The Cleveland Cavaliers are watching the Damian Lillard situation very closely. Many of the teams rumored to be in the discussion for Lillard are in the Eastern Conference, and his addition could change the playing field like no other move in free agency has done to this point.
For those unaware, perhaps because of summer vacation or Elon Musk’s bizarre and ineffective attempts to convince you to pay for verification, Portland Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard requested a trade, and his top suitor is the Miami Heat.
The Trail Blazers have indicated, at least publicly, that they intend to shop around for the best package and not necessarily limit themselves to Lillard’s list of destinations. Would the Cavaliers be interested?
No, they would not. Darius Garland isn’t as accomplished nor quite as destructive as a shooter, but he is a better passer, he is young and under contract, and he is significantly less expensive. The question of trading Garland for Lillard shouldn’t be considered.
There is another way the Cavaliers can be a part of a Damian Lillard trade
If the Miami Heat do end up trading for Damian Lillard, a major impediment to the deal is how much salary the Blazers would need to take back. Portland will be rebuilding over the next couple of seasons as their young backcourt develops, and clogging up their cap sheet prevents them from using it in other ways, now and down the line.
John Hollinger of The Athletic presented a solution to that problem, and interestingly enough, it involves the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Miami Heat and the Cavs haven’t yet consummated their sign-and-trade deal with Max Strus; it won’t be official until July 6th at the earlier. That leaves a window for it to be adjusted.
How can the Cavaliers help out? The current construction of the deal has Miami sending out Strus’ salary but not bringing any back. That would jumpstart their efforts to match Lillard’s salary without needing to send out as much salary. He lays out how the Heat could even loop in a separate salary-dump trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and complete the deal with only sending a single player, Kyle Lowry, to the Blazers.
Why would Cleveland do it? It doesn’t hurt the Cavs in any way to allow the Heat to expand the deal, and most front offices are willing to work with another team in these scenarios. If the Heat need the Cavs to wait a few days in order to finish working things out, Koby Altman can simply ask to keep the second-round pick initially headed to Miami.
The math gets complicated very quickly, but it sets up some fascinating trade machinations to help teams get trades done. It would be a fun footnote in the history books for the Cavaliers to be a part of a Damian Lillard trade. It’s possible it even helps the Cavs come out ahead once again.