Cleveland's GM has big plans for that big trade exception

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Thumbnail image for CAVALIERS_LOGO.pngWe like to talk about how Cleveland got nothing for LeBron James (and how Denver doesn’t want to go down that road).

But that’s not exactly true. Thanks to a might-as-well-at-this-point sign-and-trade, the Cavaliers are sitting on a $14.5 million trade exception. That means the team can trade for a pretty high-priced player and send very little back in return.

So what is Cleveland going to do with that? The News Herald asked Cleveland General Manager Chris Grant that very question.

“It creates more opportunity,” Grant said. “It’s like having $14.5 million in cap space, except you can’t actually go sign a player with it. You can only sign a player into it. It helps you facilitate trades. If a team is in the luxury tax and they want to get out of it, they might give you an asset to do a deal. Maybe you can’t quite make a deal work because the numbers don’t work, you can use that to put players into a trade. It’s a pretty powerful tool. We’ll be aggressive with it as we go into the season.

“We want to be flexible, strategic and not be emotional,” he said.

Good thing Grant has a powerful tool, because he’s got a lot of work ahead of him.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.