After three days of free agency, the Cleveland Cavaliers and free agent small forward Luol Deng were finally linked in a report together. However, that report was not for Deng to make his return to Cleveland—instead, it was in regard to a sign-and-trade possibility for the veteran.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was first to report the possibility on Thursday afternoon on Twitter. He tweeted, “Free agent Luol Deng intrigued with Clippers sign-and-trade possibilities, sources tell Yahoo. He’s expected to speak with Doc Rivers today.”
An unrestricted free agent, Deng has the freedom to sign with pretty much any team he wants and does not have to go the sign-and-trade route. However, the Clippers fall in the “other” category, as they are already over the projected salary cap for the 2014-2015 NBA season. According to Hoops Hype, the Clippers currently have $70.2 million in payroll committed to eight players—which makes signing impact players rather difficult.
This is where the sign-and-trade factors in, but it would be completely up to the Cavaliers to make it happen. See, Cleveland has the ability to let Deng walk in free agency and rid themselves of his $20-plus million cap hold this offseason. But if there is a specific player or two the Clippers would be willing to part with to make sure they land Deng, the two teams could become trade partners.
At first glance, the obvious choice (outside of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) for Cavaliers fans is going to be DeAndre Jordan. Heading into the final year of his contract, Jordan is set to make $11.4 million dollars—so the Clippers wouldn’t be adding much more salary if they signed Deng in the $14-16 million range. Standing 6’11” and 265 pounds, Jordan would fill a major need at the center position for the Cavaliers thanks to his rim protector mentality.
Unfortunately, that sounds too good to be true and the Clippers would likely not want to move the big man at this time. So who else on the roster could be of interest?
At first glance, J.J. Redick would provide a nice boost thanks to his ability to space the floor thanks to his three-point shot. But being under contract for $6.7, $7 and $7.3 million over the course of the next three seasons doesn’t exactly bode well for the Cavaliers future salary cap, so I highly doubt he would be an option at this point in time.
With Redick ruled out, the only other players who make the least bit of sense are Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley. Crawford is scheduled to make $5.4 million this season with a team option for next season, while Dudley is under contract for $4.2 million this season with a player option for $4.2 million next season.
Crawford would add his explosive scoring ability to the Cavaliers roster, but would create an even further log-jam at their shooting guard position. With Dion Waiters rumored to be on the market this offseason, acquiring Crawford would likely provide further insurance for the Cavaliers if this was to happen—giving them a veteran option to play behind Andrew Wiggins.
Dudley would be an interesting fit with the Cavaliers, as the 6’7” and 225-pound forward can play both the small and power positions. He is an intelligent player who spaces the floor thanks to his ability to knock down the three-pointer. Dudley would be an excellent rotation player at a low cost—or what Chris Grant thought he was getting in Earl Clark last offseason.
When you survey the options available on the Clippers roster, Jordan is the only person that would make sense to perform a sign-and-trade for. Redick’s contract and the fact the Cavaliers just drafted a carbon-copy of him in Joe Harris makes acquiring him pointless. The Crawford and Dudley duo would be intriguing and only adds just under $10 million to the payroll, but neither player is a “must have” of sorts to make taking on the additional salary worth it.
It may seem like a good thing to be get involved in a sign-and-trade to Cavaliers fans, but this is one they should pass on if it doesn’t have Jordan involved. None of the other players are worth limiting what else the team can do this offseason in free agency. And Deng isn’t exactly a player who you should care about helping to get to the team he wants this offseason.