According to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, the Cleveland Cavaliers are shopping second-year guard Dion Waiters. While it's a little surprising to hear that the fourth overall pick from the 2012 draft is already on the trade block, it was hard not to see the signs.
Waiters has been a questionable fit next to Kyrie Irving since Day 1, as both players need the ball in their hands to truly be effective. It never felt like a natural fit.
Maybe that could be overlooked if Waiters' minutes and scoring per game weren't down this season, or if his PER, true shooting percentage and assist numbers hadn't taken a dive as well.
In addition to his poor play, there's also been rumblings about an altercation in a players-only meeting that involved Waiters earlier this year. Waiters ended up missing a game and didn't travel with the team due to a sudden illness afterward, which seemed very curious at the time.
To put a cherry on top of it all, Waiters has now lost his starting spot to undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova.
But perhaps even more important than all of Waiters' individual failures are the ones the Cavs are experiencing. Cleveland had playoff hopes going into the season, but it's stumbled to a 4-10 start and has dropped six of its last seven.
Add all that up, and it makes sense that Cleveland would shop Waiters, especially when you consider that Jarrett Jack is already occupying the sixth man role for the foreseeable future.
According to Broussard, the Cavs have reportedly spoken with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers about Waiters, who is said to be open to the idea of being traded. Waiters, however, has refuted the claim that he's asked for a trade.
Broussard's sources have pegged Iman Shumpert (NYK), Luol Deng (CHI) and Evan Turner (PHI) as Cleveland's targets.
Let's break down the trade scenarios for those teams and a few others who may have interest in acquiring Waiters from the Cavs.
Chicago Receives: SG Dion Waiters (3 years/$12.9 million), SF Alonzo Gee (2 years*/$6.2 million), SF Earl Clark (2 years*/$8.5 million) and a 2015 first-round pick (via Miami Heat).
Cleveland Receives: SF Luol Deng (1 year/$14.2 million) and Erik Murphy (2 years*/$1.3 million).
*Gee, Clark and Murphy are all on non-guaranteed deals next year.
Why Chicago Does It: If the Bulls want to get something in return for Deng before he comes a free agent, acquiring a player with the potential of Waiters makes sense. With Derrick Rose out, Chicago desperately lacks athletic wings who can find their own shot, and Tom Thibodeau has had success in the past with turning subpar defenders into good ones.
This should satisfy all the requirements of a Deng trade. Chicago would only have to take on Waiters' rookie deal going forward, but the Bulls would get to add depth on the wing as well.
While Miami's pick in 2015 should be a very late first-rounder, there's the added bonus of reducing this year's luxury tax payment by over $6 million. That could be enough to make ownership pull the trigger on parting with Deng, as much as Thibodeau might hate it.
Why Cleveland Does It: This would be all about a playoff push. Cavs head coach Mike Brown is probably begging GM Chris Grant for a good wing defender, and getting rid of a malcontent while clearing extra cap space for next offseason might provide enough mutual incentive.
Deng is probably just a rental for Cleveland, but he'd be perfect moving off the ball and playing out of the corners offensively. To be able to use the cap space this offseason that they've diligently protected, the Cavs may want to prove they're at least close to contending for a title. After all, Cleveland isn't much of a free-agent destination unless it's competing.
Deng puts the Cavs closer to that goal than Waiters does right now, and that might be what matters most to Cleveland right now.
Philadelphia Receives: SG Dion Waiters (3 years/$12.9 million), SF Alonzo Gee (2 years*/$6.2 million) and a 2014 second-round pick.
Cleveland Receives: SG Evan Turner (1 year/$6.6 million)
Why Philadelphia Does It: Turner has been playing out of his mind to start the season, as he's scoring much more efficiently and getting to the rack at a much higher frequency. Guys who can score 21.7 points a game on the wing don't grow on trees anymore, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where the rebuilding 76ers would match any substantial offer given to Turner in restricted free agency this offseason.
With that in mind, it makes sense to sell high and get a future asset in return instead. Waiters hasn't played well overall early in his career, but there are flashes that inspire hope. Waiters will only be slated to make $4 million next year, so it's not a big investment for Philadelphia to take on.
76ers general manager Sam Hinkie knows the value of players locked up on rookie deals, and this would be a relatively low-cost gamble on Waiters turning his career around in a new place with buffet style touches coming his way.
It feels dirty to say this, but it would probably help the tanking effort for Philadelphia this season as well.
Why Cleveland Does It: Has Turner figured it out, or is he just a classic example of a good stat guy on a bad team? Philadelphia is playing fast and someone has to score, so maybe Turner's performance this season is slightly inflated.
Still, Turner is probably a heck of a lot easier to believe in right now then Waiters, particularly if the rumored clashes behind the locker room doors are for real.
In Turner, the Cavs would also get another playmaker on the wing. Outside shooting would become an even bigger issue with this swap, but Turner is still the better player right now by just about every other measure.
If Turner didn't pan out, the Cavs would have no future commitment and would just create more cap space ($4 million) heading into the offseason.
New York Receives: SG Dion Waiters (3 years/$12.9 million)
Cleveland Receives: SG Iman Shumpert (2 years/$4.3 million), PG Beno Udrih (1 year/$884,293), C Cole Aldrich (1 year/$884,293)
Why New York Does It: Because they're the New York Knicks. Honestly, I have no idea why a team with J.R. Smith would want to bring in another chucker like Dion Waiters at the expense of one of their best wing defenders, but the Knicks don't always operate with crystal-clear logic.
Maybe the Knicks would view Waiters as a player with a higher ceiling, or maybe it would provide some scoring insurance should Carmelo Anthony jump ship next year.
To match salaries without trading Raymond Felton or any of the higher-paid players on the roster, the Cavs would have to include two additional players, which further complicates the issue. I don't like this at all for New York, but I wouldn't it rule it out, either.
Why Cleveland Does It: Adding a good "three and D" guy in place of Waiters makes sense, especially since Shumpert has plenty of experience playing away from the ball. That's something Waiters hasn't willingly done so far in his young career.
Shumpert's ability to cover multiple positions will be welcome next to Kyrie Irving, and it doesn't hurt that he's a little bit cheaper next year as well.
This would be a great deal for Cleveland, but again, it's hard to see why the Knicks would bite on this, especially since the inclusion of a draft pick by Cleveland probably wouldn't even move the needle all that much.
Boston Receives: SG Dion Waiters (3 years/$12.9 million), SF Alonzo Gee (2 years*/$6.2 million) and C Tyler Zeller (3 years/$5.9 million).
Cleveland Receives: SF Jeff Green (3 years/$27.1 million) and SG Marshon Brooks (1 year/$1.2 million).
Why Boston Does It: A lot of talk in Boston is centered around shedding the contracts of Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee, but Gerald Green is on a sneaky bad deal as well. While Green is obviously a superior player, he's not exactly a core piece to rebuild around at 27 years old, either.
The Celtics could get out from Green's deal and start an intriguing backcourt with Rajon Rondo and Dion Waiters for much cheaper. With Avery Bradley hitting restricted free agency, getting an offensive-minded shooting guard to either replace or complement him makes sense.
Waiters may be more of a sixth man anyhow, as his career to this point has followed a similar path as players like Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, J.R. Smith and others.
While the Celtics are all about building through the draft, taking a chance on a young talent and reducing future salary commitments wherever possible should also be priorities, even if this is a talent downgrade for now.
If Waiters doesn't pan out, at least Zeller should fill a role as a productive backup center on a cheap deal.
Why Cleveland Does It: The big holdup here would likely be Green's long-term deal, as this would sap up a good portion of the cap space Cleveland has worked so hard to maintain.
It's one thing if LeBron James flat-out rejects Cleveland, but it's another if he never had the chance to come back. Cleveland may feel the need to leave the light on, no matter how unlikely LeBron's return is.
If the Cavs did want to move on, though, Green would be a nice get. He can play either forward spot, and he's a solid outside shooter and athlete.
This wouldn't be a huge talent upgrade, but you'd certainly feel more confident about Cleveland's playoff chances with Green in the lineup than Waiters.
Dallas Receives: SG Dion Waiters (3 years/$12.9 million).
Cleveland Receives: SG Vince Carter (1 year/$3.1 million), SG Ricky Ledo (4 years/$3.3 million). 2014 second-round draft pick.
Why Dallas Does It: Vince Carter is the more effective sixth man right now, but he's running on his last legs. Dallas would do well to start skewing younger wherever possible, even though it looks like a playoff team in the Western Conference this year.
In Dallas, Waiters would have a clear role as the primary scorer off the bench, which probably suits him best. Having less holes to fill in free agency might be a good thing for Dallas as well, especially considering how the last few offseasons have played out.
Losing Carter might take Mavs down a notch this season, but it would be the right gamble to make for the future. A lot of this depends on Dallas' evaluation thus far of Waiters, but also of rookie swingman Ricky Ledo.
Why Cleveland Does It: If the situation with Waiters gets toxic, we could see a deal like this. Carter doesn't get enough credit for adapting his game over the years, but he's a very solid piece who could help provide the perimeter shooting the Cavs need next to Kyrie Irving.
While Carter would be just a rental, adding an intriguing prospect like Ledo would lessen some of the blow of giving up on Waiters. Ledo isn't all that dissimilar from Waiters when it comes to styles of play, but there wouldn't be pressure to play him right away like there has been with the former fourth overall pick in the draft.
The Cavaliers are pretty set in the frontcourt with different options at power forward, so trading Waiters for another young wing may prove difficult. Perhaps a veteran like Carter could help stabilize the locker room and prevent messes like this one from happening again.