Want the nuts and bolts and possibilities regarding what's going on with The Mavs and the Cavs, and a trade of one of the Mavs' veteran point guards, to fill the gaping backup PG hole in the Cavs lineup? It's all here ...
IS A TRADE POSSIBLE WITH THE CAVS? THE LANDSCAPE
We start with one basic piece of information. Yes, there have been talks ("exploratory" was the description I was offered) between the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers of a possible trade. What you've heard in that regard isn't bogus.
But we also understand that the Mavs are open to a deal, but only if they can get what they want. And because the most-mentioned idea (D-Will to the Cavs) doesn't provide an easy way for the Cavs to offer the Mavs what they want, if the Cavs aren't highly interested in D-Will or Harris, trade conversations aren't going to go far.
WHAT IS CLEVELAND GENERALLY THINKING?
How badly would Cleveland want D-Will or Harris? Only they can say. But it seems noteworthy to us that their player "tryouts" for help are conditioned on players who are willing to accept just a 10-day commitment, leaving the clear implication they have much bigger trade dreams.
We do know that the Cavs — and a very vocal LeBron James — are in "win NOW" mode. If they feel that landing D Will or Harris is the key piece needed to make it possible, game on.
WHAT IS DALLAS GENERALLY THINKING?
DallasBasketball.com’s reporting has already established that, as it relates to the Feb. 23 trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks:
*Are not interested in taking Iman Shumpert back in trade and “don’t see a fit" for a D-Will trade elsewhere on the Cavs roster (with a three-way trade the only attractive way to have Shumpert or players like him involved)
*Should, in our opinion, be cognizant of making sure there is $26 million of cap room unclogged so as to chase a young max free agent this summer. (We name three potential candidates here.)
Let us reinforce what Dallas thinks of taking Shumpert in return.
First, there's an unneeded overlap between Wesley Matthews (viewed by Mark Cuban as a deadline keeper) and Shumpert. There is also a ton of future salary owed to Shumpert, for two more years after this. If you simply trade for Shumpert with the idea that you can trade him later, what will have been the point? Why put yourself in that box?
Additionally, trading D-Will and getting a significant salary player back causes Dallas to lose its max cap room for the summer. What if that represents the loss of a serious shot at a player like Otto Porter or Nerlens Noel or Jrue Holliday? There is no guarantee Dallas signs one of them this summer to the starting $25-mil deal … but the Mavs had no guarantees when they signed Parsons, Matthews, and Barnes either, in each of the last three summers.
One thing we can guarantee, however. If the Mavs are short on cap room, then their chance to sign such a guy is always zero. And this is a prime summer for them to be assembling a core of young high-upside talent, to complement Barnes and create a foundation for the future. So it's not prudent to trade for an ill-fitting so-so player whose contract would simply be in the way of those primary goals (which explains why the Mavs have no interest in doing so).
IF THE CAVS ARE INTENT ON A TRADE FOR A MAVS PG, WHAT WILL IT COST?
So if the Mavs don't want an offer of a player with sizable long-term salary, what should they be expecting instead from such a trade? The typical return in a "rent-a-player" deal is a first-round pick and expiring salary. Depending on the player and circumstances, it can even be more, and perhaps this could be that sort of deal. With the Cavs having "rings" in the balance, there is some urgency there (spelled out here in LeBron James’ “We Need A F— Playmaker!’’ story), as the opportunity to trade for added talent for a 2017 title chase vanishes soon.
Having said that … What if? What if the Cavs decide they simply have to have the best available and that D-Will is that guy? Is that possible? Absolutely. Finding a shot-creating PG, who was one of the best for years, is available, and who they can then negotiate in the summer to keep for several more seasons, would be a godsend. The Cavs don't have cap room to sign this sort of player in free agency, but with the cap exception that comes with him in trade, that barrier would vanish.
In that case, a Cavs offer would start with convincing the Mavs to take Shumpert (or Channing Frye) for trade-matching purposes, and that would obviously entail adding enough compensation to ease the pain of having to take all that unwanted long-term salary. Since what the Mavs really want is draft assets, could the Cavs cobble together enough value from their draft leftovers to move the needle?
Remember, the typical deal for a rent-a-player yields a first-rounder, without bothersome salary. And further complicating things is the fact that the Cavs first-rounders are all unavailable, through the year 2020. So per the Stepien Rule, the first one the Mavs could be certain to get would be in 2022 ...and there's a limit on how far in the future a pick can be traded (in this case, 2023).
To offer more, the Cavs are left sifting through random draft scraps that may not be worth much (if anything). Is there a way to make them possibly remove the Mavs distaste for that Shumpert contract? The best they could offer would be something like this:
*a 2023 1st round pick (the typical 1st-rounder, but waiting forever to get it)
*option-to-swap 1st-rounders in 2019 (if the Cavs have a pick)
*option-to-swap 1st-rounders in 2020 (if the Cavs have a pick)
*a 2021 1st round pick (if it cannot be traded, then 2021 option-to-swap 1st-rounders, plus a 2021 2nd)
*option-to-swap 1st-rounders in 2022
*draft rights to the already-selected Turkish youngster Cedi Osman (2nd-rounder in 2016)
All of that looks like a lot on paper. But the swap rights are very iffy (depending on Cleveland being worse than Dallas in the standings), the Cavs could very likely have LeBron for many more years and keep winning big, and Osman may be just a Euro-guy - - so maybe all this package would really give the Mavs for BOTH Deron and messing up their cap would be:
*a very low 2nd-rounder in 2021 (something like 59th)
*a very low 1st-rounder in 2023 (something like 29th)
It would be quite a risk for the Mavs. But would they take that big gamble on stumbling into something more, and risk taking Shumpert (or Frye) to help the Cavs?
If so, Cleveland gets a major addition: the player they want/need in D-Will, without adding much (if any) cap cost at all, and coming with cap-exception rights in the summer to potentially keep him for several more years to come (the kind of player they wouldn't have cap room to get in free agency).
IS THERE A BETTER POSSIBILITY FOR BOTH TEAMS?
But there's one potential problem in the D-Will scenario. Even if he's wanted badly, James wants the Cavs to ADD talent, not to add a piece at the expense of losing another. Would they want to have D-Will no matter what? Or would they be looking for a PG without sending a player of use to them?
If it's the latter, then maybe Cleveland would rather trade for Devin Harris instead.
In that scenario, the Cavs could use a trade exception to keep from having to trade-match the deal, keep all their existing contributors, and would only having to send Dallas draft picks and draft rights (and perhaps they could get the Mavs to take an unwanted player or two off their cap and tax list, such as the unwanted Chris Andersen contract). The Cavs get the shot-creating PG they crave, keep all their talent, the Mavs get some draft considerations for contribution, and the Mavs have no added cap expense, leaving their summer cap room intact.
It all starts with the Cavs, however. Who do they want? And how badly do they want them? If that leads them to Dallas, with rings on their mind, perhaps they can find a deal with something for everyone.