Cleveland Cavaliers must avoid this overpaid All-Star in trades this offseason

If Darius Garland is traded, the Cleveland Cavaliers must avoid Chicago Bulls' wing Zach LaVine.
Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

There are many puzzling challenges the Cleveland Cavaliers must navigate this offseason as their core four may reportedly break apart.

Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman insisted an interest in retaining the team's core four this summer. Still, Cleveland's hand may be forced if reports that Darius Garland's representation could request a trade following a Donovan Mitchell extension are true. Two years after his first All-Star appearance, Garland suffered an abnormal slump in his fifth season, making an inconsistent and injury-riddled campaign that never gained enough momentum.

Without Darius Garland, the Cavaliers would have not reached the postseason or traded for Donovan Mitchell in the 2022 offseason. Garland's third-year explosion catapulted the Cavs' rebuild far beyond initial expectations. While Garland's place in Cleveland basketball history is set, the Cavaliers must do right by Garland if he wants to restart his legacy elsewhere. No matter how great both Mitchell and Garland are individually, the best version of Garland might not be at his side. Garland's usage steadily decreased once Mitchell arrived, and last season seemingly set the course for the young star guard's departure.

The day news breaks that Garland is exiting the Cavaliers organization will break the hearts of many fans, but it be an inevitable decision the Cavs have to make this summer. In the case of a Garland swap, Cleveland's front office must prioritize both a sizeable and fitting return for Darius and a positive destination for their All-Star point guard. A trade deadline rumor may resurface with new reports of another East guard on the market, but Cleveland cannot entertain the asinine possibility.

Trading Darius Garland for Zach LaVine makes no sense for the Cavaliers

Financially, keeping Garland creates a looming problem for the Cavaliers with both Mitchell and Mobley set to sign max extensions this offseason. A few months before Mitchell arrived in Cleveland, Garland signed the largest contract extension in franchise history. In a trade, the Cavs cannot consider bringing on a more expensive, less talented player in return, but that is exactly what the Chicago Bulls are trying to manifest.

During a dramatic 2024 trade deadline, the Bulls shopped Zach LaVine around the entire league to no prevail. With an inflated $43 million salary next season that rises to nearly $50 million in his final year, Chicago could not attract enough interest in the former All-Star to strike a deal. One short-lived dream of the Bulls involved the Cavaliers' Darius Garland in a perplexing swap.

Yahoo Sports reporter Jake Fischer reported that the Bulls contacted the Cavaliers ahead of the deadline regarding a deal centered around LaVine and Garland. The talks did not appear to go far, as Fischer could not offer more detail regarding Cleveland's interest or any other assets involved in Chicago's pitch. With Garland remaining on the Cavs beyond the trade buzzer, Fischer assumed Cleveland's interest was not too high.

With a previous failed attempt to dump LaVine's overpriced contract on the Cavaliers, the potential to reignite these talks is not likely to reach the news cycle. As the Bulls have reportedly significantly lowered their asking price for LaVine, though, they may once again entertain the thought of building around Garland instead of LaVine.

LaVine's contract aside, the former All-Star's recent injury history and diminishing impact make him a poor target for the Cavaliers. Last season, LaVine only played in 25 games, scoring 19.5 points per game - the lowest of his career since 2017-18. Cleveland could consider accepting an oversized contract as salary filler in a trade for Garland if they also receive cheap young talent with high upside, but the Bulls' young players Coby White and Patrick Williams are not guaranteed fits in the Cavs' system.

Despite Garland's regression this year, his trade value can still net the Cavs vastly more than what the Bulls offered at the deadline. Both the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans have reportedly expressed interest in Garland, and either franchise could outbid the Bulls with young prospects and proven talents quickly.

With the NBA Finals yet to begin, the Cleveland Cavaliers still have plenty of time to assess their options and prepare for a stormy offseason. While a Darius Garland trade may be on the horizon if Mitchell stays, the Cavs do not have to rush to move on from their homegrown All-Star. He is still under team control for years and does not hold power with a No Trade Clause. There should be no world where the Cavaliers are in a position to have to consider replacing Garland with LaVine. If there is, perhaps the Chicken Little was right about the sky falling.

Next. Rumors: Brandon Ingram to the Cavaliers makes too much sense. Rumors: Brandon Ingram to the Cavaliers makes too much sense. dark