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The Cleveland Cavaliers have managed to pull off the trade of the summer, in a coup which is set to lay the foundation for years to come.
Most expect LeBron James to leave the Cavaliers next offseason which will undoubtedly devastate the franchise. Cleveland were set to enter this era without several of their own draft picks; including their 2019 first round pick.
Much of their roster are also set to come off the books in 2018, leaving only Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith and Richard Jefferson on guaranteed deals.
Cleveland would be starting a rebuild with expensive veterans and without access to their own draft picks, essentially a lesser form of the mess the Brooklyn Nets have found themselves in.
This was the future Koby Altman and the Cavaliers were staring at until last week’s blockbuster trade, which has both improved their short term chances of success, wile laying a significant foundation for the future.
In the trade, the Cavaliers acquired All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the unprotected 2018 first round Brooklyn Nets pick and Miami’s 2020 second round pick. Thomas is undoubtedly the centrepiece of this trade, coming off his best career in the association.
Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game, which was the third highest in the league last season. Thomas was voted into the second All-NBA team at the conclusion of last season and is in the prime of his career.
Although Thomas’ future has been shrouded in doubt recently, due to his hip concerns, he is an undoubted star of this league. If LeBron does leave as expected next offseason, Cleveland has a piece to build around if they wish to.
While Thomas has consistently told reporters that he is expecting to receive max money from someone next offseason. Thomas is worth the money if he can get back to full health and show the form he displayed this past season.
The Cavs will also be able to offer Thomas more money than any other suitor as, thanks to the trade, they own his Bird rights. This means they will be able to go over the salary cap to resign him and also offer him a five-year deal, as opposed to the four-year deal other teams can offer him.
While if Dan Gilbert does not wish to max out Thomas, he can let him walk and begin a full scale rebuild. Gilbert has several assets he may choose to trade in Kevin Love and the newly acquired Jae Crowder. Crowder is widely sort after in the league, due to his “cap friendly” deal, currently owed less than $22 million over the next three years.
Crowder presents the ideal piece to add to a contender’s list as he offers something on both ends of the floor and doesn’t break the bank to acquire him. This is likely Gilbert’s most valuable asset in terms of trade value.
Love is also an interesting trade piece, initially brought to Cleveland via a trade that sent the Cavaliers number one overall picks from the 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2014 (Andrew Wiggins) drafts to Minnesota. Love has performed admirable while in Cleveland, helping LeBron earn a ring in 2016, while his most season finishing with 19 points, 11.1 rebounds and earning an All Star birth.
Love has two years left on his deal following the completion of this year, however one of those is a player option, meaning Love will have the final say on what he does heading into the 2019-20 season.
If Gilbert chooses to trade Love, he can probably expect a combination of role players and late first round selections. Admittedly, not a great return for the high price they paid for him, but he has performed the job asked of him when he arrived, helping Cleveland to their maiden title.
At this stage, Cleveland have close to $30 million in cap room next offseason, with this number obviously rising if they choose to trade Crowder and Love. They would also be on possession of the 2018 Nets pick (which is expected to be in the top five) and possibly snag Michael Porter or Luka Doncic, two of the highest rated youngsters in the basketball world.
With this, along with whatever picks and talented youngsters they are able to trade for Love and Crowder, Cleveland can truly begin to move on from their LeBron era. It will certainly be difficult for most Cleveland fans but at least they are currently in the best possible place to begin this rebuild.