The Cavaliers parted ways with Dion Waiters on Monday, as part of a three-team trade that involved the Thunder and the Knicks.
Cleveland received J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in exchange for Waiters, with Shumpert being the better asset, and Smith being the cost of doing business.
This was likely the best the Cavaliers could do under the circumstances, because once it became known around the league that Waiters was available, multiple teams came calling with offers — one of which was the Los Angeles Lakers.
From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:
Lakers were among teams that had tried to get Waiters. Cle wasn’t looking for just salary relief tho & Shump more valuable than Sacre
It’s fairly obvious that Shumpert is a more intriguing prospect than Robert Sacre, a seven-footer that’s put up meager averages in points and rebounds while coming off the bench to play 14.3 minutes per game in 34 appearances.
Cleveland’s glaring need, however, is a defensive big man to fill out its frontcourt rotation. It’s clear the Cavaliers didn’t see Sacre as the answer, but the fact that he was all that the Lakers had to offer in exchange for Waiters exposes a fundamental problem that Los Angeles is facing.
The Lakers have the cap space to add a superstar in free agency, but so far, none have chosen to come willingly to play alongside Kobe Bryant in the twilight of his career. That means in order to rebuild quickly, L.A. would need to trade for talent that’s currently under contract for the next couple of seasons.
But there are almost no assets the Lakers have that would get the type of talent back they are seeking.
It’s evident that Waiters was a problem child who wasn’t a fit for the Cavaliers. But he’s a talent on a rookie scale deal that the Lakers were willing to take a flier on, and Cleveland took on J.R. Smith’s questionable skill set and troublesome contract simply to send him away.
The chance that Smith could pay dividends, and the defensive help Shumpert can provide on the wing were worth it in Cleveland’s eyes. The Lakers, meanwhile, had nothing better to offer — a problem that was evident when the team tried to deal for Rajon Rondo before he ended up in Dallas, and one that is likely to resurface when similarly attractive players become available in the future.