The Warriors, needing to cut their salary down to $38 million to have enough cap space to sign a max free agent, are trying to clear enough cap room to land Dwight Howard free and clear—no help from the Lakers via a sign-and-trade necessary. This will be a Herculean task, one I am dubious they will be able to pull off (or even one they should), but one they seem determined to see through.
To get it done, they need to shed three contracts: Andrew Bogut ($14 million), Richard Jefferson ($11 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million). All three are in the final year of their deals, which does help, but no team in the league is touching any of them without a Stevia-level sweetener involved. That means their 2014 first-round pick. It should also mean either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes.
(If Golden State gets this done without touching Thompson or Barnes, just...I mean...that's, like...it should not be able to do that.)
This is where Cleveland comes in. With ample cap space, Cleveland can easily eat one, or maybe more, of those contracts—and pick up a nice little something for its trouble.
This is the point of doggedly hoarding cap space for three years. The Cavs have a real shot at landing a legitimate asset: either a young, ultra-talented player or a pick in the "draft of kings" that is 12 months away. When a rebuilding teams clear the deck, this the exact scenario they are looking for. The trades with Sacramento and Memphis were nice, but they are more heavily protected than the White House. This is a shot at a no-strings-attached player, young, cheap and talented.
Now, this assumes Golden State is able to pull this off. Which, again, is highly doubtful. But if the Warriors are able to do the impossible and sign Dwight Howard, Cleveland absolutely must be one of—if not the—reason why.
Ideally, Chris Grant could poach either Thompson or Barnes. Thompson, in my mind, is way more desirable, but Barnes isn't a bad consolation prize. Either would fit in beautifully in the wine and gold. Unsurprisingly, Golden St. does not want to part with either of them, but that's wildly unrealistic. To sign Dwight Howard, at least one of them will be shipped out.
The dream scenario? Take on Bogut's massive $14 million salary and get Klay Thompson as well. I think to most teams, Bogut would just be the price to pay for acquiring Thompson, but man...Cleveland gets a defensive center (on a one-year deal!) and an awesome, young sniper to play the 3?
No exaggeration: That would be a perfect offseason for Grant. That is a never-in-your-wildest-dreams trade. In one fell swoop, he checks off literally every box on Cleveland's offseason wish list.
Defensive anchor? Check. Legitimate starting small forward? Check. Bench depth? Check. The Warriors would be getting the franchise player, but Grant is general manager of the year.
In a worst-case scenario, Cleveland should take Biedrins and Golden State's first-rounder. I could live with that. But if Thompson or Barnes is on the table, Cleveland should be throwing itself in front of any deal involving either one of them. It needs to do whatever it can to be a part of that transaction. Dan Gilbert has already shown he's willing to pay a terrible salary for assets (Thanks for Kyrie, Baron!) and this would be the best possible version of that strategy.
How good would that Cleveland team be? It would be a lock for the playoffs. No question. If everything broke right, it would have a real shot to sneak into the top half of the Eastern Conference bracket, with a real shot to make some noise in the playoffs. At best, a fringe title contender. In Year 1.
Is this a pipe dream? Yea, probably. Could it be a smoke screen to get the Lakers to deal with the Warriors directly? Perhaps. But crazier things have happened. If this goes down, Cleveland needs to be smack in the middle of it.