With the highest luxury-tax bill in the league, the Cavaliers don’t have much in the way of assets to make their team better. The biggest trade chip they have is Brendan Haywood’s fully unguaranteed $10.5 million expiring contract, but they haven’t found anyone willing to give up an impact player to save money. Because of this, they are likely going to use the extra second-round pick they just picked up from the Pacers in a trade for second-r0under Rakeem Christmas as an incentive to dump Haywood’s deal and create a trade exception, according to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst:
The Cleveland Cavaliers executed a minor trade with the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, helping set up a larger deal that will involve Brendan Haywood, sources told ESPN.com.
The Cavs sent center Rakeem Christmas, the No. 36 overall pick in June’s draft, to the Pacers for the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2019 second-round pick, which is owned by Indiana. The trade gives the Cavs roster flexibility and an asset they can use to move Haywood and create a large trade exception in the next week.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers are the only teams with enough cap space to absorb Haywood and create a trade exception for Cleveland. The Utah Jazz are also close but would have to trade or cut several players with non-guaranteed contracts to do so.
The Cavs will likely make a deal with one of these teams, and then Haywood would be immediately waived before his salary is guaranteed. To rent out this cap space, even for just a few hours, the Cavs might need to surrender a draft pick. Until last month, the Cavs didn’t own any second-round picks until 2020 but have acquired two 2019 second-rounders over the past months. They also have the rights to a handful of overseas players.
With their options limited, this move makes perfect sense. Creating a trade exception gives the Cavs some flexibility in being able to take back a player from another team without having to match Haywood’s large salary. Now, they’re in a position to get a player in a straight salary-dump trade. Who will be out there for them to get between now and the trade deadline is another matter, but they’ll have options.