The NBA world went into a complete frenzy when a huge bit of NBA news surrounding current Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James dropped on Wednesday afternoon. As Chris Sheridan reported, an NBA source stated that James will “100 percent” be leaving the Cavaliers after this season.
So, while the NBA world waits on a potential Kyrie Irving trade, it seems that the Cavaliers may have a few issues aside from that to deal with entering the 2017-18 NBA season. For starters, if Cleveland truly believes that they won’t be able to keep James in town after this season, then they may look to trade him potentially. Obviously, James would have to waive his no-trade clause, but an interesting idea was thrown out on that front.
James Stewart of CBS Boston noted that James has publicly stated that he’s a fan of Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. While the Celtics did just sign Gordon Hayward and are already pushing the salary cap ceiling, there’s an argument to be made that James would be willing to waive that no-trade clause to go to Boston.
The question is, would the Cavaliers actually want to leave James in the same conference? Let’s play out the possibility, but it would be under the assumption that the Celtics would have to give back a big name or two (at least) to make that trade happen. So, let’s look at how this deal could leave the Celtics roster looking, in a few different scenarios.
Scenario One: Isaiah Thomas Takes Kyrie Irving’s Spot
If and when the Cavaliers trade Irving, they could use a new point guard. What better spot to start than by trading for Thomas, assuming that he’d agree to sign a long-term deal with the team? On that note, Thomas is certainly a fan favorite in Boston so the Celtics may not want to see him playing for one of their biggest current rivals.
Thomas alone wouldn’t be enough to clear the cap space for James either. He’s only making $6.26 million this coming season, according to Spotrac, so a huge contract would have to be on the move along with it. Maybe someone like Al Horford potentially.
It’s a lot for the Celtics to give up, but they have the guard depth and landing James would be an incredible addition. Even still, this deal leaves Boston incredibly thin on the interior.
Scenario Two: Al Horford and Another Guard
Horford’s massive cap number of $27,734,405 next season would be a key in any potential deal focused around James. This trade would be much more appealing to the Celtics than the one above, as they would get to keep their star point guard, and could give up Horford as well as someone like Marcus Smart.
That’d still leave the Celtics thin on the inside and could result in the team playing a whole lot of small ball with James having to play power forward as well. But, we’ve seen him do plenty of it before, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t be able to do it in Brad Stevens’ system.
This deal may not fly for the Cavaliers, though. Horford is a great player, but Smart is somewhat unproven, so Cleveland could absolutely push to get more for James. While this is probably the best deal for the Celtics, it may be the worst option for the Cavaliers. This is why the third and final one could be a home run.
Scenario Three: Al Horford, Jae Crowder, and Either Jaylen Brown/Marcus Smart
Lebron James’ $35.6 million cap number is going to be tough to make up, which is why Horford has to be involved. But, the Cavaliers would get an immediate starter at small forward in Crowder as well as a young playmaker in either Brown or Smart here.
The best part of this deal for the Celtics is that even if they lose two small forwards, they’re obviously getting James back, but would still have Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum. What it really comes down to, is that very few NBA team have as much young talent to create a package around that would be worth trading for James. If any team could do it, though, it’s the Celtics. They have 14 players on their current payroll (which will change) who are 28 years old or younger.
A trade of James may sound crazy, but if it happens, the Celtics make an interesting amount of sense.