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Cavaliers’ move for the future could easily backfire

Feb 24, 2011, 2:31 PM EDT

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers will have another lottery pick with which to establish a young core for the future, but they had better hope that in their trade deadline deal — which netted the Clippers’ Baron Davis and the aforementioned pick for Mo Williams — the only price they pay is measured in salary committed and cap damage. There’s a fundamental danger in trading appraised assets for mere opportunities (draft picks), and though the draft may be the best way for Cleveland to execute a proper rebuild, the decision to acquire Davis in order to add another reasonably high pick in this summer’s draft could end up doing the Cavaliers franchise considerable damage.

The Cavs’ decision to take on considerable salary — which will only clog up their cap space for the next three seasons, eventual buyout or no — in their current state is questionable enough, but the decision to take on the considerable salary of Baron Davis is another issue entirely. Kurt already touched on some of the pitfalls; Davis is largely unmotivated, insists on launching shots he has no business taking, and sees active defense as a mere suggestion. The on-court damage Davis could (and likely will) do to his team is considerable.

That starts with Ramon Sessions, who has undoubtedly been the brightest spot for Cleveland this season. If there’s any piece to build around on the Cavs’ roster it’s Sessions; J.J. Hickson is still far too inconsistent and is lacking as a shot creator and as a defender, and the rest of the pieces in Cleveland are either aging, injured, or underdeveloped. Sessions was all this team had, and now he likely won’t even start for the team that should be his. Acquiring Davis doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Sessions as a Cav, but it certainly makes the idea of a long-term marriage between player and team a bit more tenuous.

But it gets worse. Davis is the kind of player who — due to his personality and contract size — can immobilize a franchise. The combined $28.7 million Davis is owed over the next two seasons is fairly crippling, and while the exchange of massive contracts this season has proven that no player is untradeable, moving such players often requires paying a price of a different kind. When things inevitably get sour with Davis, the Cavs will do their best to find a taker for him, but that task will only get more and more difficult as contracts like Davis’ become increasingly anachronistic. A new collective bargaining agreement is expected to completely do away with deals of that size, and while that doesn’t necessarily make the prospect of moving Davis down the line an impossibility, it makes the proposition much more difficult.

Williams’ deal was much more movable than Davis’ is and will be, and that fact creates a set of problems separate from the impact of the differences in their salary. This is as good as Davis’ value gets. If he’s moved sometime in the next year, the Cavs will likely have to offer incentive to the team that takes him, just as the Clippers did here.

Cleveland cashed in on Williams’ value, and what they received is a chance to draft a player they like and the right to pay Davis exorbitant sums of money for the next three seasons. They gave away an asset for an opportunity in a game that’s stacked against them (stars can certainly come out of the mid-lottery, but it’s not the most likely outcome), and to have an extra pick in what many are calling a particularly weak draft class. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Chris Grant to produce with his pair of lottery picks this summer. Only positive ends can justify these means, and anything less would not only mark this trade as a failure, but also make Davis’ price tag even more painful.

  1. bigtrav425 - Feb 24, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    As a Cavs fan you are right to a certain extent but whats with all the negativity?..anyone with a b-ball IQ would take Baron over Mo any day of the week..but thats not why the deal was made it was made for 2 reasons…The unprotected pick first and foremost whihc is likely going to be a top 10 so they will have 2 picks in the top 10 and 2nd it shows everyone that Dan gilbert/cleveland are not afraid of spending money and doing what they have to do in order to get better….and lets say Baron is that pissed bout gettin traded to Cleveland from his hometown…well then he would take a pretty low buyout and possibly save Gilbert a lil cash…and if i remember right the difference for next yrs contract between mo and Baron is 4 mill…so for next yr your spending 4 million and gettin a lottery pick this yr for Mo and Jamario

  2. leearmon - Feb 24, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    You raise good points, but I think you are overstating Mo Williams, while also killing the draft. First thing first, under no circumstance could anyone assume Cleveland would be able to sign free agents. Period. So the cap hit is not as big of a deal as you make it out to be. Being under the cap for the sake of being under the cap means absolutely nothing. Do you see Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Deron Williams signing to Cleveland as a free agent in two summers? Didn’t think so. Also critics have called this draft a “weak” class yet they almost always say that about drafts. Two seasons ago David Falk went on national radio and said Blake Griffin was the only star in the class. Tell that to Steph Curry, Jru Holiday DeMar Derozen and Rodrique Beaubois etc. The point being no one knows how the draft or the lottery will pan out. Lets say the Clippers have the 2nd overall pick and the Cavs have the first. That opens so many options for Cleveland, including drafting Irving and Sullinger. And who says Cleveland has to start Davis over Sessions? Even though a buyout will still count against their cap, that doesnt mean if Baron’s attitude starts to disrupt things for the Cavs he can’t be bought out. This is a good move for the Cavs, because they are going all in and playing the only hand they have been dealt.

  3. savocabol1 - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Literally any other team makes this deal and you guys would praise them. Just another hater.

  4. borderline1988 - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    I see this as a win-win for both sides.
    Obviously the Clippers would do anything to get rid of Baron Davis and his contract – they have a great core now, and are not devoid of young, possible PG starters for the future (Foye and Bledsoe).

    Cleveland gets a bad influence in Baron Davis, but he’s only ehre for 2 years, and the Cavs won’t be winning more than 25 games for the next 3 years no matter what. And it’s not like Mo Williams’ influence was that much better on younger players.
    Essentially, they traded some salary space for a top-10 draft pick. Fact is, Cleveland doesn’t need salary space right now, because there are no big-name players that will even consider Cleveland for a long time. Better to stockpile draft picks, and hope to build a team that way.

    The pros outweight the cons for Cleveland. I think it was an excellent move. This was all, all about the draft pick.

  5. sguy2130 - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Wow…took you guys two articles to express your hate for the Cavs? They bought a pick. Of course Davis brings some baggage, but the Cavs need to build through the draft. Nobody wants to come to this team in it’s current state. All the Cavs want to do right now is develop young players and tank. Davis will probably help us do that by being Davis. Granted, all Cavs fans will probably hate Davis on many levels by October, but he’s not part of the future, and anyone who thinks the Cavs traded for Davis for anything other than a lottery pick should probably work for ESPN.

    I don’t see us winning a championship in 2 years, so I’m not worried about Davis and his bulky contract

  6. Colin Zvosec - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Man, you guys act like Baron is just going to get there and starting shooting up the place. The Cavs aren’t going anywhere in the next 5 years anyway, they’re not going to use the cap space on anyone important. I think they can wait out 2 years of Baron.

  7. savocabol1 - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    This move could easily backfire for the Cavs? What kind of insight is that? Melo could tear his ACL and never play again and the trade backfires for the Knicks, Deron Williams could not sign an extension and go somewhere else – trade backfires for the Nets. Boston’s defense could fall of the face of the earth because their starting center is no longer there, trade backfires on Boston. You get what I am saying yet? Cavs could just as easily reap benefits as they do negatives in this trade. No one knows what the effects of every trade are going to be. Welcome to the real world Rob. Nice shortsided article. Move over to PFT and write an article on how the Browns are going to fail if they have Colt Mccoy become their starter while you are at it too…..

  8. dansullivan82 - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    It’s a good move for Cleveland because it give them a chance to totally rebuild their team from the Lebron era.They also got 2 young players from Boston so they will be young and no doubt in the lottery for a few more years but building something instead of running out the same old team thats only won 2 in their last 30.Also did anyone else think it was funny the team they traded with was one of the only two teams they have beat this calender year?!

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