Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman confirmed to Fedor that Cleveland's front office spoke with a team last week that was interested in acquiring Smith.
Smith only appeared in 11 games this season, averaging 6.7 points and shooting 34.2 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from three-point range. Many fans haven't forgotten Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals either, when Smith cost the Cavs a chance to go up early in the series.
As Fedor explained, his value as a trade asset is tied to his partially guaranteed contract. Of the $15.7 million technically owed to him in the final year of his deal, only $3.8 million is guaranteed. As a result, teams looking to create salary-cap space will view Smith as an attractive piece:
"Even though the CBA has changed, Smith's contract was grandfathered in, which allows the Cavs to take back a high-priced salary (more than $15 million) while the other team is only on the hook for $3.8 million. Other deals signed after 2016 would only work for the guaranteed amount on the contract when it comes to matching salaries—not nearly as appealing in trades. Smith's contract is the only one of its kind."
Because they're in a position to absorb so much money, the Cavs can put a relatively high price tag on Smith. Fedor noted how Altman has gotten back first-round draft picks in order to take on burdensome contracts like those belonging to Brandon Knight, Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson.
Although some around the team thought the Cavaliers might be able to contend for the playoffs, one might contend the plan all along was to go 19-63, thus landing the best odds (14 percent) of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft on June 20.
Whether he's following his original outline or called an audible in the middle of the season, Altman has done well to get as many draft picks as possible to further the franchise's rebuild. Trading Smith allows Cleveland to continue looking toward the future.