NBA trade deadline: 10 players the increasingly desperate Cavaliers should target

The NBA trade deadline (Feb. 8, 3 p.m. ET) is approaching, and there is perhaps no team in a trickier spot than the Cleveland Cavaliers. The three-time defending Eastern Conference champions' warts were all on display Monday in a loss to the Golden State Warriors, their principal rivals -- for now, at least.

Can they improve their horrific defense? Will they be willing to surrender the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick that they acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade? Is there a player on the market who could help them keep LeBron James in free agency? These are all open questions. But it suffices to say that even the Cavs' stars realize they need to do something.

Here are 10 players Cleveland should at least explore adding in the next few weeks:

Players possibly on the move

The rumors won't stop, even though the Los Angeles Clippers seem to have salvaged their season on the strength of Lou Williams' career season with guys like Jawun Evans, C.J. Williams and Sindarius Thornwell playing major minutes. If Jordan isn't ready to commit to the Clippers long-term or they are worried about his price tag in free agency, then they at least have to gauge the market for him. The Cavaliers make sense because of their need for defense and athleticism. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Cleveland is not interested in trading the Brooklyn pick for Jordan. Tristan Thompson would almost certainly have to be in any deal, and Jordan would essentially be asked to play the role Thompson played before being moved to the bench this season. While I am skeptical that Jordan's presence would close the gap with the Golden State Warriors, he would give the Cavs better rim protection and vertical spacing than they've ever had. 


It's unclear if the Grizzlies are going to blow it up, but Gasol would be a fascinating addition to this Cleveland team. He might be the best all-around player available, and while he's not quite the monster he was when he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, he is still a smart, stabilizing force on that end.

James loves playing with high-IQ players, but Gasol turns 33 in a couple of weeks. If the goal of acquiring a star is to convince James to stick around long-term, then that is a problem. The other big question here is about style of play: Gasol is a perfect fit if the Cavs want to slow things down in a potential NBA Finals rematch with the Warriors, but coach Tyronn Lue has not wanted to do that in the last two years. 


The positives: Favors is 26 years old, probably won't command a max contract and provides much more offense than Thompson. He can't space the floor to the 3-point line like Gasol and he isn't an imposing physical force like Jordan, but he could put up big scoring and rebounding numbers in Cleveland's system. Favors might be available for a relatively low price, too, given that it has become clear he's better as a center than a power forward and he's going to be an unrestricted free agent in July. 

I'm just not sure swapping Thompson for Favors would worry Golden State at all. Would the Cavs close with both Kevin Love and Favors on the floor against the Death Lineup? This kind of acquisition could be great if accompanied by another trade, but on its own it probably doesn't fix Cleveland's problems.  


Nobody has linked Hill to the Cavaliers, but he's probably my favorite hypothetical trade target. They desperately need defense in the backcourt, and even though he's only 6-3, Hill has the length and strength to guard most wings. Cleveland could start him next to Isaiah Thomas and could close some games with Thomas on the bench if the point guard's defense became a liability. Since he is also a great spot-up 3-point shooter, Hill is an ideal teammate for James.

There is something to be said for having the confidence that you can contain opposing stars, even if you can't totally stop them. Before the Cavs see Stephen Curry again, they will have to deal with guys like John Wall, Kyle Lowry and Irving in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Hill is one of the few defenders who can actually bother them.


The center doesn't appear to have a future with the Mavericks, as he signed the qualifying offer last summer and lost his spot in the rotation this year before having thumb surgery. Noel is represented by Rich Paul, and at just 23 years old has more upside than most players on the trade market. He is similar to Thompson, but the trade possibilities become interesting when you think about Cleveland potentially getting Dallas wing Wesley Matthews, too.

As covered on this website, If the Lakers are really willing to trade Nance, then a whole bunch of contenders should be lining up to get him. The third-year big man (from Akron!) doesn't stretch the floor (yet), but he does a bit of everything else. Nance's athleticism and defensive versatility would help Lue find balanced lineups, and he would be an awesome alley-oop target for James.

I don't love the end of his contract -- Lee will be making 12.8 million dollars at 34 years old in 2019-20 -- but if he can keep up what he's doing in New York, he would be a terrific addition to the Cavs or any other contender. Lee is quietly making a career-high 42.6 percent of his 3s and has been effective as a secondary pick-and-roll ballhandler. Cleveland needs 3-and-D guys and Lee is a proven one. 

One of my favorite role players in the league, Thomas is on a relatively cheap deal and could be the kind of guy that Lue has trouble taking off the floor. There isn't anything flashy about him, but he defends multiple positions, stretches the floor and keeps the ball moving. (Other similar targets: Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green and Hornets forward Marvin Williams.)

Even though his shot has abandoned him lately, it is worth remembering how well he played for the Spurs in last year's playoffs. I love the idea of him switching all over the place and getting out on the fast break for easy baskets on this team, and the Magic have fallen off so hard that it's not crazy to imagine them moving him. (Other similar targets: Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, Trail Blazers forward Moe Harkless.)

The 28-year-old wing would help in much the same way that Lee would. He can guard three positions well, and he has made strides as a playmaker and a shooter. The problem is Bazemore's contract: He will be making 19.3 million dollars in 2019-20. Imagine if Cleveland absorbs that deal and then James leaves. 
CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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