If the Cleveland Cavaliers cannot overcome their lackluster first quarter of the season, major personnel changes may be underway.
The first name many may expect to lose from Cleveland is head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, as his stagnant gameplans cost the Cavaliers in their playoff loss against the New York Knicks. While the Cavs spent this offseason acquiring talent in Max Strus and Georges Niang to improve the team's 3-point shooting, the squad's lack of consistency on offense may still cost Bickerstaff his position before the season is over.
Outside of the coaching staff, however, the Cavaliers might look to the trade market for changes before the February trade deadline. While Cleveland has little draft capital available after bringing Donovan Mitchell to the Cavs last offseason, they have a number of talented players on mid-size contacts, a decent stockpile of second-round picks and a final open roster spot.
Alongside Bickerstaff, Jarrett Allen's playoff disappointment has loomed over the big man throughout the offseason and into the 2023-24 NBA campaign. With Evan Mobley seemingly believed to be seen as the Cavs' long-term center, Allen's spot on the roster may have an early expiration date. In Mobley's third year, he is averaging 16 points and a career-high 10.5 rebounds, the most of any Cavalier. So far, 57 percent of Mobley's minutes have come at the center position instead of his typical power forward spot.
Additionally, Cleveland's best five-man lineups that have appeared in at least five games feature Mobley at the five with four shooters surrounding him. This has led to Mobley's development as a facilitator, averaging a career-high 2.9 assists. If the Cavs want to transition Mobley to the center full-time eventually, this season might be the right time to do it.
With the Cavaliers playing best with Mobley in the middle, Allen could easily be the first player on the trading block this year. He has three seasons left on his contract with $20 million owed each year, per Spotrac. Since joining Cleveland, Allen has proven himself as an interior defensive anchor and perennial lob threat next to the right guard. In theory, finding a team that would appreciate Allen's talents should not be difficult; yet, even when the money balances out, the Cavaliers cannot take just any deal for the former All-Star center.
What the Cavaliers need to avoid in a Jarrett Allen deal
If Evan Mobley moves to center, his frontcourt partner needs to be a long-term complementary piece to what Mobley already provides. Offensively, the ideal trade prospect would stretch the floor and provide a presence on offensive rebounds, similar to Dean Wade's current role with the Cavs. Players such as John Collins could seamlessly fit with Mobley, but the Cavs need to be weary of available players who would do more harm than good.
The biggest issue between Mobley and Allen as a frontcourt was talent redundancy and drawback redundancy. Neither Mobley nor Allen can score consistently from outside the 15-foot range, though Mobley's mid-range game has taken steps forward this season. Both big men can faulter against physical opposition, allowing rival teams to bully them in the rebounding battles.
Over the last few seasons, a multitude of teams with valuable forwards have emerged as potential trade candidates, but not all of them could expand the Cavaliers' versatility beyond what Allen already brings to the table. With fleeting trade assets available and pressure for success rising, Cleveland cannot afford to bite on a poorly fitting return for Jarrett Allen. As enticing as some players may appear on the onset, the Cleveland Cavaliers need to avoid these three forwards this trade deadline.