Best Potential 2016-17 NBA Trade-Deadline Targets for Cleveland Cavaliers
Given the sudden retirement of Mo Williams before the start of the season, loss of Chris Andersen to a torn ACL and the possibility of not regaining J.R. Smith from thumb surgery until April means the Cavs have a few areas in need of insurance.
The problem? Cleveland's asset cupboard is essentially bare, given what they've sacrificed to get the roster to the point it currently stands. The Cavs can't trade a first-round pick until 2020, and already have their 2017 and 2018 second-round picks heading out as well.
The team's greatest trade chip is a $9.6 million trade exception gained in the Anderson Varejao-Channing Frye swap that expires Feb. 18. The Cavaliers hold three more exceptions ranging from $845,059 to $1.3 million, per BasketballInsiders.com, and Cleveland does own second-round picks in 2019 and 2020 to bargain with as well.
Another star is out of reach for these meager offerings. Adding some veteran depth and spark, however, can absolutely be done. These are the five best fits Cleveland should be targeting.
5. P.J. Tucker, F, Phoenix Suns
2016-17 Stats Per Game: 6.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 33.3 3P%, 9.7 PER
Contract Info: 1 year, $5.3 million
Defender? Check. Plays multiple positions? Check.
Veteran on a friendly contract? Bingo.
The Phoenix Suns have plummeted to the bottom of the Western Conference with an 11-25 record and should be looking to part ways with their veterans soon. Tucker to Cleveland would be a nice start.
Able to play shooting guard and both forward spots, the six-year vet would be a perfect backup behind LeBron James and Kevin Love. He's already shown the ability to cover both wings and bigs, using his size and grittiness to disrupt passing lanes and force tough looks.
Tucker's opponents have shot just 42.4 percent against him all season, down from their normal average of 44.9 percent, via NBA.com. For some added toughness, defense and versatility off their bench, the Cavaliers would be wise to pursue this guy.
4. Jameer Nelson, PG, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 Stats Per Game: 8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 36.8 3P%, 9.7 PER
Contract Info: 2 years, $9 million
Nelson doesn't bring quite the flash of other point guards potentially on the market, but he's a reliable shooter that carries a friendly salary.
A quality backup point guard with plenty of playoff experience, Nelson is one of the Nuggets' few veterans making a positive impact. Denver has been better on both ends of the floor with him, giving him an on/off rating of plus-5.5 this season.
While the Nuggets are technically still in the playoff hunt, their best-case scenario remains a first-round throttling by the Golden State Warriors. Denver would be wise to pursue contender status next season and instead open up more minutes for their young, talented backcourt of Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley.
Getting even a token of future assets for Nelson would be also be helpful as Denver (theoretically) pursues a future blockbuster to clear its many logjams.
3. Kyle O'Quinn, C, New York Knicks
2016-17 Stats Per Game: 6.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 55.1 FG%, 19.6 PER
Contract Info: 3 years, $12 million (player option)
The Knicks have lost their past five games and currently sit at 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Moving O'Quinn would free up more minutes for Kristaps Porzingis at center, a position he should remain at for the prime of his career. Foolishly giving Joakim Noah $72 million this past summer likely means the former Chicago Bull isn't going anywhere, either.
New York's loss would be Cleveland's gain, as Chris Andersen's ACL tear opens the need for a backup defensive big. O'Quinn would immediately become the team's best shot-blocker as a reserve behind Tristan Thompson.
"He’s not that tall — 6-9, 6-10, not a high-flyer," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. "But he’s got great timing and long arms. You see some of the shots he’s blocked since training camp. I don’t think he’s going to get them and winds up getting them."
Perhaps the best part of bringing in O'Quinn is his contract. On a team so far over the luxury tax, Cleveland would be happy to pay his modest $4 million annual salary over the next few years. The problem? With his strong play of late, it would likely cost them their 2020 first-round pick.
2. Kyle Korver, SG, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 Stats Per Game: 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 41.4 3P%, 10.9 PER
Contract Info: 1 year, $5.2 million
Would Atlanta really want to do business with the Cavs? Maybe not given their recent playoff battles and possibility of meeting in the postseason again.
But it's clear they're open to trade offers at the moment.
According to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Korver's name has already come up in trade talks along with Paul Millsap. Cleveland doesn't have the need or assets to get the latter, but the former would be a dream target.
We know what the 14-year veteran can do. He remains an elite outside shooter who spreads the floor and makes everyone's job easier inside.
Korver is converting 43.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers this season. The Cavaliers attempt 24.0 of these per game, second-most in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets. When placed between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Korver would become an absolute assassin with all the open looks he'd soon receive.
Korver wouldn't come cheap, however. Throwing in a young guard like Kay Felder or Jordan McRae may be necessary, along with a trade exception and future draft picks.
1. Deron Williams, PG, Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 Stats Per Game: 13.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 34.6 3P%, 15.3 PER
Contract Info: 1 year, $9 million
Perhaps the biggest name on this list, Williams' recent play proves he's got plenty left in the tank.
One of the few bright spots on the Mavericks this season, Williams put up 15.1 points and 7.9 assists through 17 December games. Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon has brought up Williams' name as a potential backup to Kyrie Irving, giving the Cavaliers a veteran with 72 playoff starts to his name.
While not an extraordinary three-point shooter or defender, he does give the Cavs a proven playmaker to reduce the minutes and usage on James and Irving. Williams is a capable lane-penetrator who can detect the Cavaliers' plethora of shooters on the perimeter.
With James up to 37.2 minutes a game, Williams would be welcome relief to help keep the former fresh.
The Mavericks aren't going anywhere this season, and may end up buying out Williams as they move toward younger options. Trading him to the Cavs for an exception and draft picks would at least net them something in return without having to eat dead money.
Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @CavsGregBR.