Are Cleveland Cavs 1 Trade Away from Pairing Kyrie Irving with a Star?
Surrounding Irving, a proven All-Star and All-NBA candidate, is a handful of intriguing prospects selected in the first round over the last three summers.
In support of its young nucleus, Cleveland will also welcome a pair of veteran bigs back from injury in 2013-14 while still possessing long-term cap flexibility and an arsenal of future draft picks.
If an elite talent becomes available later this year, the Cavaliers could use a combination of these assets to trade for a proven star to pair alongside Irving.
But before they enter the trade market in search of that second star, the Cavs must first find out what it is they actually have on their roster now.
Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett—all selected among the top four picks in the NBA draft—will enter the 2013-14 campaign at 22, 21 and 20 years old, respectively. This season will go a long way to demonstrating what the individual upside of each player truly is.
Similarly, after signing Andrew Bynum to an incentive-laden contract in free agency, Cleveland must also find out what he is capable of producing alongside Irving before exploring a trade.
There is a chance that the second star who will be ultimately needed to support Irving's brilliance is already on the roster.
If he isn't, though, the Cavaliers project to have more assets at their disposal this year than they've ever had before to pair their current star with a second one.
Getting to Know Cleveland's Collection of Intriguing Prospects
Alongside Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers have added five players selected among the top 19 picks over the last three years.
Tristan Thompson, heading into his third NBA season, may not project to be an All-Star. In the very least, however—after averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in 2012-13 while also impacting games defensively—he does appear capable of assuming a productive role in this league moving forward.
Despite struggling with his shot selection at times as a rookie, Dion Waiters could stand to make the biggest jump under Mike Brown in 2013-14.
After averaging 14.7 points on 41.2 percent shooting, Waiters could emerge as that second star by his third NBA season. Under Brown's direction, coupled with the support of newly acquired veteran Jarrett Jack and a year of professional experience, the sky is still very much the limit for Waiters.
Anthony Bennett, meanwhile, will begin his professional career equipped with the same star potential that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2013.
Tyler Zeller, selected 17th in 2012, along with this year's 19th overall pick, Sergey Karasev, could each emerge as quality rotation players in their own right.
The time spent on the court during the 2013-14 campaign for each of these young players will go a long way to determining their long-term value in the NBA.
Welcoming a Pair of Veteran Bigs Back from Injury
Anderson Varejao is expected to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers rotation in 2013-14 after only appearing in 25 games a season ago. Prior to suffering a blood clot that later required surgery, Varejao was on an All-Star pace while averaging 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds.
Though the 30-year-old Varejao doesn't appear to fit long-term next to Irving, he could emerge as the Cavaliers' primary trade asset later this year.
If he remains healthy and productive, Varejao's expiring $9 million contract could be attractive to teams in search of both cap relief and that extra big for the postseason.
Andrew Bynum, meanwhile, will enter the season with more questions surrounding his game than any player in the league.
If Bynum can stay healthy enough to produce at the All-Star level he did for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12, the Cavs may already have their second star to pair with Irving.
If he isn't, though, the fact that Cleveland only guaranteed Bynum $6 million of the two-year, $24 million contract he signed in free agency will leave the Cavaliers with the salary-cap flexibility needed to manufacture a potential trade.
The Cavaliers Also Own a Slew of Future Draft Picks
According to RealGM.com, depending on lottery protections, the Cavs could have the opportunity to make upward of five first-round picks along with five more second-round selections over the next two years.
In a potential trade, the Cavaliers could include a combination of those draft picks that general manager Chris Grant has stockpiled, Anderson Varejao's expiring contract along with a young prospect to secure that second star for Irving at the deadline.
Cleveland will enter the 2014 draft with its own first-round pick along with the possibility of Sacramento's, assuming the Kings finish outside of the top 13.
Which Star Could Become Available on the Trade Market?
A number of unknowns will need to play out during the first half of the 2013-14 season before we can truly identify who that trade target would be for the Cavaliers moving forward.
What we do know now, however, is that the Cavs project to be a team equipped with the assets necessary to execute a trade to secure an elite talent if one should become available.
If the Minnesota Timberwolves struggle, for example, maybe Kevin Love becomes a possibility. If the same type of start plagues the Portland Trail Blazers, maybe a move for LaMarcus Aldridge becomes more realistic than it's been in years past.
At the same time, as the collective bargaining agreement tightens its hold on teams across the league, there are also star players that we don't realize now who could become available later.
If that opportunity does emerge, the Cavaliers have positioned themselves with the weapons needed to remain one trade away from securing that second star for Irving at any time.
Assuming, of course, they don't find that player on their own roster by season's end.
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