It’s funny how things can change seemingly overnight. As the NBA trade deadline approaches, the Cleveland Cavaliers are one team that could be doing an about-face.
Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about Cleveland’s preference to buy rather than sell at the deadline. The With Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have a franchise cornerstone and didn’t seem all that interested in going the rebuilding route. Cleveland made a move to bring in Luol Deng as a solid No. 2 option earlier this season, but now they may be ready to trade him.
Per CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, there’s apparently a good deal of concern that the Cavs won’t be able to re-sign him as his contract expires at the end of the year. That has Cleveland scrambling to find a taker for him to get some compensation for a trade gone wrong and Berger says they have made him available to a few teams at the 11th hour.
If true, in a word, that’s ridiculous. The Cavs acquired Deng more than two months ago in a trade with the Chicago Bulls and have had plenty of time to find out if they could re-sign him. To try to trade him with the deadline less than a day away reeks of folly. The decision is even more curious when you factor in that the franchise traded away draft picks along with disgruntled center Andrew Bynum to get him. It’s difficult to imagine that they’ll be able to find an ideal trade with a last-minute deal. Potential teams know that Cleveland has little choice but to make a trade now or risk losing him to free agency at the end of the year.
The big problem is that the Cavs’ options will be severely limited. Deng is of little help to a team that isn’t making a postseason run simply because his contract expires at the end of the season. Franchises that aren’t making plans for the playoffs are almost surely not going to be interested in trading away anything to get him for a few months of basketball.
Deng will raise some interest, however. While his numbers are down in Cleveland since the deal, he has done enough as recently as earlier this season to prove he can be an asset to a playoff team down the stretch run. Averaging 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game this year, he does a little bit of everything and would provide quite a boost to a team in need of a veteran presence for the stretch run.
The big question is if the Cavs can get market value for him – and this late in the game, that doesn’t appear likely.
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