2018 NBA Draft: Cavs' Potential Trade Targets and Packages After Lottery Results
The Cavs landed at No. 8 overall in Tuesday's draft lottery, right where they were projected based off the Nets' 28-54 regular season record.
If Cleveland wants LeBron James to re-sign this summer, it'll almost certainly have to agree to trade this pick on draft night before free agency begins. At 33 years of age, James is far more likely to return if the pick is flipped for veteran help, especially if packaged with other talent for a star-caliber player.
The No. 8 pick won't fetch DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley III, but there's plenty of other talented prospects in the top 10. Oklahoma point guard Trae Young could be available, as well as Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. or Duke center Wendell Carter Jr.
Assuming the Cavaliers do intend to trade the pick at the draft, here are the top five targets and trade packages they should be exploring first.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets
Cleveland Receives: PG Kemba Walker, PF Marvin Williams
Charlotte Receives: No. 8 overall pick, PG George Hill, C Ante Zizic
Would Michael Jordan consider helping LeBron James?
The Hornets majority owner faces a tough decision with his franchise's best player, knowing he's not enough to lead them to the Eastern Conference playoffs and will enter unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019.
Flipping Walker for his future replacement (Trae Young?) and a starter in Hill to keep the seat warm in the meantime would be a safe bet, especially if Cleveland takes a bad contract off Charlotte as well.
For the Cavs, it gives them a dynamic scoring point guard that they've greatly missed after the trade of Kyrie Irving. While Walker doesn't match Irving's overall skill set, he's a career 18.9 points-per-game scorer who's vastly improved his three-point shooting. Williams gives them a floor-stretching big a la Channing Frye, who played a big role in their 2016 championship team.
It's a risky move for the Cavaliers knowing that both James and Walker can bolt in back-to-back summers, but it's one that may be necessary to ensure the former stays in Northeast Ohio.
CJ McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers
Cleveland Receives: SG CJ McCollum
Portland Receives: No. 8 Overall Pick, SG Rodney Hood, G Jordan Clarkson
Cleveland needs another backcourt scorer, and getting another Northeast Ohio guy (along with LeBron James and Larry Nance Jr.) is a fun storyline.
McCollum is a smart, shifty player who can score with a variety of moves. In three seasons as a starter, he's never averaged fewer than 20 points per game, even while sharing the backcourt with Damian Lillard. Just 26, he's under contract for the next three years and would be a great building block even if James did decide to leave.
After getting swept in the first round against the New Orleans Pelicans, the future of Lillard and McCollum together is questionable, especially given Portland's already high salary cap. Making this trade would give the Blazers a chance to add a quality frontcourt talent (Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges), plug in Hood at shooting guard and give them a 13.9 points-per-game scorer off the bench with Clarkson.
Hood is a restricted free agent, so a sign-and-trade would have to be worked out, but Cleveland gets its backcourt star while Portland adds three valuable pieces.
Paul George, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Cleveland Receives: SF Paul George
Oklahoma City Receives: No. 8 overall pick, SG Kyle Korver, G Jordan Clarkson
If Paul George is traded to Cleveland, it's only because he and James have already worked out the details between themselves.
George and James can both opt out of their current contracts on the same day, June 29th. It was James who "aggressively recruited George behind the scenes" last summer, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst.
Joining the Los Angeles Lakers is certainly an option, but if James wants to stay close to home, would George want to join a young Lakers team with no second star player?
James and George control the cards here. George can tell the Thunder he's not interested in returning, but would agree to a sign-and-trade to play with James so that Oklahoma City can collect something for him in return. In this scenario, George could either opt-in to his $20 million option for 2018-19 or sign a new four-year, $130 million deal.
If this were to happen, collecting a top-10 pick and some wing help would be much better for the Thunder instead of watching George walk out the door for nothing.
For Cleveland, James gets the player he wanted alongside him going into this season, just a year later and potentially on a long-term deal.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
Cleveland Receives: SG Bradley Beal, C Marcin Gortat
Washington Receives: No. 8 overall pick, SG Rodney Hood, C Tristan Thompson, G Jordan Clarkson
John Wall and Bradley Beal have been one of the NBA's best backcourts of the past five years, but paying $60 million-plus per year to a pair that can't get out of the first round in the East in a problem.
As Bleacher Report's Dan Favale writes:
Beal's remaining commitment is about market level for a 20-something-points-per-game scorer who's shooting better than 39 percent from deep and just proved he can pilot a league-average offense on his own. Look for his name to dominate the rumor mill in the coming weeks and months.
Beal is still only 24 and would thrive as an on- or off-ball scorer next to LeBron James. Like McCollum, he has three years left on his deal and would justify using the lottery pick even if James leaves.
For Washington, it gives the team a chance to shed some salary and also upgrade its starting center position and bench. When healthy, Thompson is better than Gortat, whom the Cavs would use as their backup center to Larry Nance Jr.
The Wizards could scoop up a player like Wendell Carter Jr. out of Duke to use as a cost-controlled option next to Wall and Otto Porter for years to come.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs
Cleveland Receives: SF Kawhi Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu
San Antonio Receives: SG CJ McCollum, F Kyle Korver, No. 24 overall pick (via Blazers)
Portland Receives: No. 8 overall pick, PF/C Kevin Love
With the Kawhi Leonard era in San Antonio likely coming to an end, the Cavs should go all-in.
There would be no better player to extend LeBron James' career than a healthy Leonard, given his ability to take on all of James' previous defensive assignments while still scoring 20-plus points per game.
This would take more than just the Brooklyn pick, of course.
Cleveland would also have to part with Love, its best player outside of James. Since San Antonio is already set at power forward with LaMarcus Aldridge, a third team would need to come into play. Enter the Blazers, who get an All-Star frontcourt player to pair with Damian Lillard plus the eighth overall pick in the draft.
The Cavs could send out a supreme defensive lineup of George Hill, Leonard, Aminu, James and Larry Nance Jr., one that certainly wouldn't finish 29th in defensive rating again.
We don't know what the Spurs' asking price would be, but giving them a 20-point-per-game scorer, one of the greatest three-point shooters in NBA history and a 1st-round pick this June would certainly get general manager RC Buford's attention.
This would be the ultimate gamble for Cleveland, given Leonard's questionable health status and his 2019 free agency. To be able to pair two, top-five NBA players together, though? Totally worth it.