After a dramatic Game 3, in which Kevin Durant put the nail in the coffin of the 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers and their current roster as we know it, it’s become painfully obvious the Cavs have multiple holes that will need addressed in the offseason.
Many of those holes are on the second unit, with older, less athletic, and in some cases, overpaid veterans.
Their locker room leadership and ability to help team camaraderie in 2016 was especially valuable, but when push came to shove after the Durant signing, the Cavs didn’t have the firepower to match up.
Deron Williams will become a free-agent and based on his lackluster three-month stay in Cleveland, he’s probably headed elsewhere. Dahntay Jones’ annual two month stay in Cleveland is probably going the same route as last year.
The Cavs could re-sign Kyle Korver, but he didn’t provide as much of a boost as some expected.
James Jones could possibly retire, but if LeBron wants him to stay and is adamant about that, he’ll still have a spot in Cleveland.
Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson’s futures in Cleveland are unclear. They’re still signed under big contracts, but it’s possible the Cavs could dump their salary.
As far as trade chips go, aside from Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert might get the most return on the trade market.
A few weeks ago, we may have said that about Tristan Thompson, but his disappearing act in the Finals has changed his stock. Maybe a team with a need for a young rebounding specialist will still view him as a valuable piece, but they don’t have to let the Cavs know they still think highly of him, because most of the league can now (justifiably) buy low on Thompson.
J.R. Smith is entering the second year of a four-year deal worth $57 mil. Based on his rough 2016-17 season (from an injury standpoint, from an off the court standpoint, and from his lack of production when healthy), it’s tough to see why any team would want to take that contract, unless he was a throw-in, like the deal that sent him from the Knicks to Cleveland.
Keeping all this in mind, the Cavs obviously need to get younger, more athletic, and better defensively on the bench – and that’s just to keep up with Golden State’s depth (which proved itself to be much better than many expected after the Durant signing).
To find good, young role players while dealing with the salary cap problems the Cavs have, David Griffin (if he’s re-signed) will have to get creative.
Maybe he can hit on one or two diamonds in the rough, from the D-League (like Edy Tavares or DeAndre Liggins could have been).
But it’s become clear that signing old guys who are here to chase a ring, but can’t chase the Warriors around all those screens will not work.
If the Cavs can improve their bench to the point where it’s not a clear cut disadvantage like it was in this year’s series, that’s only half the battle.
It still doesn’t account for the significant edge Golden State has with the addition of Durant.
Fans, writers and analysts have been throwing names around like Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony as potential trade targets for Cleveland.
Unless the Cavs are able to convince one of those teams that a package of Thompson, Shumpert and (fill-in-the-blank overpriced veteran) is enough to acquire an All-Star, it’s going to have to involve Love.
This is if we assume Kyrie is untouchable and at least from my vantage point, it doesn’t make any sense to entertain the thought of trading him.
If there’s one player whose name has come up in trade rumors time and time again that makes as close to perfect sense in the Cavs’ quest to counter Golden State’s addition of Durant, it’s Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler.
He’s one of the top two-way players in the league, one of the most athletic players in the league, can score at will, and is in the prime of his career on a team that doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to contending.
He’s signed for the next two seasons (with a third-year player option) and although nothing is guaranteed, right now it’s safe to say LeBron will still be playing at a high level for at least two more seasons. It may not be much longer than that, but who knows? The point is adding Butler can maximize these two seasons of LeBron still being at or near the top of his game and possibly extend LeBron’s timeframe of playing at a high level because LeBron won’t be asked to do as much, like running the point guard as often or guarding the other team’s best scorer.
Butler could thrive on the Cavs because he wouldn’t be asked to do the heavy lifting on offense and could take some of the burden off LeBron on both ends, but more importantly on defense.
Even if Butler doesn’t score 20 points, his ability to keep up with Durant and make life difficult, while letting LeBron save his energy on that end to be more explosive on offense would be the biggest impact he could have on the Cavs.
While Chicago probably wouldn’t have as much use for a guy like Love in a trade, the Cavs could try to work in a third team that’s had its eye on Love for some time: for example, the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are stacked with assets that could entice a team like Chicago in rebuild mode.
Here’s a possible Cavs-Bulls-Celtics trade for kicks and giggles:
Cavs Receive Jimmy Butler
Celtics Receive Kevin Love
Bulls Receive Boston’s 2018 First Round Pick (via Brooklyn), Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder
This is just a hypothetical scenario and we can all make those up until we’re blue in the face, but a trade centered around Love-Butler and a Brooklyn first rounder makes sense for all parties involved.
If you have your own trade scenarios to ponder, comment in the article or tweet me @MedleyHoops
It’s going to be a long summer.