthur is kind of awesome. He’s 6’9”, but is mobile for the position. He’s turned into a competent three-point shooter, hitting 38.5 percent of his attempts last season. He’s a little bit like a slightly poor man’s Patrick Patterson, and the team could potentially use another pure power forward on the team now that Tristan Thompson has moved to the full-time center spot.
Why the Cavs should stay away: It’s a lot of money to commit to a fourth big due to the Cavaliers luxury tax situation. That said, he’d be a pretty perfect fit.
Why the Nuggets would sell: They honestly probably wouldn’t. He’s on an affordable deal in the new cap climate, he’s a good veteran leader for a young team and is productive on the court. The only reason I see him becoming available is because of the absolute glut of big men on Denver’s roster. They’ve got to find minutes for Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried as well as minutes in small-ball lineups for Danilo Gallinari. Chalk this one up as unlikely.
Could/Should the Cavaliers do the deal? They should, but they probably can’t. Arthur is a good player, and most good players aren’t just dumped into cap space. Also, he just signed his deal this summer, so he can’t be traded until Dec. 15.
Matthew Dellavedova, G, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 Salary: $9.6 million; four years remaining
Why he’d Fit: Just kidding, sorry.
Garrett Temple, G, Sacramento Kings
2016-17 Salary: $8 million; three years remaining
Why he’d fit: Temple is the kind of guard that fits exceptionally well on LeBron James led teams. He’s a bit of a combo guard, standing at 6’5, but is quick on his feet and can guard both ones and twos with relative comfort. He’s not quite a three-and-d player, as he only shot 34.6 percent from distance last year. He did shoot 39.3 percent on wide open threes according to NBA.com, so it stands to reason that playing in the Cavaliers offense would serve him well. In essence, he’d function as a replacement for the kinds of things Matthew Dellavedova did for the team last year.
Why the Cavs should stay away: His jump shot is certainly shaky, and like Arthur, the price point for literally every player on this list and in perpetuity will be a concern given the tax situation. Dan Gilbert has to be willing to shell out even more cash, basically.
Why the Kings would sell: They, again, probably wouldn’t. They have plenty of guards in Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore, but realistically none of those are so good that they’ll push Temple out of the rotation. The Cavaliers would basically be betting on the Kings being dysfunctional, which, in fairness, is often a good bet. A more realistic target would actually be McLemore, who is reportedly on the market, but hasn’t proven himself to be, y’know, good at basketball.
Could/Should the Cavaliers do the deal? As someone who is pretty anxious about what the regular season Cavaliers would look like if Kyrie Irving were to miss a stretch of 10 games or so, I’d do this deal. Temple’s a good culture fit, and isn’t a high usage player that would take away from what the Cavaliers do well. Again, this is a player that’s probably not attainable.
Trevor Ariza, F, Houston Rockets
2016-17 Salary: $7.8 million; two years remaining
Why He’d Fit: Trevor Ariza being absorbed into the Cavaliers trade exception has fueled many a fever dream of Cavaliers fans. He’s a veteran, he’s a rangy defender, can shoot the ball and is one of the better regarded role players in the league. He’d be an immediate upgrade at the hybrid three/small-ball four over Richard Jefferson and Mike Dunleavy.
Why the Cavs should stay away: He, like the rest of the Rockets last year, was not great. He may have lost a step or two defensively, though that team was so toxic, it’s hard to acccurately parse through the production of just about anyone. His reputation as a deadeye shooter is a little overstated, but he has has hovered between 35-40 percent for the last several seasons, so he’s definitely still got it.
Why the Rockets would sell: There would probably have to be another nightmare season in Houston for them to consider this, and even then, there are probably contenders that can offer more than the Cavaliers. The Rockets would have to be launching into full rebuild mode in order to move Ariza, one of the few players on this roster that is a competent defender.
Could/Should the Cavaliers do the deal? Again, if they could pry Ariza away for the assets they have, then sure, they should do the deal. That said, the Rockets would really have to be cratering and it would probably take Ariza looking like he lost a step for him to be gettable for Cleveland.
P.J. Tucker, F, Phoenix Suns
2016-17 Salary: $5.3 million; one year remaining
Why He’d Fit: He’s a really rugged defender and has a bit of an edge to his game. He’s a veteran, but not quite over the hill just yet at 31. He’s a low-usage player that won’t break the offense, can shoot just enough to space the floor and should be a good culture fit.
Why the Cavs should stay away: He’s hardly a great shooter. He’s only shot over 35 percent from distance once in his career and finished last year at exactly 35 percent. He’s also only got one year left on his deal, which might make him more gettable. But it also means the Cavaliers sacrificed an asset for a potentially short-term rental.
Why the Suns would sell: The Suns just signed Jared Dudley to be a veteran leader in the locker room, and given the 10,000 bigs on the Suns roster, you’d imagine Dudley is going to be getting a lot of his minutes at Tucker’s spot. T.J. Warren has also earned himself minutes on this team and they might even try Devin Booker at the three in lineups featuring Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. Basically, it’s a crowded roster on a rebuilding team, and Tucker’s talents would be best served on a contender. They may as well get an asset for him before he walks in free agency.
Could/Should the Cavaliers do the deal? Absolutely, and this is a rare one I think they can get done. I know plenty would be loathe to give up a first-rounder for a player on an expiring deal, but Dan Gilbert’s been willing to pay to keep his role players, and I think Tucker would be an upgrade on Iman Shumpert as a wing defender and has the kind of positional versatility the Cavaliers like in a player. If Dan Gilbert is willing to spend the money, this is a player who makes a great deal of sense for the Cavaliers.
Ben McLemore, G, Sacramento Kings
Corey Brewer, F, Houston Rockets
Rodney Stuckey, G, Indiana Pacers
Kyle Korver, G/F, Atlanta Hawks
All told, it’s more likely than not that the Cavaliers stand pat heading into the trade deadline. Their salary commitments are massive, and unlike last year, they don’t have dead salary to just ship into space like they did with Anderson Varejao.
This is likely the team the Cavs will have due to a lack of assets and a salary cap boom that leaves less teams desperate to cut salary, and that’s alright. This team just won the title, after all, and should be very, very good this season.