After a disappointing first half of the season and the firing of general manager Chris Grant, it's clear that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wants the team headed in a different direction.
Although it's not fair to place all of the blame on Grant for Cleveland's issues this season, his recent signings and draft picks failed to make the Cavs even marginally better.
While most of the focus was placed on the drafting of Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, don't forget that Grant spent quite a bit of cap space to sign Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. There were just too many misses—and all in a row—to overcome.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what interim GM David Griffin gets to do with the team. If he's allowed full freedom to wheel and deal, perhaps we'll see the Cavs ship off a few pieces before the deadline and try to salvage some value from Grant's prior mistakes.
Of course, there's also the chance that Griffin is just keeping the seat warm for Cleveland's next hire. If the goal is to still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, though, something probably needs to be done before the deadline.
For ideas on what the Cavs could look into, Bleacher Report NBA editor Joel Cordes shot over a few trade ideas, as per usual. Let's take a look at three deals he composed and see which side would ultimately say no.
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: C Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick (via Washington Wizards)
Phoenix Suns Receive: SF Luol Deng
Is it crazy for Cleveland to give up on the idea of being able to retain unrestricted free agent Luol Deng this offseason? Maybe not.
Considering how poorly Cleveland has played and the rumored dysfunction in the locker room, keeping Deng looks less and less likely as time goes on. According to Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News, here's what Deng recently told a friend about Cleveland:
"The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess."
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, so perhaps it would make sense for the Cavs to cut their losses, gain a top-12 protected draft pick via Washington that should end up materializing in the late teens and save some money.
Due to a neck injury, 80 percent of Okafor's remaining salary will be covered by insurance, which Gilbert will likely appreciate if the season truly looks lost.
It may be hard to pull the plug on the Deng acquisition and the playoffs, but the threat of losing him in free agency and receiving nothing in return seems very real.
For Phoenix, trading for Deng is much less of a risk given the number of draft picks the Suns have to play with and the fact that Phoenix is already a playoff contender. Although Deng isn't a perfect fit with what Phoenix does, he would add a nice veteran and defensive presence for a playoff run.
There's also a decent chance that Deng would want to stay long term as well, as Phoenix has a great young core and cap space to play with. At the very least, it would certainly be an upgrade from Cleveland.
While this would be a great deal for Phoenix, it's hard to see the Cavs giving up on Deng after forfeiting a future first-round pick (via Sacramento), the right to swap picks in 2015 (with top-14 protection) and two future second-round selections.
Given how the LeBron James situation played out, Gilbert may be a little too delusional to fully accept that Deng can leave as well. It seems unlikely Cleveland would give up this soon, both on the playoffs and on Deng.
Who Says No: Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG Eric Gordon, SG Austin Rivers
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: PG Jarrett Jack, SG Dion Waiters, SF Earl Clark
One of Cleveland's primary issues has been finding players on the wing who complement Kyrie Irving. Both Waiters and Jack need the ball in their hands to have any effect on the game, and that doesn't jive well with Irving's skill-set.
In Eric Gordon, the Cavs would at least be upgrading in talent and fit. Gordon is a very strong spot-up shooter who can play off the ball more easily but yet still slash to the rim and draw fouls. He's a solid option defensively as well.
There are obvious injury and contract concerns with Gordon, but he's by far the best player in this deal.
For New Orleans, this would be a curious move. Jack is on a painful long-term deal and isn't necessary with Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts already handling the ball so much. Waiters should be a sixth man for any decent team, and the same could be said for Jack. It's hard to see why any team would acquire them together after how poorly that's worked out this season in Cleveland.
Although Clark's deal can come off the books next year, this move wouldn't save New Orleans nearly enough in cap to justify downgrading so severely the team's talent level. Waiters could pull it together in the right situation, but New Orleans probably isn't the right place for that.
If the Pelicans are going to trade Gordon, a frontcourt piece next to Anthony Davis is likely the intended target. The upside is just so limited to this deal, particularly if the front office is still high on Austin Rivers.
Gordon would be a worthwhile high-risk, high-reward acquisition for the Cavs, but New Orleans should be able to do much, much better than this haul in terms of talent, fit and future flexibility.
Who Says No: New Orleans
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Jared Dudley, SF Reggie Bullock
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: SG Dion Waiters, C Byron Mullens
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: PF Ersan Ilyasova
This three-way deal between the Cavaliers, Bucks and Clippers isn't imbalanced, but it would almost certainly a produce a "no" from all three teams.
Unless Waiters is really a bad apple spoiling everything he comes in to contact with, trading him for a player with no upside in Dudley makes very little sense.
Giving up on Waiters this early seems a little foolish, especially since he's shown flashes of being a very capable sixth man. Bullock should be a good 3 and D guy with size, but value-wise this is a poor return for Waiters. He should be able to bring back more than this in a deal.
That being said, acquiring Waiters doesn't make much sense for the Bucks.
With Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo, the Bucks have their score-first combo-guard quota already filled. It's not a bad move to turn Ilyasova's long-term deal into younger, cheaper talent, but you can't have your entire backcourt play the exact same style. This would just be Milwaukee copying Cleveland's prior mistakes.
For the Clippers, turning Dudley and Bullock into Ilyasova would be a steal, if it weren't for two things. The first issue is that Ilyasova is a poor defender who couldn't play next to Blake Griffin in the same frontcourt.
The second issue is that Ilyasova's salary would push the Clippers even deeper into the luxury tax now and moving forward. Ilyasova would essentially have to be the final piece, and given how he's played this year and the composition of the Clippers frontcourt, that would be an awfully risky bet.
Who Says No: All three teams
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