The Cavaliers’ dwindling depth wasn’t a problem on Christmas Day against the Warriors, but with Chris Andersen out for the season, J.R. Smith sidelined for three months, and retired guard Mo Williams taking up a roster, spot, the Cavs will keep an eye out for opportunities to fortify their roster before this year’s trade deadline.
According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Cleveland is willing to use its $9.6MM+ trade exception to take on additional salary, as long as it’s in a deal for “the right player,” one could help the team win another championship. The TPE, one of four held by the Cavs, is the only substantial one — the others range in value from about $845K to $1.333MM.
Trade exceptions, which expire one year after they’re created, allow a team to acquire a player without having to match salaries in a deal. So Cleveland has until February 18 – one year after the $9.639MM exception was created – to use it on a player, or multiple players, earning up to that amount.
As Zillgitt writes, a backup point guard, a perimeter player who can generate offense, and a perimeter defender are among the items on the Cavs’ potential shopping list. If a player meets more than one of those criteria, he’d certainly draw interest from Cleveland. However, if the team has to pick just one, it would likely be a perimeter defender, according to Zillgitt, who points out that a point guard and offensive perimeter player won’t be as crucial by the time the postseason arrives.
Although it’s no surprise that the Cavaliers are open to upgrading their roster, the club will be very wary about the cost of any deal. Currently, the team is so far over the cap that any additional salary added to its books for 2016/17 will result in a tax charge of at least $3.25 per dollar. So even if the Cavs were to acquire a player with a modest salary, such an addition would increase their tax bill exponentially.