Grade the Trade: new proposal deals Cavaliers star and forces a hard truth

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers
San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Do the Cavaliers say yes?

In raw box score averages, Garland and Johnson are not far removed from one another. Garland's averages are slightly higher than Johnson, but Garland's role is also significantly larger on the Cavs than Johnson's role on the Spurs. Undoubtedly, Garland is the better passer, but Johnson is a substantially better rebounder and defender.

Considering Garland's impact on the modern era of the Cavaliers and his past All-Star appearance, Cleveland likely says no, at least initially. While the Cavs are not likely to shop Garland on the market this summer without a drastic shift happening, another postseason disappearance from Garland might make the Cavaliers willing to hear offers before waving them off.

Right now, though, Garland's slump is no reason for the Cavaliers to draw up an exit strategy ready to go in July. Garland and Mitchell can complement each other in the right offense. This season, injuries have derailed every opportunity imaginable for the Cavs to find the perfect formula. The playoffs will be the testing grounds for the pairing once again. With much-improved depth around them, the Cavs are entering the playoffs with plenty to prove. A strong playoff run would secure the future for both guards.

There is, however, a world where things look different in Cleveland in a few months.

The uncomfortable "What If" with Darius Garland and Clevland

Every offseason move the Cavaliers have made since acquiring Donovan Mitchell has been done in hopes of reaching a contract extension before he hits free agency eventually. Thus far, Mitchell has been nothing but supportive of Garland, even calling out recent criticisms amid the Cavs' slide and coming to Garland's defense. If the coming playoffs prove the pairing just cannot win at the highest level together, that mood might shift.

If the Cavaliers are in position to choose between Mitchell and Garland this summer, it is hard to argue the Cavs should move on from a bonafide All-NBA talent in Mitchell in favor of what Garland might become. As heartbreaking as it is, Garland may end up the odd man out in Cleveland if they need a major shakeup around Mitchell. Jarrett Allen is fundamental to every facet of the team and is the best runningmate for Mitchell right now. Though Evan Mobley is also in a down year, there is no reason to give up on a potential era-defining big man after his third year.

Cleveland basketball has built themselves on staying loyal to their players. The franchise welcomed LeBron James back with open arms and immediately built a contender perfectly suited to his style. The Cavs paid Kevin Love a massive long-term deal out of gratitude for his service in the championship run and beyond, only ending the relationship when Love was ready to leave. While Kyrie Irving's departure was a bit more strenuous, Cleveland has never shunned or diminished Kyrie's run with the team.

Still, if the Cavs cannot win in the playoffs after mortgaging their future draft options until next decade for Mitchell, there is no room to make the mistake of staying too loyal. If the Cavaliers realize a need to put another proven star player next to Mitchell and let him take over as the point guard, this summer may be the season to do it.

Given Darius Garland's hefty $36.7 million salary next season, the Cavaliers would have a hard time selling high on him after this down year. Keldon Johnson is far from the perfect fit with Mitchell while Garland might be the best possible point guard for the Wemby era in San Antonio. This trade is in no way perfect, but the Cavaliers could not laugh off this option if they fall short when it matters again.

Thankfully, this also means that all of this can be nothing but forgettable conjecture with an Eastern Conference Finals appearance or convincing effort in the second round. If Mitchell signs a new deal wih Cleveland this summer and is happy with the current roster construction, then all the worries with Darius Garland will happily fall to the wayside.

Until then, this trade forces fans to take a hard look at what is the best path forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

. Final Trade Grade. Final Trade Grade: DG to SAS. C.

This trade receives a C for the uncertainty of Garland's value this summer, Johnson's overall impact with Cleveland, including Zach Collins of all players and simply considering the sad possibility of Garland being traded. Still, this sort of return may be in the ball park if Cleveland is in the position to hear teams out. It is just too early to tell.

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