As the NBA trade deadline inches closer, media outlets are preparing for a whirlwind of possiblities for every team, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After a hurricane of trade buzz surrounding Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell when Darius Garland and Evan Mobley went down with injuries, Cleveland is reportedly committed to their core four at this year's deadline despite the rumors. Still, the Cavs have demonstrated inconsistent efficiencies and can often look stagnant with a group of redundant talents. If the Cavaliers want to make it past the first round in the postseason, changes seem inevitable.
Cleveland's front office has been patient and deliberate since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in 2018. President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman allowed the Cavs to enter a full rebuild, scouting for franchise players through the draft and developing them. After finding both Garland and Mobley in the lottery, the Cavs looked like a team one blockbuster trade away from contention. Before the 2022-23 season, Altman shocked the NBA world by trading for Donovan Mitchell in an offseason that appeared to be the year the New York Knicks finally add Spida.
Bleacher Report's confusing predictions for the Cavaliers
Every year, Bleacher Report releases a series of article detailing analysis, predictions and news surrounding each NBA franchise as the trade deadline approaches. As for the Cavaliers, though, Bleacher Report's suggestions and predictions go against recent reports and would only leave Cleveland with new players with the same problems that currently plague the roster.
In their most recent trade deadline predictions article, B/R suggested the Cavs will target another playmaker in a deal. Their reasoning came from Ricky Rubio's mid-season retirement and Ty Jerome's prolonged injury. With Garland recovering from a fractured jaw, too, B/R viewed another playmaking guard as the Cavs' largest need.
This sentiment was first presented in Bleacher Report's top three trade targets piece, in which they named three backup point guards - Monte Morris, Delon Wright and Davion Mitchell - as Cleveland's top names at the deadline. B/R's theoretical targets for Cleveland fall apart quickly, though, considering their current wealth of playmakers.
When Rubio announced his retirement, he had already stepped away from the team in the summer, and Jerome was at the end of the Cavaliers' rotation to start the season. At full strength, the Cavs currently have three playmakers on full NBA contracts with Garland, Mitchell and sixth-man Caris LeVert. Throughout the season, two-way rookie guard Craig Porter, Jr. has emerged as Cleveland's fourth playmaker. Following Rubio's retirement, Porter was quickly named as the eventual replacement to receive a standard deal with Cleveland.
Adding another playmaking guard, especially an undersized one, would only add another redundancy in Cleveland's backcourt rotation. Since Garland's injury, the Cavaliers have also shifted their offense away from a isolation-heavy gameplan, instead opting to distribute the playmaking responsibilities to all five players on the court. This has led the Cavaliers to one of the league's best passing teams, leading the league in assists over some stretches.
News on Cleveland's current actual trade plans
Nonetheless, the Cavaliers undoubtedly need to make a splash at the deadline. They have a wealth of young talent and an assortment of second-round picks, creating the perfect deal to add a high-end role player. According to Cavaliers insider Chris Fedor, the Cavs will target a 3-and-D forward in trade talks, naming Dorian Finney-Smith and Cameron Johnson as two players who have piqued Cleveland's interest.
During the offseason, the Cavaliers added both Max Strus and Georges Niang to improve their overall floor spacing and forward depth, but this has continually been the team's most inconsistent rotation. Once Garland returns to the team, the playmaking duties will be covered, leaving the forward and wing spots in need of improvements.
While Mobley's absence has substantially hurt Cleveland's interior defense, it has also forced the Cavs to rely on Dean Wade and Niang at the four spot, both of whom have amassed a reputation as floor stretching forwards. The impact of floor spacing has not gone unnoticed for Cleveland, as Jarrett Allen has flourished with an open interior as a scorer, rebounder and passer. Allen has achieved a career-high stretch of eight consecutive games with a double-double.
As much as playmaking is a necessity for any contender, the Cavaliers' greatest need has undeniably been shooters with size this season. B/R's prediction only looks at the surface level of Cleveland's roster and rotations, assuming that Mitchell and LeVert are not willing passers in the Cavaliers system. This season has disproven this narrative if it ever even truly existed.
The NBA trade deadline is under one month away on February 8, and the Cavaliers are reportedly expected to be buyers this time after remaining silent at last year's deadline. If Cleveland is seriously looking to upgrade their forward rotation, the answer to the rumors will come in due time.