Back by the popular demand of pretty much only myself, it’s the second annual edition of Around the NBA in 15 Trades. We’re taking all 30 teams in the lead up to the Feb. 7 trade deadline and finding a happy middle ground for prosperous barterdom.
Oh, the Eastern Conference. So much disparity. So much mediocrity. So much despair. Charlotte and Cleveland somehow embody all three descriptors.
The Cavaliers keep stumbling through the steeplechase of the 2018-19 season. They’re currently riding shotgun in the lottery odds. If they want to remain there (they most certainly do), then they should trade anybody who will help them win games — especially if that anybody is an aging star with a gigantic contract.
The Hornets cling to a postseason berth, but their grasp onto it is wafer thin. Bolstering their talent would go a long way in transforming them into a sneaky-tough darkhorse from opening-round fodder.
G/F, Nic Batum; F, Marvin Williams; C, Cody Zeller; CHA 2019 1st rounder; CLE 2020 2nd rounder
F/C, Kevin Love; C, Tristan Thompson; SG, JR Smith
Why the Cavaliers do it:
Cleveland needs to clear the mechanism. From an on-court perspective, this season’s gone as bad as it possibly could have for the Cavaliers. Kevin Love underwent toe surgery at the beginning of November and isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.
It all happened just after he signed a massive extension, an extension that has between a 91 percent and 96 percent chance of aging poorly. Finding a taker and netting assets in return would mean absorbing other heinous contracts. Though as long as they run shorter than 2023, Cleveland should do it.
The Cavaliers excommunicated J.R. Smith back in November and dumping him is their top priority. Tristan Thompson’s ultimate destiny would be rebound caddying for a squad with some stars, not pulling down double-doubles every night for the worst team in the league.
Why the Hornets do it:
Love, Smith and Thomson all come with their fair share of big game experience — good and bad — and would help an aspiring team straining to take the next step.
Charlotte’s clinging with all its life to the last playoff spot in the East. Unless something drastic happens, they’re committed to making a run at the postseason.
Kemba Walker deserves so much more help than he’s gotten and Love deserves to spend the back-nine of his career in a competitive situation. Sending him to the Hornets makes so much sense that I proposed a similar trade a month ago.
Giving Walker a pick-and-roll partner of Love’s caliber wouldn’t push them into the ring of championship contenders, but it would make them a fun wildcard come April.