The Cleveland Cavaliers have been, allegedly, in talks with the Brooklyn Nets, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers regarding the trade of Brendan Haywood. However, with those links not looking very likely to materialize, the best thing to do would be to trade his contract for a second round pick and gain the massive trade exception.
The Cavaliers, with or without J.R. Smith, are going to pay massively in luxury tax. They have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on max contracts. Tristan Thompson will eventually sign something close to that or matching that max level. Iman Shumpert is making $10 million a season. Timofey Mozgov & Anderson Varejao aren’t playing for free. The Cavs are trying to win a championship, and are paying through the nose for it, with James acting as an agitator for those payments.
The plan of keeping the core that got them to the NBA finals is almost complete. Now it’s time to try and improve, or at least lower the wage bill. Haywood and his $10.5 million unguaranteed contract are at the center of that plan.
The Cavaliers thought about trading for Joe Johnson, but now that the Nets are below the luxury tax threshold, they have no incentive to move him. The Clippers might be willing to part with Jamal Crawford, but the Cavaliers will only move in that direction when it’s clear that Smith won’t be re-signing with them. The Spurs aren’t going to be part of this deal.
Turning Haywood’s contract into a trade exception is the best scenario for the Cavaliers, especially after adding Mo Williams to pretty much make the team free of filling any remaining needs. Haywood won’t be flipped for a first round pick, but for a second round one? They’ll find someone who’ll make that deal with them. Maybe even the Philadelphia 76ers. They’ll just release Haywood before August 1, or flip him for another second round pick.
The trade exception offers insurance to the Cavaliers. Remember last season? From a struggling team in the middle of the season, trades for Mozgov, Shumpert and Smith turned the ship around, resulting in making the NBA Finals and posting the best record in the NBA during the second half of the season. Haywood can’t do anything to help them on the court. Off of it, he’s a lot of more valuable, especially if he’ll be moved.