10 Trade Packages to Save LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers tries to stop CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Trail Blazers 127-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Things are not great between LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs have dropped 13 of their 19 games since Christmas Day. Isaiah Thomas has been a disaster on both ends, and Kevin Love will be out until late March with a broken left hand.

Surrounding James is an eroding roster that contains no rotation member under age 26 yet has seven over age 30.

At the heart of it all is team owner Dan Gilbert, who has "no relationship" with his star player, per Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. James, a fan of dismissed general manager David Griffin, recently cursed at team executives during the now-infamous players/coaches/front-office meeting Jan. 29.

Again, things aren't great.

That doesn't mean all hope is lost, however.

It appears a trade (or two or three) is the only thing that can salvage this season and perhaps keep James from bolting in free agency again. This can't just be any simple veteran pickup, either.

Cleveland needs a point guard (and to rid itself of Thomas and Derrick Rose), perimeter defense and some youth across the board. The more fresh faces, the better.

While James is still on the payroll, the Cavaliers should do everything possible to maximize his time here, no matter what the cost.


Disney Magic

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 6:  Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 6, 2018 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photo
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Aaron Gordon, Jonathon Simmons, DJ Augustin

Orlando Magic Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Nets), Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose

With an overhauled front office, don't be surprised to see the Magic become willing sellers this deadline.

For Cleveland, Gordon gives you a 22-year-old star athlete who can play and guard multiple positions. He's putting up 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season while showing an improved three-point shot.

Gordon could start immediately at power forward while Love recovers from his broken hand, and he could stay there should Cleveland bench Tristan Thompson and move Love back to center.

LeBron James tried to recruit Simmons this summer, and the 28-year-old is one of the NBA's best bargains, making $6 million annually over the next three years. He's coming off a second half where he nearly outscored the Cavaliers by himself (29 to 31) in a 116-98 Magic win.

Augustin is solid and would make for an immediate upgrade over Thomas in the Cavs' starting lineup.

Orlando does this deal solely for the Brooklyn pick, giving the Magic two potential top-five selections in a talented draft. If they see something in Thomas, great. If not, he and Rose both come off the books this summer while Shumpert carries a player option.


Legend's Son Comes Home

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 14: Larry Nance Jr. #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers grabs a rebound against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 14, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloa
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Larry Nance Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Los Angeles Lakers Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Cavs), Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert

The original Larry Nance has his jersey retired by the Cavaliers and is arguably the greatest power forward in team history.

His son would bring a breath of fresh air with his electrifying dunks, hustle and overall athleticism. Nance Jr. has nearly split his time between power forward and center this season and would be an immediate contributor in the Cavs rotation.

Caldwell-Pope is only 24 and would be an upgrade over JR Smith in the Cavaliers' starting lineup, as his ability to play both sides of the ball should appease James. Both share Rich Paul of Klutch Sports as an agent.

The Lakers may end up buying out Caldwell-Pope and his $17.8 million deal, so moving him to the Cavs and collecting a first-rounder in the process is a no-brainer. Los Angeles gets out of all salary by the summer of 2019, even if Shumpert picks up his player option next year (he will).

Losing Fyre hurts, but the overall positives (especially if Caldwell-Pope re-signs) outweigh his absence.


Tristan Mingle

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Wesley Matthews, Nerlens Noel

Dallas Mavericks Receive: 2020 second-round pick (Heat), Tristan Thompson, Cedi Osman

Cleveland once again adds some wing help, this time with the 31-year-old Matthews. Over his last eight games, he's averaging 15.1 points on 39.7 percent shooting from deep.

Noel is a wild card here, as he won't be back until after the All-Star break due to a thumb injury. Despite averaging just 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds this season, Noel is only 23 and could thrive if brought into the right system.

For Dallas, Matthews and Thompson make about the same dent in the salary cap. The difference is that Thompson is five years younger and the Mavericks need a center more than help on the wing.

The Cavs can also offer Osman, their rookie from Turkey, to help Dallas' rebuild process while throwing in a pick for good measure.


Hill to Cleveland...Finally!

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 27:  JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers closely guards George Hill #3 of the Sacramento Kings during their NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on December 27, 2017 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: George Hill

Sacramento Kings Receive: Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert

In a deal that originated in talks in 1986, the Kings and Cavs finally work out a trade for Hill.

Able to play on or off the ball, George is nailing 47.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season with no true point guard to distribute to him. James should help increase this number.

George played high-level defense with a good Utah Jazz team last season, ranking sixth overall among point guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus. Although he and the Kings both stopped caring about defense a long time ago, he should improve when playing for a playoff-bound team.

Sacramento can't expect a lot back here, especially since the Kings are getting out of Hill's $57 million contract. Thomas returns to the city he was drafted in, although Sacramento may just buy out the remainder of his deal. Shumpert is included to match salaries.

No draft picks. No star players. Just a cost-cutting move for the Kings and an upgrade at point guard for Cleveland.


Hawks Fly Into Town

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 23: Malcolm Delaney #5 Kent Bazemore #24 and Dewayne Dedmon #14 of the Atlanta Hawks react during the game against the Miami Heat on October 23, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon

Atlanta Hawks Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Cavs) JR Smith, Channing Frye

Bazemore would be a fine fit at shooting guard for Cleveland, even if his contract is a little tough to swallow.

The 28-year-old will make $54 million over the next three years, far more than Smith's guaranteed $32.2 million over the same length. This should be enough for Atlanta to agree to take back Smith, especially with Frye's expiring $7.4 million and a top-25 pick in the draft.

Bazemore is averaging 13.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists while connecting on 38.9 percent of his threes, a career best. He's seventh among all shooting guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus this season.

Dedmon has quietly become a quality center and even added a three-point shot to his arsenal this season. He's mobile for a 7-footer and could start or come off the bench for Cleveland.

Atlanta will be selling off its veterans as it plunges headfirst in tank mode and could help the Cavs in two major positions.


Love in the Mountains

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood

Utah Jazz Receive: Kevin Love, Isaiah Thomas

Never before has James played alongside a passer as gifted as Rubio. Until now.

Always surrounded by score-first point guards (Mo Williams, Mario Chalmers, Kyrie Irving, Thomas), it would be fun to see what James can do with someone setting him up for a change.

Rubio is a solid defender who prefers to pass over scoring himself. He's not much of a shooter, but that can be compensated for elsewhere in the lineup.

Favors plugs a hole left by Love before he hits unrestricted free agency, while Hood is a rotation player who could take over for JR Smith at shooting guard.

There are not many teams that could get away with Love and Thomas' defense together in their starting lineup, but Utah may be one of the few. A Rudy Gobert-Love frontcourt would be a lot of fun for years to come.


Thomas and Bradley Reunited

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15:  Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics reacts with Avery Bradley #0 against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Avery Bradley

Los Angeles Clippers Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Cavs), Iman Shumpert

Bradley was recently traded from the Detroit Pistons in the Blake Griffin deal and cannot be dealt in combination with another player for two months. By himself, however, a trade works.

The Clippers don't appear in any hurry to win now after dealing their best player and could be scared by the thought of giving Bradley a huge contract as he hits free agency this summer.

If the Cavs want to stick with Thomas at point guard, who better to start next to him than an old Boston buddy? Bradley can cover either guard position and make up for a lot of the deficiencies that Thomas brings to the table defensively.

Cleveland needs to upgrade its perimeter defense, and adding Bradley at shooting guard is a nice start.


Gasol in The Land

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 4:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies speaks to an official during the second half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre on February 4, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Marc Gasol, Tyreke Evans, JaMychal Green

Memphis Grizzlies Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Nets), Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Cedi Osman

Gasol plugs a lot of Cleveland's holes, especially defensively. At 33, he can still score, rebound, pass and block shots and should be considered a top-five center.

Evans has put up a huge stat line of 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists heading into unrestricted free agency. He can play three positions and is able to get into the paint and score or kick out to others.

Green is a mobile big who can rebound and shoot from the outside. He's probably better than Thompson at this point and is an ideal first big off the bench.

Memphis (18-35) can now officially begin the rebuild. The Brooklyn pick and Osman is a fine start, and Thompson (26) is more than capable of holding down the fort at center for a few years.

The Grizzlies may not want to trade Gasol, but they'll receive nothing back more valuable than the Brooklyn pick.


Cavalier Kemba

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 24:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets handles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Novmber 24, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum

Charlotte Hornets Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Nets), Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith

I'm a big fan of Walker in Cleveland, especially given that he's only 27 and has a $12 million contract for this and next season.

There's a lot of bad contracts that Charlotte would like to send out along with Walker. Fortunately, some are still capable NBA players who would fill a need on the Cavs.

Per Zach Lowe of ESPN: "You can build Charlotte-Cleveland deals in which the Cavs get Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum for Isaiah Thomas, the Brooklyn pick and about $25 million more in outgoing salary. The two sides have talked at least vaguely, league sources say."

Batum is Charlotte's worst contract with nearly $100 million left over four years. Still, he's been productive, posting 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists over his last 10 games.

The Hornets would likely require the Nets pick for Walker's services. For Cleveland (which gets rid of Thomas, Smith and Shumpert), it's worth it.


The Blockbuster

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 23: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers puts pressure on C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 23, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Kemba Walker, CJ McCollum, Marvin Williams

Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Kevin Love, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Charlotte Hornets Receive: 2018 first-round pick (Nets), Isaiah Thomas, Mo Harkless, Iman Shumpert

The Cavs' motive here is easy: build a dynamic backcourt that can help carry James into the playoffs or take over the show should he leave in free agency.

In doing this, Cleveland parts with Love and the Brooklyn pick, perhaps its two most valuable assets. Walker and McCollum start at the guards while Williams fills in Love's spot as a floor-spacing power forward.

Portland has to be patient while Love returns from his hand injury, with Lamb looking to pick up the slack on offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is only 24 and could become the lockdown perimeter defender Portland will need when trying to knock off the top dogs in the West.

The Hornets shed nearly $20 million off their payroll while collecting the Nets pick. Anything they can salvage from Thomas, Shumpert or Harkless should be considered an added bonus.


Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers lead writer for Bleacher Report. Stats provided by NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary numbers by spotrac.com.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.