Two weeks ago ESPN ran a list of the 10 players most likely to be traded during the upcoming season. While such lists are essentially a way to fill space during a slow news time, they do represent an opportunity to contemplate if any of these guys would help the Cavs. Most of them are too similar to players the Cavs already have to consider as trade possibilities. Rajon Rondo and Jameer Nelson are starting point guards; we already have one of those. There probably wouldn’t be enough minutes for Andre Miller, Marcin Gortat or Omer Asik in our rotation to justify what we would have to give up to get them. Zach Randolph makes a ton of money and would stunt the development of Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. Brandon Rush doesn’t excite me.
There are three small forwards on this list: Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Evam Turner, and we all know that is an area of need. Deng is the closest thing to a sure bet among the three. He has a consistent track record of PERs in the 14-17 range, and he fills up the box score while playing excellent defense. He has one year left on his deal, so the Cavs could use him as a bridge until Sergey Karasev is ready. Adding Deng to the current core would give the Cavs a solid starting lineup and push guys who have role-player talent into role-player minutes. The issue with Deng is salary. The only way a trade would work is if Anderson Varejao is included. I sense the Cavs would prefer to trade Varejao, if they trade him at all, for someone who will be around longer than a year.
Granger has essentially the same plusses and minuses as Deng, except he hasn’t done any of them for a year because of a knee injury. He is also two years older than Deng, which makes him less attractive. Since the Pacers signed Luis Scola and resigned David West, I doubt they would see a Granger/Varejao deal as attractive. They would be more inclined to deal Granger to a team with cap space for some younger players, in my mind. I also don’t see the Cavs giving up Varejao for someone who may still be hampered by an injury. Trading him is their best chance left to really upgrade the core of the team, and they won’t do something risky.
That leaves Evan Turner. Turner has essentially been portrayed as a bust since being drafted second overall three years ago, but anyone who saw him at Ohio State has to believe there’s a good ballplayer in there somewhere. Turner thrived as the primary ball handler at Ohio State, and he hasn’t adjusted to playing off the ball as a pro, and he hasn’t shot the ball well enough to be a core player on a good team. To an extent, though, that makes him a classic buy-low trade candidate. The 76ers are tanking big-time this season and show no inclination to exercise their option on Turner beyond this season. Even with all of his struggles, Turner would probably earn the starting role at small forward ahead of anyone currently on the Cavs’ roster, and if a new environment somehow brings out the potential that made him the No. 2 pick, the Cavs can consider picking up his option for one or more additional years. If not, they get him for a year with the only cost being whatever they give up in trade. This would be a trade that shouldn’t cost the Cavs much, maybe a first-round pick with lottery protection or one of the extra ones we have accumulated toward the end of the decade (I think somewhere around 2019 Chris Grant will be the only GM that shows up for the draft; everyone else will look up and realize he has their pick). It should also be relatively easy to do salary wise; Turner makes less than $7 million this year, and teams always seem to be able to work that much salary under their cap without gutting the roster.
Glen Sather, who ran the Edmonton Oilers when they were winning championships in the 80s, used to say that the way to win a championship is to get more talented players than anyone else. One way to accomplish that is to get players who are undervalued in their current environment and find a way to capture their true value. Evan Turner is a player who may not be playing up to his talent level, for whatever reason, and his contract status and the rebuild going on in Philadelphia make him a low-risk opportunity to acquire someone who may someday turn into a core player. If the Cavs can find a way to get him without giving up one of their core players, it is worth considering.