Ranking Cleveland Cavaliers' Top 5 Trade Assets
Trade season has come at the perfect time for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This isn't just another January full of lackluster effort, optional defense and eventual switch fippery. These Cavs, for perhaps the first time in four years, are in real danger of not reaching the NBA Finals.
Since Christmas Day, the Cavs are 2-0 vs. the Orlando Magic and 1-9 against everyone else. They gave up 148 points in Saturday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, tied for the most in the franchise's 48-year history for a regulation game.
While internal improvements have to be made, this is a team expected to be very active around the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
If there's a silver lining, it's that Cleveland's cupboard of trade assets is the fullest it's been in years.
If the Cavaliers want to chase Kemba Walker, George Hill, DeAndre Jordan or another big name likely to be traded, here's what they can offer to make a deal happen.
5. Cedi Osman, SF
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 2.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 8.3 minutes, 48.6/35.7/71.4 shooting, 9.6 PER
Contract: Three years, $8.3 million
If I were head coach Tyronn Lue, I would seriously consider starting Cedi Osman at shooting guard. On a team that lacks effort, defense and young legs, he brings all to the table and proved worthy of his rotation minutes before Derrick Rose's return pushed him back out.
In 16 games since Dec. 14, Osman is shooting 52.6 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from deep. At 6'8" the rookie from Turkey can play and guard three different positions, with Lue often using him to defend opposing point guards.
As one NBA scout told Bleacher Report coming into the season:
"That guy is Johnny Hustle. He plays his ass off, he'll run the floor dead sprint. Defensively he's very active.
"His role is going to be bringing energy, hopefully playing good team defense.
"What I loved about him coming into the draft is that he plays with nonstop energy, and that will take you far in the NBA."
Osman has already proved he can be a rotation player and potential starter moving forward. His friendly contract will attract rebuilding teams, as will his upside and work ethic. Cleveland doesn't have many young players to use as trade bait, but Osman certainly fits the bill.
4. Isaiah Thomas, PG
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 16.1 points, 3.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 24.4 minutes, 39.6/29.2/76.0 shooting, 14.1 PER
Contract: One year, $6.3 million
Despite patiently working with Isaiah Thomas throughout his rehab, don't assume the Cavaliers are definitely keeping their new point guard.
Cleveland can live with the slow start on offense and the low shooting percentages. It can live with Thomas learning to share shots with LeBron James, Kevin Love and others. The problem resides in the player's non-existent defense, a problem that has only compounded given his 5'9" stature and recovering hip.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Cavs may look to move the two-time All-Star for someone who better fits their roster, via The Jump:
"Right now, there's a lot of frustration with the way Isaiah's playing on the team. And I wonder, even though it's so early in terms of his return from injury, I wonder if the Cavs would consider moving Isaiah and would they put in a call to the Hornets to see if they could figure out if they could get Kemba Walker."
Thomas would be an upgrade for a number of teams at point guard, and he carries no long-term risk with his expiring contract. Teams would have three to five months to see how he fits with their team before deciding what kind of a contract they would be willing to offer this summer.
3. Non-Brooklyn Nets 1st-Round Picks (2018, 2021)
With all the fanfare surrounding the unprotected first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets acquired during the Isaiah Thomas trade, it's not all the Cavs have to offer when it comes to draft compensation.
Cleveland can part with its own 2018 pick, currently slated to fall 24th overall. While future superstars are typically long gone by this point, one or two good starters can be found at the end of the first round nearly every year. Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers went 27th in 2017. Dejounte Murray of the San Antonio Spurs was the 29th pick n 2016 and Larry Nance Jr. was selected 27th overall by the Lakers in 2015.
Trading their own 2018 pick means keeping the Brooklyn version, as league rules state Cleveland has to keep one first-round selection this year since they owe their 2019 first-rounder (top-10 protected) to the Atlanta Hawks from the Kyle Korver trade.
After this year, the earliest the Cavaliers can part with another first-rounder is 2021. Given the uncertain future of LeBron James past this season, there's no way Cleveland gives that up without some heavy protections.
The Cavs have a few second-round picks to dangle (2020 via Miami Heat, 2021), but they already have outgoing seconds in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Using their own 2018 selection in a trade would signify the death of any major transaction in the future, though, a move James may not be too pleased with.
2. Kevin Love, F/C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 18.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 28.5 minutes, 45.9/40.1/88.2 shooting, 23.3 PER
Contract: Three years, $72 million (player option)
Kevin Love being involved in trade rumors has become an annual tradition, as big men who can shoot and rebound are a rarity in the NBA today.
By all accounts, he is enjoying his finest season in Cleveland. Offensively, he's thrived with a move to center and being James' No. 2 while waiting for Thomas to return.
While the Cavaliers aren't actively trying to move Love, he remains a tricky fit agains the Warriors and has struggled to play alongside Thomas.
In 35 games as the second option on offense, Love put up 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three.
Since Thomas has returned, Love's production has dropped to 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds on 39.8 percent shooting and 38.1 percent from deep. His shot attempts have fallen from 13.9 to 10.4 a night.
Some Cavs aren't happy with Love's recent illness and subsequent absences, either, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:
"Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers' management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday's game, and then missing Sunday's practice, league sources told ESPN."
No matter what's going on behind the scenes, Love remains a walking 20-10 in his prime on a reasonable contract that should still carry strong value in the league.
1. Brooklyn Nets' 2018 1st-Round Pick
The highlight of the Thomas-Kyrie Irving swap, the Nets' pick has become the most polarizing possession in all of Ohio.
For some, it represents the base of a superstar trade; for others, it's merely an overrated asset that will likely remain outside the top five.
As it stands, the pick has the seventh-best odds of landing first overall. The Cavs won the draft lottery in 2011 despite having the eighth-best odds (via a pick acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers) and again in 2014 with just the ninth-best chance.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman doesn't appear in any hurry to part with his prized selection, according to TNT's David Aldridge (h/t NBA.com), who wrote:
"The current consensus among many executives around the league is that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Altman will, ultimately, hold onto the Brooklyn pick. The likelihood of Cleveland ever getting a potential top-10 pick again in the James era is Who in Whoville size.
"'I don't think there is a player on the market that justifies it unless LeBron targets someone and makes it a condition of his return,' one executive texted Sunday."
With Paul George likely staying in Oklahoma City and the New Orleans Pelicans unwilling to trade either Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins, it's possible there may no one one worth trading the Nets pick for after all.