Despite finishing the season with the fifth-worst record the Cleveland Cavaliers have been in the news quite often this offseason.
Sure, a lot of it came from the fact that Cleveland jumped up to no. 3 in the 2021 NBA Draft and will now be able to take a player they can build around going forward. There’s also the fact that Kevin Love and Darius Garland have been playing for Team USA leading up to the Tokyo Olympics which has been pretty cool beans. But, the biggest and probably the loudest storyline of all is that Cavs combo guard Collin Sexton has been popping up in trade rumors lately.
Yes, it’s true. According to league sources, the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat are among the “most aggressive” trade suitors for Sexton this offseason. Those same sources say the Indiana Pacers, along with a handful of other teams, are interested in acquiring Sexton as well but are only monitoring the situation at this time. Things remain fluid but as the 2021 NBA Draft is now less than two weeks away this story is only going to get louder and louder.
Right now you’re probably like Ryan Reynolds in the 2004 best picture snub Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle reading this. Why would the Cavs trade Sexton? Coming off of his third season, Sexton averaged 24.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 51.9% along with a career-best 4.4 assists. Cavs fans have seen Sexton’s growth and development in real-time as he’s become an offensive force and an object of affection (and somewhat annoyingly, contention) for fans to latch on to.
So why exactly is Cleveland looking to trade their 22-year-old rising star? Well, money talks but cash screams and right now the metaphorical checkbook of the organization is straining its vocal cords to stop the team from paying Sexton. This offseason Sexton is eligible for a rookie max extension worth $168 million over the next five seasons. If you’re Sexton’s agent you should do right by your client and ask for that exact number from the Cavaliers or as close to as possible. Especially when the team has more or less made him the face of the franchise through social media and prominent members of the organization have tapped Sexton as the team’s cultural leader. There’s also the aforementioned fact that Sexton has become a force offensively as well which only makes his case even stronger for an extension.
The thing is the Cavs can poke holes in what Sexton has done on the court and call his insane averages a box of donuts. By that I mean they’re somewhat empty calories. Sure, there is some value to what Sexton has accomplished on the floor but has it led to any winning basketball? Considering Sexton is 60-159 overall in his time with Cleveland you get a clearer idea that maybe his brand of basketball doesn’t raise the ceiling of a team. There’s that and the fact that Sexton averaged more than 18 shots per game last season. If you were to drop him suddenly in a winning situation like the Utah Jazz or the Phoenix Suns (Sexton gets compared to Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker all the time for some reason) do you get the same production on a lower quantity?
If you say no to that last question then you’re probably correct. Three years into his career we have a pretty clear idea of what kind of player Sexton is. But, there’s still plenty of questions and uncertainties about how he fits in on a winning team and that’s why the Cavaliers are likely hesitant to pay him the money that he and his camp probably want. It makes sense no logical team would burn that kind of money and possibly hamstring their salary cap for years to come.
But, that still doesn’t answer the question on why Cleveland is exploring to trade him but we’re getting there I promise. Since I’m sure some of you are about to say that the Cavs and Sexton could agree to play out the remainder of his rookie deal and let him enter restricted free agency next summer.
It makes sense. Let Sexton go out and explore what he’s worth on the open market and if it’s fair, the Cavs will match it. But, it’s also a risky gambit for Cleveland as well. If Sexton were to sign an offer sheet that the Cavs don’t feel comfortable matching, then they could lose him for nothing next offseason. After spending all this time growing and developing him, it would be an unfortunate way for things to end for the organization.
That’s why the Cavs are now exploring trade opportunities for their young guard. There is already interest out there and with playoff threats like Miami and New York showing interest, more destinations should start popping up soon. But, fans shouldn’t expect returns like R.J. Barrett from New York since Cleveland is negotiating from a disadvantaged position. It’s known that the Cavaliers are exploring trades for Sexton because they’re uncomfortable committing money to him right now. Cleveland also has to find a team that is willing to extend Sexton, like New York and Miami, and that narrows their opportunities as well. Opposing teams are probably well aware of Sexton’s limitations just like the Cavaliers and in turn, will be able to send underwhelming trade packages for the young guard.
Thankfully, the one thing working in Cleveland’s favor is that they have time on their side when it comes to trading Sexton. They can drag this process out as long as possible and the 2021 NBA Draft just serves as a launching point to really drive up the market for him. They can let free agency play out and then capitalize on a team that came up short in free agency or they can wait until next season’s trade deadline to pull the trigger. Sexton is contractually bound to the organization for now and that means the Cavs control his future as well. Whether that’s in Cleveland or elsewhere still remains to been seen.