It's no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been shopping second-year shooting guard Dion Waiters, and the latest update, according to two sources who spoke with Bleacher Report, is that the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers have emerged as the top two suitors. And both are realistic destinations based on trade assets and financial complements.
According to a source close to Waiters, he "wants out" of Cleveland and "prefers to go to Philly because he thinks he'd be the best player on the team. That's his mindset."
But would the Sixers want Waiters to play alongside emerging star point guard Michael Carter-Williams, or would they see Waiters' arrogance—as those close to him describe him—as a red flag?
Waiters had lofty expectations arriving in Cleveland as the fourth pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but the reality was that he was never going to overtake All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving as the team's focal point.
"He thought he was going to come in and be a 2-guard and be a superstar," the source said. "He came in and was in the (Rising Stars Challenge) with half of his team last year. He worked really hard this offseason, and he came in with the mentality that this was going to be his team. And it's never going to be his team. It's always going to be Kyrie's team."
Waiters has made it clear he wants to start this season, but coach Mike Brown has elected to use him off the bench so he and Irving can control the ball at different times. Waiters was the Big East Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore at Syracuse, and in that role since Nov. 20, he's averaged 15.2 points per game. The change seems to suit the Cavaliers, who have won five of their past seven games.
But one NBA scout sees a bit too much of New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith in Waiters' game, saying he's usually not the best player on the court and sometimes can be too focused on dominating the ball. The scout also questioned his tendency to be overweight at times.
"You can't have his mentality and not be the No. 1 option on a team. It's like J.R.," the scout said. "That's just not going to win you games—if you're the sixth-most talented guy on the team, but need the ball in your hands in order to play your game."
However, Waiters could be intriguing to the Sixers because with his scoring ability, he could be a better fit to play alongside the pass-first Carter-Williams than the score-first Irving. He's also from Philadelphia and is a less expensive option than shooting guard Evan Turner, who has a qualifying offer of $8.7 million entering next summer. According to a source familiar with the Sixers front office, "They are cheap for everyone."
If Waiters was traded for Turner, the Sixers would only have to take on his rookie-scale contract, which expires in 2015 ($3.8 million and $4.1 million this season and next, respectively).
If the Sixers are interested, it will no doubt force a difficult decision. Turner, who's one of the most versatile young stars in the league, is having a breakout campaign, averaging 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists per game. A source close to Turner believes the Sixers "love" the fourth-year shooting guard, but warned that the organization has "one of the most secretive front offices," so it's hard to tell what they're planning to do with him.
The called the situation "complicated because of next year and money," and said that the Sixers "understand that they risk losing him to free agency." With Turner's agent David Falk's two biggest clients, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, earning $14.2 million and $8.7 million this season, respectively, there's a chance Turner's value could soar to $9 million or higher for the 2014-15 season. That's why another source familiar with the Sixers front office believes Turner will be traded and Waiters "makes the most sense" to land in Philly.
There's also a good argument as to why Waiters would be better suited in Chicago than Philly, where he could get caught up in the emotion of his hometown, trying to be the man every night on the court. Because of Waiters' individualistic ways, perhaps playing alongside proven winner, tireless worker and unselfish point guard in Derrick Rose and learning from one of the most well-respected coaches in the game, Tom Thibodeau, would help keep him in check and let him mature more quickly in the league.
A trade with the Bulls, who would be willing to take on a contract like Waiters', could also benefit the Cavaliers more than bringing in Turner. That's because Luol Deng, whom the Bulls would like to move this season, has never demanded to be a No. 1 option—and he should have no qualms with playing alongside a player like Irving. Throughout nearly a decade spent in Chicago, he's accepted mostly a secondary role in the offense to Ben Gordon at first, and then Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah in more recent years.
Also, with C.J. Miles playing well at off-guard in Cleveland and with the disappointment of Earl Clark—who has failed to build on the breakthrough success he had last season with the Los Angeles Lakers—the Cavs need a small forward more than anything.
Another potential positive with Deng is his expiring $14.3 million contract, and the Cavaliers could convince him to sign for much less by selling their solid future in the shifting Eastern Conference. Keep in mind that his value isn't nearly as high in the new collective bargaining agreement.
On the flip side, if Turner gets traded to Cleveland this season and then looks to get paid next summer, would he be a lock to re-sign there? Turner did play college ball at Ohio State and might welcome a continuation in the city. Also, would Irving, who also has some ego, accept a higher-paid co-star? Irving has two more years on his rookie-scale contract.
What might complicate a Waiters-Deng deal is that the Bulls want future first-round draft picks. Would Cleveland, a team that's been building through the draft in recent years, want to do that?
The Heat are another team interested in acquiring a shooting guard. Jordan Crawford, who has been playing well for the Boston Celtics, has been linked to the team, but it's an unlikely destination for Waiters.
"They don't have enough to get Waiters," a source familiar with the Heat front office said.
One source familiar with the situation said the Houston Rockets could trade center Omer Asik by Thursday. The Sixers, Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans have all been considered ongoing candidates.
The latest candidate is the Celtics, but according to a source close to the team's front office, they're a long shot. Boston likes Asik, but is not willing to move forwards Jared Sullinger or Jeff Green, whom the Rockets have been after for a long time.
Two sources said "it makes a lot of sense" for Asik to be traded to the Hawks for power forward Paul Millsap. In that scenario, Asik would slip into the starting center position in Atlanta alongside Al Horford, and Millsap would become the starting power forward in Houston next to Dwight Howard.
New Orleans still likes Asik, and it's toyed with the idea of having Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph while envisioning Anthony Davis at the 5. But two sources said the Pelicans are adamant about keeping Ryan Anderson, their star stretch 4 who's been the key centerpiece in a potential trade.
Could Lin also be traded from Houston?
That's been the word on the street this week. But a source close to Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin said they're just rumors for now.
"Nothing is imminent," the source said. "There's a lot of talk out there right now."
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