CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have placed themselves firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture through the first half of the season. From the start of the season, the Cavs have looked the part, already surpassing their preseason projected win total thanks in large part due to an unorthodox lineup comprised of three big men and the emergence of point guard Darius Garland as an All-Star caliber player.
The Cavaliers should firmly find themselves in the buyer category as the NBA’s trade deadline approaches on February 10. How aggressive the team will be in the trade market is yet to be seen. It’s unfair to think that this year is one in which the Cavs should be pushing all their chips towards trying to win a championship. That said, this is a year in which the Cavs still are in need of help, as long as it comes at a reasonable cost.
In order to get something, that means something -- other than just draft compensation -- is going to need to be given up. Here is a rundown of the players on Cleveland’s roster and their presumed availability.
Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
It’s very difficult to imagine any realistic scenario during this season in which the Cavs would part with any of these three guys. Both Jarrett Allen and Garland have put together All-Star caliber campaigns while all Evan Mobley has done is set the pace in the race for the Rookie of the Year award. The three biggest reasons that the Cavs are competing for the playoffs this year and in the future are the play of these three guys.
With the team signing Allen to an extension this past summer, Mobley in his first season, and Garland reaching extension-eligible status this upcoming summer, it’s difficult to envision this trio not being together in wine and golf for the next five years.
Moveable, but unlikely
Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen, Isaac Okoro
It would be a cruel twist of fate for the Cavs to trade Kevin Love now that the team is competing with him contributing after a couple of years of unhappiness and on-court outbursts. That, however, seems like an unlikely thing to do. Love has had a terrific year thus far and certainly seems to be bought in to his new role coming off the bench. As long as the team is winning it’s fair to expect Love to be happy to be in Cleveland. Maybe this is something that is revisited this offseason, but it would be a big surprise to see Love moved before the deadline.
As for Lauri Markkanen, after being acquired this offseason by the Cavs, he’s been relatively up and down for the team. His streakiness can be a bit of a frustration, but his size and ability to play out on the wing at times -- especially offensively -- have been integral to the Cavs success. He should be made available, but if he’s moved the return would have to be rather significant.
Lastly, with Okoro, it’s important to remember that development with young players is not a linear path. He’s had plenty of bright moments this season and has shown glimpses of being a good offensive player and an All-Defense caliber player on the other end of the floor. That, in addition to being on a rookie contract, is plenty of reason to keep him around as part of the core in Cleveland. It’s also helped his development that he’s been able to play at shooting guard -- his natural position -- much more this year than in the past.
Injured, and could make a deal work
Ricky Rubio, Collin Sexton
For both Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton this season has been a bummer. Rubio was having one of the best seasons of his career when he went down with a torn left ACL last month, and Sexton tore his meniscus to end his season back in November.
Both guys are set to hit free agency next summer (Sexton will be restricted) and it’s unclear right now if they’ll ever play another game for the Cavs. Both of them have significant contract numbers, meaning they could be a piece in a deal to make the money match. If a team out there really likes Sexton, trading for him would mean getting his restrictive rights in free agency.
Let’s make a deal
Cedi Osman, Dylan Windler, Dean Wade, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Stevens, Ed Davis
We’ve finally reached the point in this list where the Cavs should have zero qualms about moving any of these players. Osman is the most important of this group, but as stated above, to get something, you’ve got to give something.
This year, Osman has been one of the most improved guys on the roster for the Cavs and seems to embrace his consistent role more than in previous years. As for the rest of the list, Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens are the only two that should give any sort of pause in trade talks, but ultimately should be available.
The Cavs have already made one move this season in trading for veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. He’s in his own section due to a complication that would come with trading him. Due to the fact he was traded for on January 3, the Cavaliers cannot combine his salary with any other salary for at least two months following his acquisition. This means that he wouldn’t be eligible to be traded with another player from the Cavs until March 3, which is nearly a month after the trade deadline.