Do Cleveland Cavaliers Have Any Leverage in Andrew Bynum Trade Talks?

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIJanuary 3, 2014

Dec 17, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum (21) drives against Portland Trail Blazers center Joel Freeland (19) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum is on his way out after being suspended indefinitely due to conduct detrimental to the team, but whether his exit happens via trade or his outright release is up in the air.

The Cavaliers have until Jan. 7 to either trade or waive Bynum before his contract becomes guaranteed for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports said via Twitter that the Cavs are contemplating offers:

The question now is, do the Cavaliers have any leverage whatsoever in trade talks for the disgruntled big man?

Well, that depends entirely on the trade partner.

Cleveland does have some degree of leverage when dealing with teams aiming to shed salary, but even teams facing harsh luxury tax penalties have shown little interest.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Pau Gasol #16 and Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers react after losing 103-100 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 19 at Staples Center in Los A
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

A proposed deal that would have sent Bynum to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol could have saved L.A. more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes, according to Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. However, those talks hit a snag because the Lakers wanted a first-round draft pick or young player added to the swap, which Cleveland was reticent to part with.

The Chicago Bulls—another team facing tax penalties if they don’t dump salary before the trade deadline—have surfaced in Bynum rumors as well. And even though they’d also save approximately $20 million in all if they shipped Luol Deng to Cleveland, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports they have no interest in doing so.

“There is no interest in trading Deng as a salary dump,” he wrote.

So while the Cavs have theoretical leverage with regard to teams hoping to dump salary, two key players in that conversation have scoffed at potential money-saving deals involving the injury-prone big man.

With respect to teams that actually want to add Bynum’s services moving forward, they can simply bide their time and wait for the inevitable.

If the Cavs don’t find a trade partner prior to Jan. 7, they’ll be forced to waive Bynum, as they won’t want to guarantee the remainder of his contract this season.

At that point, a willing suitor could swoop in and pursue Bynum as a free agent (presumably at a much lower price tag).

The 26-year-old center is averaging 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game this season while shooting 41.9 percent from the floor. Adding him as a long-term building block is certainly a gamble, considering that league sources have said, “he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore” per Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter:

Trading Bynum isn’t impossible, but the likelihood of it happening depends entirely on what the Cavaliers are willing to take in return.

According to Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst via Twitter, the Cavs are now in talks with the Utah Jazz regarding veteran forward Richard Jefferson.

Needless to say, Cleveland is scraping the bottom of the barrel in an effort to get Bynum out of town. That alone shows how little leverage the Cavs have moving forward.