By Bob Evans
With the NBA trade deadline just two days away, the Cleveland Cavaliers could be major players thanks to their unique combination of expiring contracts, salary cap space and draft picks over the next few years.
Many people expect the Cavaliers to be in position to stockpile even more draft picks, as teams saddled with salary cap issues over the next season or two could look to move unflattering contracts now that they are out of playoff contention. The Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings are a few teams who fit the bill pretty well.
While nobody will be seeking them out because of their current playing ability, guys like Daniel Gibson ($4.79 million), Omri Casspi ($2.27 million) and Luke Walton ($6.09 million) could all provide cap relief to a team looking to shed some salary for next season thanks to their expiring contracts. If you add them up, that is a little over $13 million the Cavaliers could save for another NBA team next season.
The Cavaliers also have two players—Marreese Speights and Wayne Elliington—who they recently acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies that could net them a few assets in return. Speights is making $4.2 million this year and has a player option for $4.5 million next year, while Ellington is making $2.08 million this year and has a qualifying offer of $3.1 million next year if the team wants him to stay.
Speights and Ellington have been important off the Cavaliers’ bench, but if Speights is going to opt out and test free agency, the Cavaliers would be intelligent to move him and get yet another first-round draft pick from a playoff contender in return.
While Speights and Ellington would likely end up on a playoff contender, Gibson, Walton and Casspi will likely be headed to a team in need of cap relief. After scouring NBA salary figures and comparing them to the team’s current place in the standings, these five players may be available for the Cavs’ taking with any combination of those expiring contracts:
Thaddeus Young, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
At 24-years old, Philadelphia just gave Young a five-year, $42 million contract extension in December of 2011. They paid the youngster pretty well, and have enjoyed a 14.9 point and 7.4 rebound per game average from him this season. It is unlikely Philadelphia would move Young, but if they think his contract which escalates to $8.6 million next year, $9.1 million the year after and $9.7 million the year after that would hinder their ability to rebuild—don’t be surprised if the Cavaliers come calling.
Aaron Afflalo, SG, Orlando Magic
The Magic may be one of the biggest sellers at the trade deadline this year. Sitting at 15-37 in their first season after trading Dwight Howard, the Magic could look to move some of their longer contracts in order to free up space—which is why Afflalo could be available.
He is under contract at $7.5 million a year until the 2014/2015 season and he holds a player option for 2015/2016. Afflalo would be a nice addition thanks to his ability to score and play off the ball at the shooting guard position; not to mention he would allow Dion Waiters to come off the bench—a role he has become accustom to of later.
Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans
Gordon is back from injury, and rumors continue to swirl around the shooting guard. He did not want to stay with the Hornets in free agency, but they committed $13.6 million to him this year which will go up to $15.5 million in 2015/2016 by matching the Suns’ offer. Sitting at 19-34, New Orleans could probably get quite the haul of draft picks and expiring contracts to continue their rebuild around Anthony Davis with.
Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings
With the Kings’ expected move to Seattle, their front office could be in “sell mode” prior to the deadline. Thornton’s production this season has dipped by nearly seven points per game in scoring average, and his $7.6 million this year, $8.1 million next year and $8.6 million in 2014/2015 is much too high for a guy averaging 11.5 points. With his sweet outside shot and ability to provide instant offense, he would be a good fit in the Cavaliers’ offense playing with Kyrie Irving or Waiters.
Derrick Williams, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Since the Timberwolves selected Williams in 2011, they have rarely utilized one of the top talents in that draft. Convinced he cannot play small forward at the NBA level, Williams primarily comes off the bench behind All-Star Kevin Love. If the T-Wolves look to move Williams, the Cavaliers should be first in line.
Minnesota owes Williams $4.9 million, $5.2 million and $6.6 million over the next three years of his contract, which are high numbers for a little used former Top 5 pick. The Cavaliers could provide some cap relief for next year, and even give the Wolves a future first-round pick back if necessary for a potential starting small forward to run with Irving and Waiters.
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