It is potentially the most significant trading chip on the block as we head into the trade deadline Feb. 8 (next Thursday):
The Brooklyn Nets first-round pick controlled by the Cleveland Cavaliers (which they got from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer). As of right now it would be the No. 8 pick heading into the draft lottery.
Talk to teams around the league and they say the pick is not in play, that the Cavaliers are holding on to it as “LeBron James insurance” should he leave. Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says that’s not true, it is in play — but not for anybody currently on the trade block.
1. I keep hearing the Cavs absolutely won’t trade the Brooklyn draft pick. That’s not true. I’ve heard from top league sources the Cavs will do it — but not for a short-term answer such as DeAndre Jordan. That’s because Jordan can become a free agent at the end of the season.
2. The Cavs would trade the pick for a younger player who is under team control for a few years. But they are willing to deal their own first-round pick in 2018 for the right short-term fix.
This is a silly debate and distinction over semantics (and if you read headlines that the pick is in play that’s click bait). Would the Cavs put the pick in a deal for Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, sure, but neither of them are or will be available (neither will any other young stars, the most valuable commodity in the NBA), so the argument they would put it in play for a young superstar is moot. On a practical level, the pick is not available, not for anyone that is available to be traded right now.
The Cavaliers are willing to trade J.R. Smith in the right deal, according to Pluto. It’s widely known the Cavaliers would throw in their own first-round pick in 2018 (mid-20s).
The biggest names potentially available are Jordan from the Clippers and Kemba Walker from the Hornets, and the Cavaliers wisely would not throw the pick in for either of them. Jordan is a free agent this summer, and while Walker would be a big boost to them this season and is under contract for a couple of seasons, he’s 27 and would not be part of the long-term future in Cleveland post-LeBron. The Cavs would only move that pick for someone who could be the next face of the franchise whenever it is LeBron leaves Cleveland again.
The Cavs most likely will move their own first-round pick next draft and a player or two for a minor upgrade to the current roster. Maybe that will eventually be enough to get a Jordan from the Clippers, a player who could help them get out of the East this season. But there are no long-term answers out there, and none that vault the Cavaliers up to the Warriors’ or even Rockets’ level.