The Cavaliers need another playmaker. This isn't a secret, they've openly said this. Despite leading the Eastern Conference and being about as close to a lock as you can get to return to the NBA Finals for a third straight time (and a mind-boggling seventh straight for LeBron James), they are having to rely on their stars too much.
Both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are playing heavy minutes this season; James is averaging the most he has per game since returning to Cleveland and almost two minutes more per game than last season.
The Cavs have stocked themselves with shooters and rebounders, but haven't been able to find a real replacement for Matthew Dellavedova, who left in free agency. They need a player who can actually generate looks for the offense. Kay Felder and Jordan McCrae just aren't at those points in their careers. Here's what James said about the issue earlier this month:
"We still got a couple more things we need to do," James said Friday, when asked if Cleveland's pending trade with Atlanta for Korver was a "championship move."
"We gotta get a point guard," James said. "It's my last time saying it. We need a point guard."James also said he'd like the Cavs to add another big man, but "there's not many bigs out there ... we'll see what happens."
And here's Cavaliers GM David Griffin earlier this month:
"It's something where we're all pretty keenly aware that it would help take some burden off of Kyrie [Irving] and LeBron [James] as our primary playmaker, so if we could get somebody else that could do it ... and it really doesn't even have to be a point guard; it's just we need playmaking," Griffin said, speaking to reporters for the first time since the Korver trade.
"So, again, the hope is that Kyle gives us the opportunity to create some offense another way and make us less dependent on those two play creators. Obviously coach [Tyronn Lue] has done some creative things with Kevin Love to make offense run through him as well. But all season long, we've known we need more playmaking and just more intelligence at times on the floor in terms of the decision-making. We'll continue to try to improve."
So the Cavaliers have no cap space, few trade assets, and need a playmaker. What are their options?
Of note, the Cavaliers have already traded their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks and, as such, cannot deal their 2018 first-round pick either.
Williams is the dream target for the Cavs. Williams is averaging 17 points per game for the Lakers, and shooting 37 percent from 3-point range, while tossing in three assists in 24 minutes per game. This is like adding their own Jamal Crawford. Williams is a poor defender, but for what they're looking for, they can survive long enough. Running Williams at backup combo guard would solve all the bench shot creation issues. He's not a pure point, but he is a multi-talented veteran who gets buckets.
The Lakers are probably going to want more than the Cavs have to offer, however. Iman Shumpert gives them a defensive upgrade, and he's been shooting, but they need more time for the youngsters, not less.
Nelson is jammed into Denver between starting second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and rookie combo guard Jamal Murray. He also leads the Nuggets in assists, though, and while he still has a penchant for launching the jumper off the pick, he's also a veteran capable point guard that's likely pretty cheap. A move involving DeAndre Liggins, who is having a good year for Cleveland, and Nelson makes a lot of sense.
A steady-handed veteran who is shooting 36 percent from 3-point range this season, Nelson is available and can fill in the small minutes the Cavs need him for.
Watson is shooting below 30 percent from the field and below 30 percent from 3-point range the past two seasons. So this looks like a terrible idea. But you have to factor in who the player is vs. who the player is in Orlando. Watson is a career 38 percent 3-point shooter who shot 40 percent from deep in Indiana two years ago. He's a buy-low candidate who can also run some offense.
Either point guard from Dallas works. There's a slight chance Williams is bought out after the trade deadline, and he'd be a good veteran minimum pickup. Both of these guys can run the offense, both can shoot a little bit, both are damaged goods on a team going nowhere. If the Mavericks are interested at all, Cleveland should jump on this.
Kilpatrick is an explosive scorer, but limited in playmaking and undersized. He can score in bunches, though. They'd still be searching for a point guard, however.
Brooks is perfect. A veteran who plays tough defense despite his size, shooting 35 percent from the field, but finding it hard to get time on a crowded back court in Indiana. He's playoff tested, plays with a chip on his shoulder, and remains nimble at age 32.
Look, you want an available backup point guard with playoff experience, here he is. Plus, this would be like the Warriors signing JaVale McGee to prove that their culture can make any player valuable. This would be LeBron's heat check.