Why can’t the Cavaliers trade for Gary Trent Jr.?
The first obstacle in trading for Gary Trent Jr. is that he likely won’t be under contract. He has a $18.78 million player option that he is likely to decline to secure a more lucrative and/or longer contract. The Cavs can’t trade for him straight up because he’ll be a free agent.
Trent also isn’t declining that option just to sign for the $12.2 million Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, so the Cavaliers can’t sign him outright. That means they have to pull off a sign-and-trade, a move that would hard-cap them at the first tax apron.
Functionally, that would mean choosing between Trent and Caris LeVert, unless the Raptors are interested in a double sign-and-trade for LeVert. Assuming not, the Cavs would probably need to let LeVert walk and then hope they can cobble together enough assets and salary to make a deal work.
Let’s say for the moment that Trent signs a three-year, $60 million deal for a $20 million per-season average. That might not be enough for Trent, but we’ll use it as a rough proxy. The Cavs would need to send back Isaac Okoro and either Ricky Rubio or Cedi Osman, plus however many second-round picks the Raptors want. If the Cavs try to play hardball, the Raptors can call their bluff – they need Toronto to cooperate to make a deal happen.
Trent doesn’t solve all of the Cavs’ problems and would be hard-pressed to take on the toughest defensive assignments on the perimeter. The Raptors would also want real value back, not a collection of poor-shooting role players on guaranteed contracts.
This could happen, but there are a number of obstacles in the way that suggest that it won’t. Their “ambitious” trade target is perhaps a bit too ambitious, keeping this potential deal out of reach.