When the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to part ways with superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, they got a package that not many other NBA teams could’ve matched. Along with getting a superstar point guard in Isaiah Thomas and gritty Jae Crowder, the Cleveland Cavaliers received the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick. Danny Ainge refused to part with this pick in trade talks over the past few months, so to say it was a shocker he was willing to part ways with it is a fair statement to make. Superstars like Jimmy Butler and Paul George never made their way to Boston, mostly because Danny thought giving up that pick would be giving up too much. Obviously, Danny Ainge felt getting Kyrie was worth the price, but now he opened the door for the Cavs to control their destiny with that pick. The question is, what will they do with it?
The first of two options is to trade that pick for another superstar to pair with LeBron James. Although the Nets have gotten slightly better this offseason, that pick is sure to land in the top-5 in the upcoming NBA Lottery. It’s also no surprise that LeBron’s contract is up after this season. That means if Cleveland doesn’t win another championship this year, LeBron might be on his way out of Cleveland like back in 2010. Going out and trading for another superstar would hurt the future of Cleveland but would help strengthen the roster to make another run at Golden State in the Finals. This would potentially keep LeBron around for a little longer. The next question is, who could the Cavaliers go out and acquire via trade?
The first name I could think of is DeMarcus Cousins. LeBron has never truly played next to a dominant big man so far in his NBA career. He played alongside Shaq during his first run in Cleveland, but at that point, he was 37 years old and was way past the point of being able to contribute to an NBA team. LeBron had Chris Bosh in Miami, but he wasn’t a dominant big man. Don’t get me wrong, Bosh was an All-Star forward/center who was extremely underrated during Miami’s Big 3 era, but he wasn’t what people would call a “dominant big man.” DeMarcus Cousins, on the other hand, is one of most dominant big men this league has seen in a long time. He can bruise his defender in the paint, pass extremely well for a big man, has developed an excellent shot, and do almost anything you ask him to do. Pairing LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins would be terrifying. The pick and rolls, pick and pops, and being able to run the floor together would leave NBA coaches scratching their head wondering how they could stop the two. Playing alongside LeBron would elevate Cousins’ game and cement his place as the best big man in the NBA today. Now to pull off this trade, New Orleans has to be really bad this season. The Pelicans won’t trade away DeMarcus Cousins after only trying out half a season of the Anthony Davis/DeMarcus Cousins project. If the Pelicans’ season is all but lost, and the Nets are as bad as expected, this is trade rumor that may gain traction mid-season.
Marc Gasol’s name has been floating around the rumor mill over the past few months. Reports say that if Memphis doesn’t improve this season, or doesn’t seem to be heading in the right direction, Gasol may request to be traded. Would it be smart to trade the Brooklyn pick for a 32-year-old Marc Gasol? Probably not, but if he’s made available, and continues to put up numbers like he did last year, then I say why not? Marc Gasol is very similar to DeMarcus Cousins. Gasol can shoot the ball extremely well for a center, is one of the best, if not the best, passing big men in the league, and can average a steal and a block a game. Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and the Brooklyn pick for Gasol, Deyonta Davis, and picks would be fair for both sides. Cavs dump salary, get an All-Star center, and the Grizzlies will have a player to build around if they decide to go into rebuild mode.
This last player I’m going to mention is a longshot, but Andrew Wiggins may find his way back to Cleveland. This trade idea is a stretch, but a package of Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn pick for Andrew Wiggins could work for both sides. LeBron will have another 20 point-per-game scorer alongside him and can take Wiggins under his wing and help him elevate his game to places he never thought his game could go. The Timberwolves will gain another top-5 selection and two solid defenders in Shumpert and Crowder. A Kyrie-for-Wiggins swap was rumored when Kyrie was on the trade block, but Timberwolves management wouldn’t give up Wiggins in any trade involving Kyrie. Would the Timberwolves send him off for a top pick in next year’s loaded draft? Probably not, but it’s certainly something both teams could think about doing if the time is right. Add a few more players, and a few more draft picks, and Cleveland might just pull off another blockbuster trade.
The second of the two options is that Cleveland keeps the pick and drafts their next superstar. Now let’s say Cleveland doesn’t want to move their draft pick, and would rather draft a potential superstar instead of trading for one. This means one of two things. This means either Cleveland is preparing for life after Lebron, or Lebron would rather challenge himself and learn to play alongside his successor. Having someone like Michael Porter or Marvin Bagley learn from one of the greatest basketball players of all time would do wonders for their development and growth as an NBA superstar. Then again, the same could’ve happened to Andrew Wiggins playing alongside LeBron James, but we all know that never happened. If the Cavaliers keep the pick, it means that LeBron is all but gone. Instead of strengthening their roster to make another championship run, the Cavs would rather stand pat and not risk trading for a superstar that doesn’t sway LeBron to stay in Cleveland.
Personally, if I were the Cavs, I would hold onto the pick and draft your future. Unless a trade comes along that you can’t refuse, you hold onto that pick. If the Cavs trade that draft pick and LeBron still decides to leave, they’re screwed. LeBron will have a say in anything that happens. So if he wants that pick to be traded, it’ll be traded, unless the Cavs front office grows a pair and decides to do what they think is best for the organization and not for LeBron. This isn’t 2010. It’ll be more shocking this time around if LeBron stays rather than leaving. LeBron won Cleveland a title, and now he can move on with his career. With this pick, the future can remain bright for Cleveland, even after losing the best player in the world. Cleveland shouldn’t let LeBron walk out and take their future with him. Unless you can get assurance from LeBron that he won’t leave, play it safe and draft Cleveland’s next savior.
After this season, the LeBron era in Cleveland may come to a permanent end. It’s time to start moving on from LeBron and focus on your future. The future in Cleveland has potential to be great, but don’t let LeBron stand in the way of that.