As if the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't already have enough of a reason to aggressively pursue improvements to their roster, their abysmal performance Saturday likely forced general manager Koby Altman to redouble his efforts.
Trade rumors will probably go into overdrive after Cleveland allowed 148 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. Never was the team's need for reinforcements more clear.
The New York Times' Marc Stein reported last Friday the Cavs were looking at Jordan and Williams, with Cleveland making Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith available in trades. However, Stein also reported the Cavaliers were reticent about moving the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round pick. Turner Sports analyst David Aldridge corroborated that account of the situation:
According to USA Today's Sam Amick, the Cavs aren't the only team interested in Jordan, and any trade discussions could go down to the wire:
Acquiring Jordan alone shouldn't be too difficult for Cleveland as long as Los Angeles is willing to deal.
Tristan Thompson isn't as good as Jordan, but he's three years younger and signed through the 2019-20 season. The Cavs would also have to throw in Shumpert, Channing Frye or Kyle Korver to make the money work for both sides.
Although Cleveland would come away the winner from the trade, getting Thompson and another player for Jordan is arguably better than the alternative: Either the Clippers watch Jordan leave in free agency, or they re-sign him to a max contract. And tying up at least $60 million annually in the combination of Jordan and Blake Griffin isn't the route to building a title contender.
The trouble for the Cavs comes if they want to get anybody else in addition to Jordan. Beyond the Nets pick, aging veterans (Channing Frye, Derrick Rose and Jeff Green) in the final years of their contracts is basically all they can offer.
On their own, neither Shumpert nor Smith is all that attractive.
Shumpert is supposed to be a three-and-D guy, but he's shooting 28.0 percent from deep this year and doesn't defend at an elite level on the perimeter.
Meanwhile, Smith has almost exclusively been a three-point specialist in Cleveland, and that's a problem when he's a 34.2 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Smith is also signed for $14.7 million next year and has $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for 2019-20 guaranteed, per Spotrac.
If they're going to throw Williams in with Jordan in a trade with Cleveland, then the Clippers' demand for a draft pick is understandable—albeit somewhat out of line with respect to what they're giving up.
Los Angeles shouldn't even be all that desperate to trade Williams. Sure, he's set to be a free agent just like Jordan, but he'll command a far lower contract in order to stay with the Clippers. Aldridge reported the Clippers are discussing an extension with Williams.
Then again, this might be the time to cash out on Williams.
Despite the fact he's averaging a career-high 23.4 points per game, Los Angeles' offensive and defensive ratings cancel out when Williams is on the floor, according to NBA.com. Williams is capable of pouring in a high volume of points, yet his poor defense can offset his offensive contributions.
It's clear the Cavaliers must do something to strengthen ahead of the trade deadline, or they could be in serious jeopardy of missing out on the NBA Finals. Given that, the Clippers—through their action or inaction—have an opportunity to shake up the Eastern Conference playoff race.