The cool idea is to acquire more draft picks. I am anything but cool.
It is time to start considering a different type of trade; the desired return no longer consists of unknown quantities, but instead, proven commodities.
Assuming the Lakers reach the playoffs this year and Sacramento evades the dregs of the NBA in the next five; Cleveland possesses 14 draft picks in the next four years. Unfortunately, only twelve guys wear the wine & gold every night. With Kyrie quickly climbing the NBA ladder, next year represents the time for a big move forward. And frequently, free agency serves as a bastion of disappointment. So what to do?
Time to turn palatable contracts and draft picks into contributors. Below, I present three trades where Cleveland helps a middling team turn their prospects in a more favorable projection.
What a mess the Dwight Howard trade became for Philadelphia. Their payroll rests at $65 million this year, and $47 million next season, for nine players, none named Andrew Bynum. If they are a fringe playoff team, two of their next three first round draft picks are dealt. With that bloated payroll and dearth of upcoming draftees, they built a five-hundred team.
I can help. How about: Thaddeus Young for Luke Walton, Samardo Samuels, 2013 Lakers / Miami pick and lesser of 2015 Miami or Cleveland selection?
Why it works for Cleveland: At 24, Young combines youth, production, and a reasonable contract (3 years after this, for $28 million). In this season and the last two, his PER hovers between 18 & 19, while RAPM considers him an above-average defender. His most glaring weakness, rebounding, pairs well with the Cleveland contingent of Varejao and Tristan. Add in Tyler Zeller, and a strong, reasonably-priced rotation mans the frontcourt for several years.
Why it works for Philadelphia: Did you see the lead? Other than owning Bynum’s Bird Rights, the Sixers could not make a max-offer to a free agent this off-season. If they make the playoffs, their pick goes to Miami, which then triggers their 2015 pick towards Orlando. A lottery pick this off-season remains theirs and sets the dominoes back one year. Trading Young and abandoning this season turns them from a “first-round-exit with a future of perpetual mediocrity” into a team building around Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie, $20 million in cap space and four 2013 draft picks (probably around 10th, 20th, 35th and 42nd…not bad). Other than this season, future prospects appear brighter.
Paul Millsap sits near the top of many free agent lists. But what if Utah wants something in return? In Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Utah currently preps twenty and twenty-one year old top-three draft picks as their front-court of the future. It seems unlikely to re-sign Millsap to a deal extending into their next contracts. Rather than plow through another April playoff exit, Utah should trade Millsap.
How about: Paul Millsap (signing an extension) for Walton, Gee, 2013 Lakers / Miami pick, Orlando 2014 2nd rounder, and worse of Miami / Cleveland 2015 selection.
Why it works for Cleveland: Millsap is really good. Plus a contract extension amounts to his age 28 - 31 seasons, still very near prime performance. Based on PER, he always resides as a top-35 NBA player. RAPM, which loves his defensive contributions, ranks him as one of the NBA’s best-twenty from 2010 – 2011 through this season. An efficient scorer with a solid mid-range jumper, and an excellent rebounder, the Millsap / Varejao duo provides an exceptionally productive and underrated front-court to pair with Kyrie and whatever Tristan, Zeller, and Waiters become. Also, Cleveland still keeps all their picks, plus a future Sacremento first-round and two extra second-round choices.
Why it works for Utah: Assume that February approaches, and Utah stands embroiled in a four-team race for the opportunity to get thumped by the Thunder in the Playoffs. Their long-term plans strongly consider letting Millsap walk via free agency. Shouldn’t they look to get something in return? With this trade, they enter Summer 2013 with their young core of Favors, Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, combined with three first-round choices and $30 million in cap space. Gee brings veteran athleticism at a reasonable price.
Portland’s record currently resides at a mediocre 11 and 12. Their 2013 – 2014 payroll eclipses $44 million for nine players, with 2014 – 2015 touching $45 million for eight players. None of those players is J.J. Hickson, presently fifth on the team in minutes and pacing them in PER. At some point, they owe a top-12 protected pick to Charlotte. Their best five players turned 27, 26, 24, 24 and 22 this season and have played in 96% of their games, against the League’s fifth-easiest schedule. Where is this team going? A fringe playoff team, minus one draft pick, with limited ability to add salary, and a bulk of their core already entering their prime? Maybe they win 8 of their next 10, but if not (Hollinger Playoff Odds are 7%), perhaps a shake-up is in order.
How about: Wesley Matthews for Alonzo Gee, Jon Leuer and 2013 Laker / Miami pick.
Why it works for Cleveland: As a third guard to pair with Kyrie and Dion, Matthews makes sense. Possessing good size, and as a 39% career three-point bomber, he will spread the floor for his new driving back-court mates. An efficient scorer, who tries on defense, there are a reasonable 2 years and $14 million remaining on his contract.
Why it works for Portland: Did you read everything above? If January passes with this team still winning half and losing half, it seems time to make a move. This move gives them the opportunity to make a max offer (similar to this off-season with Hibbert) and also restores their missing draft pick. Gee presents a serviceable replacement for Matthews; before being buried in Cleveland, Jon Leuer played well for Milwaukee; this move offers reasonable ‘now’ and ‘later’ situations for the Blazers.
Summary: Those are the three trades. Time to add some talent, using the plethora of picks the team accumulated.