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Cleveland Cavaliers Suspend Andrew Bynum, Who Could Trade for the Center?
The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked many people prior to their game with the Boston Celtics on Saturday, suspending center Andrew Bynum for “conduct detrimental to the team”. After being one of the team’s key free agent acquisitions of the offseason, it appears the team is ready to move on from the seven-footer.
Touted as a “low risk, high reward” signing by many prior to the season, Bynum’s baggage is well documented. From issues with the coaching staff in Los Angeles to going bowling and re-injuring his knee in Philadelphia, there was plenty to worry about in terms of motivation when the Cavaliers rolled the dice on the big man. This led the Cavaliers to sign him to an incentive-laden deal, guaranteeing him just $6 million dollars if he failed to remain on the roster after January 7th. If he remained on the roster after that date, the contract would escalate to $12 million for the 2013-2014 season with an option for $12 million for the 2014-2015 season.
With reports circling that Bynum has no interest in playing basketball, you will likely find a team hard pressed to trade for the big man for his basketball abilities. However, there are a few teams out there that could attempt to grab him in an attempt to clear some salary cap space this season. But you have to remember, the Cavaliers value their salary cap flexibility so they aren’t just going to take on a contract to rid themselves of Bynum, since they can do so by just releasing him.
The first of those teams, as outlined by Brian Windhorst of ESPN, is the Chicago Bulls. Windhorst stated, “…the Chicago Bulls are currently about $7.5 million over the luxury-tax line. They could trade free agent-to-be Luol Deng for Bynum and immediately waive him, which would save about $8 million off the cap and get the Bulls out of the tax. Such a trade would save the Bulls almost $20 million in salary and tax payments.”
Windhorst makes a very good point in regard to the Bulls, as this deal would have to happen prior to January 7th in order for them to waive Bynum in a timely manner before his contract becomes fully guaranteed. Deng has a $14 million expiring contract, which makes him a perfect addition to the Cavaliers roster because he fills a major area of need at small forward and doesn’t hurt their future cap flexibility for the summer of 2014 free agency. However, reports are that the Bulls want to keep Deng, so it makes a deal between the teams highly unlikely.
The Kings have been wheeling and dealing this year, acquiring Rudy Gay and former No. 2 overall pick, Derrick Williams. Despite these moves, the Kings still find themselves in the basement of the West (9-20) with $62 million in payroll this season and a projected $54 million next year.
While I’m not sure who the Kings value, moving a guy like Marcus Thornton ($8.1 million this year, $8.6 million next year) not only opens up minutes for rookie Ben McLemore, it helps take salary off the books for next season. Thornton could have value for the Cavaliers as he could provide another scoring option at the shooting guard position. Obviously another player would have to be thrown in to make the salaries work, but he would be a good starting point.
The Celtics are in a rebuild of their own, and the team currently has a payroll of $71 million for this season. While they are only on the books for $48 million next season, they will likely have to make a decision regarding Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford, who are both restricted free agents.
With a guy like Jeff Green at the center of trade talks because of his contract ($8.7 million this year, $9.2 million next year, $9.2 million the year after that), the Cavaliers could fill a need at small forward while helping Boston create cap room in the process. A deal of Green and a throw-in like Marshon Brooks ($1.2 million this year, free agent next year) would come close financially and help Boston shave nearly $10 million off the cap for next year.
Another team that has been wheeling and dealing, the Raptors are currently sitting at a cap number of around $71 million this season. According to HoopsHype they are at $41 million for next year, but they own team options on a number of players—including John Salmons and Amir Johnson.
If the Raptors are looking to cut some more salary for next offseason, Salmons, Johnson and guys like Chuck Hayes ($5.7 million this year, $5.9 million next year), Landry Fields ($5.2 million this year, $8.5 million next year), Marcus Camby ($3.3 million this year, $4.1 million next year) and Tyler Hansbrough ($3.1 million this year, $3.3 million next year) could all be contracts they would look to move.
A wild card team—although there are no rumors about them looking to deal—would be the Nuggets. Sitting at $66 million in salary this year and $69 million in projected salary next season, Denver could jump in to shed some salary. They have a number of players under contract for the next season that could become trade options (JaVale McGee at $10-plus million the next three seasons) if the Cavaliers would be interested.
It isn’t likely Bynum is going to land the Cavaliers a big name if they find a taker, but there are certainly some teams out there that could be in the market to shed some salary by acquiring the big man. With general manager Chris Grant’s shrewd nature of turning nothing into something every year since he has been here, it would not shock me if he finds a taker for the big man and lands a future pick in the process. If not, the Cavaliers will just cut their ties with him and save money in the process like the whole Bynum experiment never happened.
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