It was reported earlier today by ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst, that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies had agreed on a trade that would send Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland for Cavaliers' forward Jon Leuer. The Cavaliers are also expected to receive a future first-round draft pick from Memphis.
This trade, which is expected to be finalized at some point on Tuesday, is great for both sides involved.
The Grizzlies have been trying to shed payroll so that they could work out future contracts with players like Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. That means they needed a more payroll flexibility so as to take on the money owed to some of their other players.
Forward Speights is making $4.2 million this season and has a player option for next season worth $4.5 million, that is expected to be exercised. Guard Wayne Ellington is in the final year of a four-year contract; he is currently making $3.1 million. The last player involved in the trade, guard Josh Selby, is making just under $1 million this season and will make $1.1 million next season, the final year of his contract.
As you can see from the numbers, Cleveland is taking on a large amount of money in this deal.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the Cavaliers?
There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks that LeBron James could return to Cleveland after his contract with the Miami Heat is over. The Cavaliers have a lot of cap space available to make a push for LeBron if he once again becomes a free agent following the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season.
Well, they did have a lot of cap space. The question is, will they have cap space during that crucial 2014 offseason?
As long as they do not make any other major free-agent signings, or get into any more future trades that would make them take on more money, the answer is yes. Cleveland will have the cap space to make a push for LeBron James in the future.
Marreese Speights player option will be over at the end of the 2014 season, Wayne Ellington will be off the books at the end of this season and Josh Selby will be gone by the end of the 2014 season as well.
Right now, going into the 2014-2015 season the Cavaliers owe just over $30 million dollars to a combined six players. That means, not only would the Cavaliers have to try to sign LeBron, but they would also need to bring in or re-sign a group of bench players that would still allow them to have some salary cap space.
To make the situation even more confusing, superstar point guard Kyrie Irving will become a free agent right after the 2015 season, and will likely command $10 million more than what he is currently making.
Needless to say, one wrong contract decision could kill Cleveland's chances of bringing LeBron back to Cleveland for good. Whether or not Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert wants to see LeBron back is a different story, but right now the option for bringing him back is still there.
The other question fans have: How much does this trade help Cleveland right now?
Out of the three players involved in the deal, Speights will be the guy who gets the most playing time. With Anderson Varejao being out for the rest of the season, and Jon Leuer being sent to Memphis, there will be plenty of minutes for Speights. Speights will come off the bench behind Tristan Thompson and will significantly help a Cavaliers team that currently ranks 21st in the league in rebounding.
Guards Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby will certainly not see the court as much as Speights. Ellington is a good three-point shooter who will come off the bench behind Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles, while Selby is a point guard who will rarely see the court because of Irving.
The best part of this trade for Cleveland is the draft pick. Right now Cleveland has two picks in the first round coming up this season, and since the Minnesota Timberwolves currently have the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick this year, the first-round pick the Cavaliers receive from Memphis will come sometime between the 2015-2017 drafts.
The most important part of this trade for Cleveland, is that it helps build depth. The Cavaliers now have three new faces in their locker room who have the chance to seize an opportunity to become part of what appears to be a bright future in Cleveland. They also have more flexibility in upcoming drafts, which will give them the chance to bring in even more young stars.
This trade was an outstanding move for the Cavaliers. Regardless of whether or not LeBron James makes his return to the city of Cleveland, the future appears to be very bright for an organization that hit rock bottom when James took his talents to South Beach on July 8, 2010.
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