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Cleveland Cavaliers Tyronn Lue

Will The Cavaliers Make A January Panic Move?

The slip-sliding Bucks have panicked and fired head coach Jason Kidd. The Hornets are trying to trade everybody in an attempt to dump bad deals. Are the Cavaliers next to make a January panic move?

The Cavs have lost 10 of their last 13 games. That they don’t defend was only emphasized by giving up an incredible 148 points to the Thunder in front of their home crowd at The Q. So is firing head coach Tyronn Lue the solution to waking up this group of highly talented but bickering and aging veterans? Or is a big trade on the horizon?

The Cavs have issues.

  • Lue doesn’t have much rebounding and his team is a net -2.5 boards per game.
  • Starter J.R. Smith is shooting 37.3 percent from the field and the Cavs are no longer dominating from the three-point line.
  • Isaiah Thomas is just getting back from injury, is rusty on offense (they hope) and never was a good defender

It’d be nice to get someone that could rebound and defend the rim plus maybe a guard that could score and isn’t a huge liability on defense.

But even accepting the Cavs have issues, this team is significantly under performing at 27-19. It’s hard to believe they won’t start playing better by the All-Star break if they can just stay the course. There is just too much talent here.

Fire the coach? Better check in with LeBron James first as everyone believes the King is the one that really determines what happens on the court. His own pleas to the contrary notwithstanding.

There are some good players being dangled in the trade market, but every GM can see what’s happening in Cleveland. The Cavs will be bargaining from a position of weakness and the players they are likely to be wanting to off load have questionable trade value at the moment to say the least.

So what do the Cavs have to trade?

The Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first round draft pick has significant value. They also have their own first round pick, but can’t package them together as they traded their 2019 pick (top-10 protected) to the Hawks.

A couple of players on somewhat valuable expiring contracts:

  • Channing Frye $7.4 million, who barely plays anymore
  • Isaiah Thomas $6.3 million, do you really believe his leg is healed 100 percent and is he even the right fit on the defenseless Cavs?

Players they’d love to dump off themselves, but will undoubtedly have to include a draft pick just to start the conversation:

  • A slumping J.R. Smith $13.8 million, + 1 more year guaranteed +1 non-guaranteed
  • An injured Iman Shumpert $10.3 million + player option remaining

A couple of rookies that should attract some interest:

  • Cedi Osman $2.6 million
  • Ante Zizc $1.6 million

Reality is, anyone not named LeBron James could be available if the move has the potential to stop the bleeding.

A James’ favorite, Tristan Thompson $16.4 million + 2 more years, might have to go.

Even Kevin Love $22.6 million +1 more year + a player option is an unlikely possibility.

There may be no better target than the Charlotte Hornets who will part with Kemba Walker and he’s really good. Unfortunately the price will be taking on a player with a big contract few teams will be able to stomach.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski points out:

Overloaded with bad contracts and untradable assets, the Charlotte Hornets have made All-Star point guard Kemba Walker available in trade discussions

The Hornets had already made available Nicolas Batum (four years, $100 million), Dwight Howard (two years, $47 million), Marvin Williams (three years, $42 million) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (three years, $39 million), league sources said, but those players and their contracts are largely unattractive in the marketplace.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has gone deep into luxury tax territory and even deeper into the red from a financial standpoint to get LeBron James into the NBA Finals for three straight years and if he wants to have any hope of keeping the King around past this season, he’ll have to commit to keep losing money and getting back to the Finals year-after-year.

The opportunity to land a player like Walker should look like a godsend.

Walker is earning  a bargain $12 million salary with another year left on his deal, but the Hornets will be pushing the Cavs would take on the nearly $100 million still owing to the under performing Nicolas Batum.

Batum hasn’t lived up to his promise, so he’s a big gamble, but Gilbert hasn’t exactly been afraid to gamble. However, Batum isn’t going to solve the Cavs rebounding woes and there is another player the Hornets would consider packaging with Walker.

The oft maligned Dwight Howard ($23.5 million + 1 year remaining) is  averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and a top five 12.6 rebounds. He’s also in the top 10 for blocks at 1.6. Maybe he’s “soft” but Howard is a true center and at the moment, he’s a big missing piece in the Cavs roster.

The Cavs should be working hard to land Walker before some other team snaps him up. A healthy 2017 All-Star point guard averaging over 20 points, 5 assists, 3 boards and shooting 35 percent from three isn’t that easy to find.

The Cavs have also been linked to the Clippers Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan. That pair could make a huge difference in Cleveland. The only issue being, unlike the Hornets, the Clips are just a half game out of a playoff spot. They shouldn’t be all that interested in tanking for what the Cavs can send back.

The rumor mill has suggested George Hill ($20 million + 1 year + 1 year not guaranteed) could help Cleveland and he’d be a solid veteran add, especially if the Kings will take back some of Cleveland’s junk. To be determined.

As much as the Cavaliers, and a lot of other NBA teams, go through a January funk and feel pushed into to doing something, anything to get out of it, the question in Cleveland really is, will they make a panic move?

Gilbert could be losing money and not getting to the NBA Finals for years if he gambles. If he doesn’t gamble, he could lose LeBron James.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.