The absolute dream trade target for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers and Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers and Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a good team, one better than they have been this season but also not one that is seen as a serious threat to knock off the top teams in the Eastern Conference and make the NBA Finals. A slow start to the season hasn't helped them change that reality either.

When fully healthy, the Cavaliers have four extremely talented core players who are not an ideal fit. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen form an elite defensive combination but strangle the team's spacing on offense. Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland have grown their offensive chemistry together, but on defense they form a soft spot on the perimeter.

The offseason addition of Max Strus has helped tie things together in the starting lineup, a movement shooter who spaces the court on offense and is above average on defense. Even then, Strus isn't an ideal option for this group as he is undersized at the 3 and is more of a connecter on defense than a lockdown player.

Ideally the Cavaliers would have a player in the starting lineup with the size and versatility to defend both elite point guards and bigger wings, while offensively they were a high-level shooter and able to attack closeouts off the dribble.

The best version of the player that would tie everything together? Mikal Bridges

The Cavaliers would be incredible with Mikal Bridges

Bridges was perhaps the league's best 3-and-D player in the league with the Phoenix Suns over the past few seasons, locking up everyone from Stephen Curry and Jamal Murray to Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. Then he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for Durant, and the 6'6" wing has blossomed into more of a scorer with the Nets. That has come without sacrificing his lethal 3-point shot, hitting 39.1 percent from deep this season.

Bridges would obviously be an elite addition to the Cavaliers' starting lineup. The problem with projecting him into that group? Even if Nets were selling, the Cavs can't afford him. He is now a Top-40 player in the league on a bargain contract, and his ability to fit alongside any other star player makes him someone the Nets want to build around.

A trade for Bridges would require a collection of assets that the Cavaliers don't have. The Nets don't control their own draft moving forward, so they aren't going to flip Bridges for draft picks and tank. That's a moot point for the Cavs, who don't have draft picks moving forward anyways.

To have a shot at trading for Bridges, another team would need to provide a return that makes the Nets just as good on the far side. That would mean trading not role players but one of their star players; assuming Evan Mobley is untradeable, that practically means moving either Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell.

While the Nets would likely need to consider an offer including (a healthy) Darius Garland, the real candidate to be moved here is Donovan Mitchell. The Nets have recently emerged as a team expected to pursue Mitchell were he to come available on the trade market, and the Cavs themselves have reasons to consider a deal.

Trading their best player is certainly not ideal, but neither is losing Mitchell for nothing in 18 months when he hits unrestricted free agency. Without hashing out the pros and cons, suffice it to say that the Cavaliers deciding to move Mitchell this season is in the realm of possibility.

If so, Bridges represents the caliber of player the Cavaliers could pursue. The Cavs don't control their own draft either, making even a small reset by taking back picks and prospects for Mitchell unlikely. They are much more likely to try to add back an All-Star player to continue competing with Garland, Mobley and Allen.

In Bridges, the Cavaliers would get an elite perimeter defender who can be the second offensive option alongside Garland. A starting lineup of Garland, Strus, Bridges, Mobley and Allen would be more balanced, and their lineup combinations with bench players would be more versatile. Garland would need to take a step forward as an offensive engine, but that's not out of the realm of possibility.

The Nets aren't going to offer Bridges in their opening offer; they would much rather use the draft picks they gained in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and matching salary with a player such as Ben Simmons who isn't one of their core player. Adding Mitchell alongside Bridges, Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton is the ideal they would be striving for.

Even so, there is a reason we are calling Bridges the "dream" trade target; players who are easy to get don't offer the same upside as someone like Bridges. The path to bringing him aboard is complicated and certainly unlikely, but it's an interesting vision to contemplate, especially if Mitchell is actually shopped.

Bridges represents the kind of player who continues to elude this Cavaliers group; whether it's him or another player like him, the Cavaliers would do well to try and find someone with that skill set to help them move forward as contenders.

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