Sorry Cleveland sports fans, the day you feared has finally come for a second time. LeBron James is now officially a Los Angeles Laker and has left the safety of his home state for the allure of Hollywood. As a result, a new era has begun for the Cavaliers. It is time for Dan Gilbert to press that big red button in his office and blow the team up to start rebuilding.
LeBron did not leave an easy situation for the Cavs front office to deal with. Going into next year, Cleveland is paying five players who will be 30 years old or older by the start of next season. Four of these players are getting paid 14 or more million dollars, and only one of them was a significant contributor during the Cavaliers’ finals run. This results in a very tough situation that will likely require a series of deals in order to even begin what will be a massive rebuild.
The first opportunity to shed salary that Cleveland should examine is trading Kevin Love. Love was acquired shortly after LeBron returned from Miami and was a solid contributor on all four finals teams. His production fell off a little in the playoffs this year, but he should still have decent market value.
Cavaliers receive: Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Wade Baldwin IV, Unprotected 2019 first round pick
Blazers receive: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic
This trade would be beneficial for both sides. Portland would unload that awful Evan Turner contract, even though they had to package some valuable assets to do it, and would receive Kevin Love in return. This would form a very solid big three in Portland who would become even more competitive in an increasingly tough Western Conference.
From Cleveland’s point of view, they should be attempting to acquire as many assets as possible in return for their current roster. Kevin Love is no longer valuable to them as they begin to retool, and getting a draft pick and multiple young players should be viewed as a win for them. The 2019 pick is especially important because their own first round pick this year is in the hands of Atlanta after the Kyle Korver trade. Speaking of Kyle Korver, that is who they should trade next.
Cleveland receives: Alexis Ajinca, Cheick Diallo, 2020 second round pick
New Orleans receives: Kyle Korver
Korver is a 37 sharpshooter who can still be very useful off the bench for a playoff team. This is what makes him a perfect fit in New Orleans. If DeMarcus Cousins returns to the Pelicans, they will be in desperate need of shooting to surround him and Anthony Davis especially due to their signing of Elfrid Payton. Kyle Korver would fill that role very well. Cleveland also would benefit, as they unload Korver for assets and only take on an expiring contract in return.
After these two deals is where it gets complicated. Cleveland would likely want to move JR Smith and George Hill, but both of them have huge contracts that are unlikely to be traded on their own. If I were the Cavaliers I would cut Smith, and continue to explore possible trades for Hill. One of which involves the Denver Nuggets.
Cleveland Receives: Kenneth Faried, Malik Beasley
Denver Receives: George Hill, Miami’s 2024 second round pick
Denver has been trying to move Faried’s contract for multiple years, and they would finally accomplish that by giving him a new start in Cleveland and receiving much-needed point guard help in return. Cleveland would get Malik Beasley, who was a borderline lottery talent a couple years ago, and Cleveland would only have to surrender a future second rounder in order to unload Hill’s contract. Denver accepting this deal would hinge on what direction they are looking to take with their young guards. They attempted to play Jamal Murray at the point, but he was clearly more suited for shooting guard. This move would give the Nuggets more options as they could start Hill, or bring him off the bench as a very expensive backup.
As a result of these deals, here is what the Cavalier’s future would resemble:
PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Kenneth Faried/Larry Nance Jr.
C: Zach Collins
This is certainly a downgrade from the championship winning team they had just a few years ago, but their future is far less bleak than when LeBron left for the first time. Sexton will have ample opportunity to develop, Zach Collins will get a real shot to prove his worth, and Kenneth Faried will finally get the second chance he has been looking for. As a whole, this is a pretty good deal for everyone involved. Except for Evan Turner, I feel bad for Evan Turner.