When Koby Altman took over as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ GM last summer he probably never even imagined this nightmare of a season. A season-ending injury to LeBron James would be easier to handle. And that’s without considering the standoff between owner Dan Gilbert and James, who apparently have stopped communicating at all, even through go-betweens.
It has even been suggested that LeBron James should be tradeable in order to start a rebuild with the best possible assets. But James has stated he will not waive his no trade clause, so let’s assume Cleveland is a buyer.
With LeBron James on your roster, anything but a return to the NBA finals is a failure, but the Cavaliers team is a mess in almost every possible way. They still have the third best record in the East right now, but they are only four losses ahead of ninth-place Detroit! Their net rating is even worse; at -0.7 points/game, they’re 19th in the league.
To be clear, Cleveland has a LOT of fire power offensively. Five players on their roster have at least once been a top five scorer in the league. And when you add their three-point specialists, they can be damn near unstoppable when they get hot.
The obvious problem is the team defense, so they should be in the market for 1) a defensive anchor and/or 2) at least one Three-and-D specialist.
The team’s best assets in a trade with a rebuilding team are 1) the Brooklyn Nets pick this summer, 2) Cedi Osman, 3) Ante Zizic, and 4) their own 2018 pick. But they might have other options if their trading partner doesn’t want to go the tank route.
The big problem for Cleveland is James hasn’t committed to staying beyond this summer, so what they really want is to have their cake and eat it too.
It has been reported Cleveland made an offer for the LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan that was based on Tristan Thompson and their own pick this summer, but that was turned down. The problem here is Jordan has a player option for next season, which means he could end up as a half season rental, which is way too little value to include the Nets pick.
But the solution doesn’t necessarily have to be a big man, even if Tristan Thompson is playing sub-par. History tells us Cleveland should be able to play better defense with this core, even if their chemistry looks almost toxic right now.
Seen from the outside, the answer could be to trade Isaiah Thomas without dwelling too much on the return value simply to clear the air in the locker room. In that case, they might as well use him and Ante Zizic to target a player like Avery Bradley.
If, on the other hand, they want to play this one out to see if Thomas returns to the brilliance he showed last season, they still need tougher defense in the back court. In that case they should look at Tony Allen, who is of no use to his current team, Chicago, or a similar grit-and-grind player.