Cavs May Target Melo… Should They?

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The latest buzz around Cleveland sports is, without a doubt, the question as to whether or not Cleveland will be seeing a “Return of the King” when free agency opens July 1st.  With an emerging superstar in Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick in the draft, a new coach in David Blatt, and tons of young players with tremendous potential, for the first time in recent memory, Cleveland looks like a competitive landing spot for free agents. It’s no secret that the two most coveted free agents in the summer of 2014 are LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, provided that both players opt out of their current contracts and become unrestricted free agents.

In an era of teams assembling “Big Threes,” the Cavaliers are looking to do the same, and are set up to do so with the first overall selection in the draft and the cap room to offer a maximum deal to a veteran superstar. Prior to learning of Joel Embiid’s surgery which will cause him to miss 4 to 6 months, I would have argued that a “Big Three” of Kyrie, LeBron, and Embiid with the likes of Dion Waiters, CJ Miles, Jarrett Jack, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao playing the minutes of crucial role players would have been the most ideal scenario for the Cavs. Part of me still thinks that, but now more than ever, I am terrified of Joel Embiid’s health. A 4 to 6 month recovery would allow Embiid to return at the beginning of the season in October (at the earliest), sometime around Christmas (at the latest), or somewhere in-between. A Kyrie, Dion/CJ, LeBron, Tristan, Varejao/Zeller/Hawes starting lineup with Embiid eventually taking over the center role sounds wonderful to me. Embiid would still be my pick if somehow we knew he was done being injured, but the fact of the matter is that we do not. For that reason, I doubt the Cavs take the gamble of drafting Embiid. It really is a shame.

Assuming the Cavs are no longer interested in drafting Embiid,  focus shifts to what they will do with the first pick in the draft. It’s difficult to even write about because there are so many viable options. The rumored option that has Cleveland fans both excited and skeptical is a potential sign-and-trade involving the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony that would land him in Cleveland, presumably with LeBron to follow. The plausibility is there. The likeliness, however? Let’s just say that’s up for debate.

In order for the Cavs to pull this off, the Cavs would have to agree to trade the Knicks some combination of players to free up cap space for both Anthony and James. The players the Cavs would trade would have to have salaries that roughly added up to the salary of Carmelo Anthony. A likely combination of players could include Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and two of the three players of Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett, or Anderson Varejao, in conjunction with the number one pick (or the rights to whoever the Cavs select with the pick, as it is likely this trade would take place post-draft) to land Carmelo.  Obviously, the Knicks also would have to agree to the trade. Doing this would land us Carmelo and allow us to keep the cap space to sign LeBron James to a maximum contract.

Many of the people I follow on Twitter are quick to point out that Carmelo has to want to sign with Cleveland in order for this to work. Many more are skeptical that Carmelo would ever agree to play here. This is true, but as has been reported, there has been some mutual interest between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron as far as playing on the same team, and as I have pointed out, Cleveland is one of the few teams with the resources to make this happen. As I tweeted earlier today, all it would take is for LeBron and Carmelo to pick up the phone and talk to each other: “Hey, if you’ll go to Cleveland, I’ll go to Cleveland. Let’s win titles.” At the very least, that would get the ball rolling.

Whether or not the Cavs, should execute such a trade is much more debatable. Doing so (and assuming James would follow Carmelo), would leave the Cavs with Kyrie (who is due a max contract of his own), James, Anthony, and not much room to add solid role players. It also would require either James or Anthony to guard other teams’ power forwards, which in theory could work, but we saw how well that worked out for Miami in the Finals. There also is the possibility that James, Melo, and Kyrie would take slightly less money to assemble a Big Three, much like Wade, James, and Bosh did in Miami, but even so, there still would not be much in the way of salary left over for other players.

Although I would admit that this situation and this team would be exciting to watch, in terms of the long-term goals of the franchise, I am not certain it is best. Teams caught up with the Big Three in Miami and almost certainly would with this Big Three in Cleveland. Kyrie and Carmelo are not exactly known as defensive juggernauts, either, and as Miami displayed in the Finals, a team can have all the scoring it wants, but it will not be able to win a championship if it can’t get a stop.

Finally, there are other opportunities to add talent to the Cavs that don’t require trading half the team for Carmelo Anthony. A couple such opportunities would be moving the first pick (and perhaps a player such as Dion Waiters) to Sacramento for Demarcus Cousins and their 8th overall pick or trading our first pick to Utah for Derrick Favors and their 5th pick. To me, either of these type of deals would be better than giving up half of our team for one player.

It’s gonna be a fun few weeks.

 

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