What's The Cavaliers Next Move?
The Cleveland Cavaliers finally started the fire-sale of the roster by trading Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz. In return the Cavaliers will receive Alec Burks and two second round picks, one from the Jazz and the other from the Washington Wizards.
The decision to move Korver was an obvious one for the Cavaliers. They are fully embracing the tank and Korver is obviously far too old in his late 30s to be a part of it. Korver would’ve been fairly sought after by teams other than just the Jazz, but the Cavaliers took this trade, the question is what this trade means for the future direction of the Cavaliers.
What about from the Jazz perspective?
Not a whole lot of intrigue there. They wanted a shooter, Korver is a great shooter, so they traded for him. They will probably miss Burks a bit, but Burks minutes (and then some) will simply be replaced at a higher level by Korver.
Ok so then for the Cavaliers?
The reason this trade is interesting is that it included Alec Burks. In a vacuum, this trade is very good value return for Korver, and not a low price to pay for the Jazz. Neither second-round pick is protected at all, and Burks is, at the very least, a solid rotation player in his prime. That’s good return for a effective role player in his late 30s.
That said, Burks fit with the Cavaliers is not abundantly clear, he’s a good role player but he certainly isn’t good enough to push them towards any sort of success this season, and at 27 he isn’t likely to be young enough to be a part of their long-term rebuild. He’s also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season so even if they see him as a long-term piece there is a good chance he walks.
With all that information, there are pretty much three options for why the Cavaliers chose this trade and where those options would lead them going forward.
Option 1: 2 second rounders were as good as they were going to get and Burks is just salary filler.
This is the most straight-forward and uninteresting option. Most people (including me) would’ve guessed that Korver could’ve fetched more value than a pair of second rounders, or at least something a bit more tangible. Whether that be a first-round pick or a young player who is proven to already have some promise.
But the reality may be that Korver’s age and tendency to flop in the playoffs simply depressed his value from what most of us thought. The Cavaliers shopped Korver around for a few weeks, and a pair of unprotected picks were the best they could find for him so they took that.
This would mean that Burks inclusion in the deal is inconsequential. The Cavaliers certainly won’t mind getting a look at him, bu they may well be planning on him walking at the end of the season and no harm done plus they get off some salary that way. The Jazz could’ve just as easily put Jae Crowder in the deal (which would’ve been a bit ironic) and the Cavaliers woulnd’t have cared.
If this is the case then Burks was the obvious choice for the Jazz. He was still in the rotation but was at the back end and clearly not a part of their long-term plans.
Also in this line of thought would mean that the Cavaliers will have started to shop Burks before he even plays his first game and will sell to the highest bidder at the trade deadline even if it’s minimal. They would likely be able to at least get a flyer on a young guy another team has given up on and Burks contract running out at the end of the year makes him flexible for other teams.
Option 2: The Cavs desperately want to get off of some of their bad salaries.
While a back-end rotation guy, Burks is a real player who is in his prime. Teams who are more interested in winning games now and in the next few years will likely have interest in adding Burks to their roster. If that’s the case, the Cavaliers could use Burks (and perhaps one of those second round picks) as bait to get a team to take on George HIll, JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson, or Tristan Thompson.
This is not that strong a line of thought because those guys contracts are very bad and Burks is not that good, but if any of those guys show signs of life (or in Thompson’s case, continues to do so) then it could work. Would a team who could use a point guard take on the drastically overpaid, but not totally useless George Hill if Burks and/or a second round pick was there as a sweetener? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly possible.
Also worth noting is that there is a difference between this and the “Sell Burks off to the highest bidder” line of thought from option 1. Here, the Cavaliers may have possibly spurned other offers, perhaps with a younger (but worse right now) player included but chose Burks specifically to use him as bait for teams trying to win games now.
3rd option: The Cavaliers think they can compete sooner rather than later.
While this season almost certainly is a wash already, we all know that Dan Gilbert wants to try and win, and if Kevin Love could actually get healthy and a couple of other things go right, they maybe even could be at least semi-competitive next season. The second round picks are a good get, and then this season will be a trial for Burks before the Cavaliers re-sign him long-term.
This would likely be foolish. Unless they get very lucky this team is probably going to be very bad for at least one or two more years after this one, but stranger things have happened. Plus, given the state of the Eastern Conference, it wouldn’t take a lot for them to find themselves in the chase for a back-end playoff spot.
So What’s your verdict?
Tough to pan the deal too much. The Cavaliers had to trade Korver and even if Burks isn’t in their long-term plans at all, a pair of second rounders is not a bad return for him. That said, unless they manage to flip Burks into more assets I struggle to see the benefit of him instead of trying to fish around for some younger guy, even if its just a flyer.
In the end, if they manage to somehow flip Burks for some more benefit, whether getting off another big contract or even getting another second round pick, this trade would be a good sign that the Cavaliers are heading in a better direction than in the past. That they are willing to do a proper rebuild. If they re-sign Burks long term, I just see it as a continuation of the dysfunction that has them here in the first place.
But you even said it wouldn’t take much for them to actually compete.
That’s right, but they are terrible right now, and without a radical continuation of a roster overhaul I don’t see how they do it. Basically, I’m aware that due to the weakness of the East that I could be wrong and they could compete. I just don’t think its likely.