Shortly after the Cavaliers acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, LeBron James told reporters that the team still needed a backup point guard and another big man. General manager David Griffin wasn’t sold on the idea of adding another frontcourt player, but agreed with James that the Cavs could use another playmaker. Now, with Cleveland having lost five of its last seven games, the reigning Finals MVP has repeated his call for roster reinforcements.
“I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization,” James said on Monday night to a handful of Cavs’ beat reporters, including Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. “I just hope we’re not satisfied.”
As McMenamin details, James told reporters that this year’s Cavs aren’t better than last year’s team from a personnel standpoint, having failed to adequately replace a few departing players like Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov. James also views Cleveland’s roster as too “top-heavy,” relying on him, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love for a huge portion of the club’s production during the regular season.
“It’s great to have bodies (in the regular season),” James said. “Obviously, in the playoffs, you go down to what, eight max? And if somebody gets in foul trouble, you go to nine. You’re not playing back-to-backs. You have two days in between. You’re able to lock in. … When you don’t have bodies, it’s tough. The (expletive) grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team.”
James acknowledged that the front office was handcuffed to a certain extent by Mo Williams‘ last-minute decision to retire, since Williams had been penciled in as the team’s backup point guard prior to training camp. The 32-year-old also acknowledged that reliable rotation players don’t grow on trees, but stressed that the Cavs “need a (expletive) playmaker.”
“I don’t know what we got to offer (in trades),” James said. “I just know me, personally? I don’t got no time to waste. I’ll be 33 in the winter, and I ain’t got time to waste. That’s what I’m talking about.”
As James hints, the Cavs don’t have a ton of appealing assets to dangle in trade talks. The earlier first-round pick Cleveland can trade is its 2021 selection, and most of the players the club can afford to part with have modest contracts, which could make salary-matching difficult. The Cavs have five traded player exceptions at their disposal, but the largest one is worth about $4.84MM, so any player making more than $5MM or so would be out of reach with those TPEs. The team will also have to be wary of adding too much more salary to its books — no NBA club has a higher payroll ($127MM+) or a more substantial projected tax bill ($27MM+) than Cleveland.
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Nonetheless, the Cavs figure to continue scouring the market for potential difference-makers. Mitch Lawrence of Forbes suggests that Jameer Nelson, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams are among the team’s possible targets, and while some of those options are probably less realistic than others, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cleveland make a move before next month’s trade deadline.