Would the Cavs do it?
Cleveland is at an interesting stop on the road back to postseason glory. On the one hand, a core four of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen sounds like an incredible group. An electrifying backcourt that can light teams up, with a formidable frontcourt bringing serious defensive prowess – what more could you want?
Yet, on the other hand, the Cavs have made it clear Evan Mobley is the key to this team. Eventually, Mobley needs to take that next step and slide into the center role. When that day comes, Allen’s time on the team may be coming to an end. Maybe the Cavs could jumpstart that experiment.
Cleveland has been in need of some reliable 3 and D wings. Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale give the Cavs two forwards that have appeared in the playoffs a total of ten times collectively, six times for O’Neale and four times for DFS. Their postseason experience is exactly what Cleveland needs. This team should have their sights set on contending well into the postseason.
Dorian Finney-Smith put up an average of 8.3 points per game, with 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. His shooting averages last year came out to 39.1 percent from the field, and 33.7 percent from three. Finney-Smith’s stat line was fairly impressive last year. Cleveland could utilize him as a role player off the bench to bring more consistent depth. During his last season with the Dallas Mavericks, DFS put up 3.0 defensive rebounds per game, along with 1.0 steals per game as well. If the Cavs could get Finney-Smith back to that form on defense, his addition could make up for Okoro’s absence after the trade.
An addition of Royce O’Neale would follow a common thread of other Cavs offseason moves – keeping Donovan Mitchell happy. Right now, Mitchell’s contract is locked in until the 2025 season, so fans can lay off the panic button a little. However, it doesn’t hurt to keep your star player content. Bringing in Georges Niang, a former teammate of Spida from his time with the Jazz was a sign that Cleveland wants Mitchell to commit for the long haul. Another former Jazz teammate in O’Neale would further cement that case.
Last season Royce had an average of 8.8 points per game, coupled with 3.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He also shot an impressive 38.6 percent from field goal range, as well as 38.9% from beyond the arc. O’Neale would not only be a nice addition in the eyes of Donovan, but he would also be a nice addition to the team overall. O’Neale could fit into a role off the bench, or in the starting lineup. Bringing in both of these Brooklyn forwards gives Cleveland some room to develop some strategic lineups for various situations.
Lastly, Cleveland loses their big man to New Orleans. Would shipping the Fro out to the Pelicans be worth it? In this trade, the Cavs bring back Jonas Valanciunas. This past season, Jonas had an average of 14.1 points per game, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Averaging a double-double on the season is certainly something the Cavs could be excited about. Even more so, the big man also shot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. Cleveland could use a big man that can shoot the ball. In today’s league, you always need shooters.
A starting lineup of Garland, Mitchell, Strus, Mobley, and Valanciunas with role players like O’Neale, DFS, LeVert, and Niang off the bench could elevate Cleveland to the next level of postseason competitiveness.
Ultimately though, Jonas’ time with the Cavs could be short-lived. Just as the Pelicans are concerned with Valanciunas’ commitment to stay with their team, the Cavs could be in a similar boat. Although, it might not be as tricky for Cleveland. If the Cavs truly believe in Evan Mobley and see him as the real center for the team moving forward into the future, Jonas could be a great temporary rental. Maybe he could even pass on some three-point shooting tips to Mobley as well. Cleveland could move Valanciunas at the deadline if necessary.
Overall, this trade gives the Cavs a stopgap at center until Mobley transitions to the role and two playoff-capable wings that give Cleveland more depth to build upon. Does this trade help Cleveland? Yes. Is this a trade the Cavs would say yes to?
Also yes. However this trade does rely heavily on the notion that Evan Mobley would be ready to accept his role as the starting center sooner than later, once Jonas Valanciunas potentially leaves as well. Cleveland’s destiny is in their own hands at this point, and this trade could bring them one step closer to that postseason glory, albeit with some caveats.