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2011 NBA Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers In A Unique Spot As Draft Approaches

With the 2011 NBA Draft just days away, all eyes are on the Cavs--as well they should be.

Owners of more assets than arguably anyone else in the league, this year's draft is a far cry from a year ago, when the Cavs had no picks and The Decision looming.

Let's run through the list, shall we? Along with the first and fourth picks in the draft, the Cavs are also owners of the 32nd and 54th picks. Although that late second rounder may not net anything special, plenty of solid contributors have come in the early second round, and Cleveland fans have to hope that Chris Grant and his talent evaluators have a solid game plan in place.

In addition to the picks already owned, the Cavaliers have a plethora of other options that have other teams salivating. First and foremost is the TPE, which has been floated around for players like Rip Hamilton and Andre Iguodala. The trade exemption rules are very specific, though, so it is important to note that, according to

  • Trade exceptions can't be added to anything. A team can acquire 125% of the salary they trade away (in a simultaneous trade). So if they have a $10 million player, he can be traded for up to $12.5 million in incoming salary. If they also have an outstanding trade exception for $5 million, they can't add it to the $12.5 million in order to acquire a player making $17.5 million. The trade exception can only be used to acquire a player or players making the amount of the exception or less (plus a $100,000 fudge factor).
  • Trade exceptions can't be added to other trade exceptions, either. Right now the Lakers have two trade exceptions – one for $2.5 million, and the other for $1.9 million. They can't combine them to acquire a player making $4.4 million. The $2.5 million exception can only be used to acquire a player making $2.5 million or less, and the $1.9 million exception can only be used to acquire a player making $1.9 million or less (again, each also has a $100,000 fudge factor).
  • So a situation in which a player is unhappy on a team, or a team wants to cut dead weight, makes sense. And for the Cavs, money is no object with Dan Gilbert at the helm. That's why the Rip Hamilton deal is so enticing. Although the Pistons have been reluctant, they may see the writing on the wall. Rip is unhappy, and has been a real malcontent in the last year, and the Cavs would be more than willing to buy him out if he so desired. Paying money for another first round pick is something Grant--and Gilbert--seem more than apt to do.

    Or, if you can acquire a player like Iguodala, why not? Again, with money not posing any problems, if a team is looking to cut salary or is in rebuilding mode, a player in or near his prime could add veteran leadership as well as much-needed scoring (especially from the wing, where the Cavs need the most help).

    Now let's look at the roster. With Kyrie Irving a likely target, one of Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions are expendable. Obviously, Davis's contract, health and effort were enough of an albatross to convince the Clippers to ultimately lose the number one overall pick, but when healthy and playing hard, Davis is still a very good player. He is still owed $28.8 million over the next two years, though, and dealing him would take a lot of coercing.

    Sessions is a much more viable trade target. The 24 year old (25 in November) is making just under $9 million over the next two seasons and showed a lot of ability in extended minutes with the Cavaliers a season ago. He is a perfect fit for a contending team looking for a solid number two PG or a rebuilding team looking to take a flier on a player with his abilities.

    Next comes Antawn Jamison. Although it is far more likely that he will be moved near the trade deadline, Jamison's matchup problems as a stretch four are still valuable, and he probably has one more big season in him if he finds a fit on a team looking to make a big playoff push. Most notably, though, that expiring $15 million contract is a big chip.

    Then you have the big men. While J.J. Hickson has been mentioned time and again, I truly do not see the Cavs moving the soon-to-be 23 year old. Last year was his first true year of coaching (he had no help in high school, AAU, college or from Mike Brown), and he seemed to really respond to Byron Scott. I would much rather see the Cavs move Anderson Varejao.

    Look, I like Andy (although most people who have heard me talk about him would disagree). I just don't think he fits anymore. A nine point and nine rebound hustle guy just has no place on a rebuilding team. This team doesn't need his 30-35 minutes. His value isn't maximized in Cleveland. He belongs as the sixth man on a team hell-bent on a championship run. He makes way too much money to justify his cost on the Cavaliers, but could bring one heck of a windfall if he were to be traded. I am sure Grant is working the phones hard with regards to Varejao.

    And finally, the Cavs most valuable asset is their owner, Dan Gilbert. He seems singularly focused on turning this thing around, and that means money is legitimately no object. So, while other financially strapped teams start shopping their picks for cash (see: Phoenix), Cleveland will be there to snatch them up.

    The Cavs' front office has a lot of work to do. Hopefully, they've got plenty of extra coffee on hand this week.

    Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.