The NBA can be a cruel business at times.
Think back to when the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Andrew Wiggins first overall in 2014. Wiggins had nothing but good things to say about the city of Cleveland, and he seemed excited about joining fellow Canadians Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson.
Then the Cavaliers traded him in August for Kevin Love.
Four years later, will we see the same show play out with Collin Sexton?
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft may end up in a similar situation as Wiggins. The Cavaliers selected both while hoping LeBron James would return. Both were asked about James on draft night, and both have dealt with uncertainty about their future during their honeymoon phase in Cleveland.
Then again, the Cavs said the same about Wiggins.
"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," then-head coach David Blatt told reporters at Las Vegas Summer League in 2014, per ESPN.com.
The Cavs pulled an about-face one month later.
They traded Wiggins with Bennett and a first-round pick for Love because James didn't have much interest in playing with a 19-year-old rookie. At the time, James was 29 and coming off his 11th NBA season. If he didn't want to try to win championships with a teenager then, it seems unlikely he'll have any interest at age 33 and heading into his 16th year in the league.
Was that fair to Wiggins? Maybe not, but that's life in the NBA.
That's now life for Sexton.
The rookie point guard from Alabama likely won't know his future until James makes his decision. If James returns to Cleveland, Sexton may be on the trade block as an attractive young asset that a rebuilding team with pricey veterans will be interested in. If James leaves for Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia or some other metropolis, Sexton can start looking into Cleveland real estate.
As cruel or unfair as this may be for Sexton, it's what the Cavaliers must do.
Cleveland has precious few trade assets remaining. The Brooklyn pick was by far the best, but it lost value now that it has become an actual player. Love could be moved, but he's coming off his best season as a Cavalier and most productive NBA Finals. The Cavs plan to keep him, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.
The Cavaliers owe their 2019 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks stemming from the 2017 Kyle Korver trade, meaning they can't send out another first until 2021. Given the uncertainty surrounding Cleveland's long-term outlook, these future first-round picks should be off the table. Young players like Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic could stir up some interest, but none would fetch a star.
Every major trade the Cavs could potentially make comes back to Sexton.
Behind the scenes, Altman should be putting potential deals in place based on whatever James decides.
A handful of teams could use a young point guard like Sexton. The Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns need a floor general, but neither have the veteran pieces to send back that would entice James to stay. The Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors all have starting point guards north of 30, so they may be looking for a younger, cost-controlled option like Sexton.
Would Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry or Jeff Teague convince James to commit to another year in Cleveland?
The Charlotte Hornets still make the most sense with a package built around Sexton for Kemba Walker. Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak drafted Jordan Clarkson while with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he's already picked up one former Laker in a trade for Timofey Mozgov. Clarkson and Sexton for Walker would seemingly make sense for both parties. In fact, that may be the only way to keep James, a source told Bleacher Report's Ken Berger. But because Walker is 28 and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, trading for him is too risky without a commitment from James first.
If James leaves and the Cavs retain Sexton, they'll at least have a young, athletic point guard to market to a devastated fanbase. Altman can say that trading Sexton was never an option and gush about how excited the team is to have him, and the strained, awkward situation that briefly existed between Wiggins and the Cavaliers can be avoided.
But for now, Cleveland still needs to dangle Sexton as the primary trade piece to keep James, no matter how uncomfortable or unfair it may be.
Greg Swartz covers the Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA for Bleacher Report.