The Cleveland Cavaliers won 66 games in 2008-2009. The Golden State Warriors won fewer than 30.
The Cavaliers have a once-in-a-generation player coming off one of the best individual efforts in recent post-season history.
The Warriors scored a monumental upset in 2007, then lost most of their players to free agency or trade, including Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Al Harrington, and (unfortunately for the Cavs and Warriors) Mickael Pietrus.
Why, then, would Cleveland consider trading with Golden State, and how could a trade be mutually beneficial?
Cleveland has plenty of contracts coming off the books, but also must re-sign Anderson Varejao, a key energy and rebounding player (and charge-taker).
According to ESPN, Varejao could ask for as much as $10 million per year, although some sites say the figure could be around $8 million...at least $3 million more than Anderson currently makes.
Fortunately for Cleveland, there are a few assets left, one of which is Ben Wallace's contract, which could either result in a buy-out or an all-important expiring deal.
The Cavs could try and use Wallace's contract to acquire a star like Chris Bosh. However, the Raptors are unlikely to make a trade that improves the best team in the East. And it would take more than just a contract to acquire a top player.
While the playoffs have elevated LeBron's game to a new level, it has decreased the trade value of almost all of his teammates.
And if Zydrunas Ilgauskas picks up his option for next season, which he indicated he will, there will only be the Mid-Level Exception to augment their roster.
And while an M.L.E. free agent like Chris Anderson would definitely help the Cavs, it's unlikely that they would make or break a championship run.
The Cavs could try to lure Antonio McDyess to Cleveland for the second straight year, and it might work this time, given the lack of success Detroit had after they traded Chauncey Billups.
Or Cleveland could gamble on Jason Kidd giving a vintage playoff performance in pursuit of a ring.
But with Kevin Garnett returning to the Celtics, the Cavs might need more. And even with what is essentially the free acquisition of an All-Star player, Boston apparently isn't resting this off-season.
Rumors of a Ray Allen-Rajon Rondo-for-Amare Stoudemire-Leandro Barbosa trade might increase Cleveland's chances of trading for more scoring. In an scoring arms race with Boston, several Warriors could greatly help take the burden off of LeBron's shoulders.
Even the Warriors who are perceived to have little trade value around the league could be useful to the Cavs.
Stephen Jackson is 31 years old, but averaged over 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists this past season. He provided veteran leadership to one of the youngest teams in league in 2008-2009.
And as a hybrid forward-guard, he can play multiple positions and create match-up problems with his height. In one five-game stretch this season, he recorded three games with 30-plus points and 10-plus assists.
Jackson has tended to be undisciplined in his shot selection throughout his career. But he played a key support role on a championship team (the 2003 Spurs) by limiting his aggressive tendencies (which are certainly amplified by playing for Don Nelson).
And when he was traded to the Warriors, he shed his past and became a team leader, helping to invigorate the squad that broke through to the playoffs.
Corey Maggette is another often undisciplined shooter who could still benefit the Cavs. He relentlessly attacks the basket and gets to the free throw line, something the Cavs as a team didn't do enough of against the Magic.
He is also a solid free-throw shooter, and would certainly become more disciplined playing in a pressure situation with LeBron.
Maggette can also play guard and forward, and at 6-foot-6, he could post up the opposing shooting guard and create a mismatch.
Corey is not a good three-point shooter, but Sasha Pavlovic, Daniel Gibson and others could help pick up the slack outside. Maggette could also help pull wing defenders such as Pietrus off of the outside shooters by driving to the basket.
The Warriors defense has been rightfully maligned, but the Cavs acquired Mo Williams despite his lack of intensity on the defensive end (which picked up over the course of his first season with the Cavs). And Jackson has received at least a few props for his defense in the past.
Other than LeBron, the Cavaliers only have roughly nineteen million dollars in salary committed in 2010/2011.
A max contract for LeBron would cost roughly $16.5 million, leaving plenty of room to absorb the contracts of Jackson and Maggette, while still signing another high-quality player.
The Cavs are the epitome of a "win now" team, and will need to keep pace with higher-scoring teams.
If the Celtics would be willing to shop a star sharpshooter and their young, very talented starting point guard, the Cavs should be willing to take on two bad contracts for two more weapons on offensive.
And they'd only have to give up Wallace's contract and two players who contributed nothing to their last playoff run.
The trade would look something like this:
Cleveland receives: Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson, Ronny Turiaf, 2009 1st round pick (No. 7 overall)
Golden State receives: Ben Wallace, J.J. Hickson, Trey Johnson, 2009 1st round pick (No. 30 overall)
The Cavs get Ronny Turiaf, an energetic big man who can rebound, block some shots, and make up for the possible loss of Varejao.
In addition, the seventh pick could net Cleveland a Courtney Lee-type impact rookie (maybe Jrue Holiday?). Or the pick could be packaged in another deal.
The deal would also work if Monta Ellis or Andris Beidrins were substituted for either Maggette or Jackson, and Turiaf. Cleveland would likely also covet include incredible three-point shooter Anthony Morrow (and his small contract).
However, Golden State would be unlikely to consider these trades, even if they kept their draft pick.
The Warriors would probably be willing to part with Brandon Wright, but to make the salaries work, either Daniel Gibson or Delonte West would need be added by Cleveland.
Considering that the Cavs were willing to trade for Mo Williams' contract to gain approximately 20 points per game of scoring, acquiring almost 40 points per game (plus rebounds) and a top-ten draft pick for the price of two Mo's doesn't seem like that bad of a deal.
From the Warriors' perpective, it's a bit harder to justify, but it's still in the interst of the franchise.
What are they giving up?
Maggette barely made twenty-five percent of his threes, was injured a lot, and takes playing time away from better shooters (Azubuike and Morrow had break-out games when Maggs wasn't playing).
Jackson is great, but he's 31, lead the league in turnovers per game, and also has one of the worst contracts in the league.
Turiaf is a great role player, but he was included to off-set rebounding and give the Cavs a good-value Varejao replacement. If the Cavs are going to take on those contracts, they need a good value (and it shouldn't be Randolph or even Azubuike or Morrow).
Switching picks might seem like a bit much, in fact it probably should've been a future lottery-protected pick, but it was added to make the offer too good to pass up. Also, this draft is very weak, and the money might be better spent elsewhere. The Warriors might be better off trading down anyway (although maybe not that far down).
The Warriors are missing too many pieces to make the playoffs, especially with Portland on the rise. The best case scenario (a Maggs-for-Baron trade) would leave the Dubs and Suns battling for eighth, with Baron's even bigger contract to deal with down the road, making it harder to re-sign Randolph and Morrow.
The Warriors are still a J-Rich or more away from even challenging for ninth in the brutal West, and it's probably best to let Jack and/or Corey go if someone would take them. Randolph, Ellis, and Beidrins are the new core for the future, and Monta and Andris are locked up for a long time.
Golden State has an excess of scoring wings and a desire to dump salary, and the Cavs need a spark from someone who can take some of the pressure off of LeBron. A trade could help both teams accomplish their short-term goals.