The trade deadline is going to shake up the Eastern Conference. One way or another.
Teams see the Cleveland Cavaliers as vulnerable (maybe the most vulnerable LeBron James‘ team since he left Cleveland for Miami). Sources around the league say that has led to teams who think they are a player away — Washington, Milwaukee, to a lesser degree Toronto — seriously testing the trade market to see if they can improve to take a swing at the King. (Boston is the one team who believes they can already beat Cleveland and is not as aggressive on the market.) For example, if the Clippers decide to move DeAndre Jordan — they are listening to offers but have made no decision, according to the buzz around the league — and the Wizards or Bucks land him, it does change the playoff picture in the East.
Unless the Cavaliers land Jordan, or some other key piece to help solidify their spot at the top. That is a real possibility, too.
However, the Cavaliers are not going to throw in the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick they possess to get a deal done, according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
To make (a Jordan) deal work on the salary cap, the Cavs would have to trade Tristan Thompson ($16.4 million) and Channing Frye ($7.4 million) for Jordan. I’ve heard the Clippers would strongly consider it if the Cavs added the Brooklyn 2018 first-round draft pick that they acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal. I’ve heard the Cavs don’t plan to trade that pick.
That Nets pick is not looking to be as high or as valuable as expected — it would go into the lottery as the No. 10 pick as of right now — but to the Cavs it serves the same dual purpose. If LeBron decides to stay in Cleveland next summer, it lets the team add the kind of young, solid, athletic rotation player they have not brought in for years. If LeBron leaves as a free agent, it helps jump-start the rebuilding process.
It’s a philosophical debate for the Cavaliers: Trade that pick and go all-in for another title while you have LeBron (and maybe with that he decides to stay); or keep the pick because they need the youth on an older roster (and as LeBron leaves insurance). They have long leaned toward the latter, that seems not to have changed.