The NBA world is still coming back down from the stunning DeMarcus Cousins-to-New Orleans Pelicans trade which broke over the weekend. The deal sent shock-waves through the league, leaving many to assume things could only get crazier as this Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline nears. Big names are being tossed around in potential trades, and everyone’s wondering who will be the next team to pull the trigger on a headline-stealing acquisition.
Don’t expect it to be the Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, it’s starting to look more and more like a minor trade is the most we should expect from the Cavs, if they even do anything at all.
Make no mistake, I hardly doubt GM David Griffin is spending the next couple days lackadaisically inquiring about potential deals with no sense of urgency whatsoever. Cleveland is still in need of a backup point guard, and an extra big man wouldn’t hurt either. However, the team’s limitations have been illuminated in recent weeks, and a development from last night only made them more apparent.
The Cavs had a trade exception made available from dealing Anderson Varejao last season. As a result, they were able to take on about $4.4 million in salary in a potential deal. Unfortunately for them, the deadline to use it was last night, and it came and went without a move being made.
It should be noted this doesn’t mean Cleveland is now unable to get any sort of trade done. The Cavs still have a $4.8 million exception from trading Mike Dunleavy, as well as an extra $2.2 million from dealing Mo Williams.
That said, the problem isn’t the available cap space. The issue Cleveland will run into is the fact it doesn’t have much to offer.
Setting aside the Big Three, who on this team is considered expendable? J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are in the early years of new contracts. The newly acquired Kyle Korver obviously isn’t going anywhere, while Channing Frye is now more important than ever thanks to Kevin Love‘s recent knee surgery.
Iman Shumpert is apparently generating interest and is also the odds-on favorite to be the Cavs’ biggest trade chip. At the same time, what would they be able to get for him? The same question can be asked of DeAndre Liggins and Jordan McRae, players who Cleveland would probably like to move but are sure to generate little interest.
Top it all off with the fact Griffin has dealt essentially every valuable draft pick for the next few seasons and you can see the how difficult it will be for the Cavs to do anything significant this week.
To summarize, when it comes to helping the team via trade, the Cavs have painted themselves into a corner. That said, this doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible to make additions to the roster. It just changes the route they’ll have to take to do so.
Expect Cleveland to be closely monitoring the buyout market, as multiple players will eventually be made available after being cut by their current team. Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut and Jose Calderon are all popular names expected to be bought out in the coming days. While hardly marquee players, each could help the Cavs in some way or another.
At the end of the day, a buyout signing or minor deal is about where Cleveland fans should set their expectations as the trade deadline nears. This shouldn’t be seen as bad news, especially since the Cavs are still an elite team as currently constructed.
However, if you’re expecting Cleveland to try and one-up the Pelicans’ deal or compete with the Golden State Warriors’ signing of Kevin Durant, all I can tell you is prepare for a disappointing Thursday afternoon.