Several NBA teams hope to make a deal before the Feb. 23 trade deadline, including the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Well, it’s not a secret that Cleveland is – I don’t want to use the word ‘desperately’ – but maybe frantically trying to come up with a big guy that can play,” Turner Sports NBA analyst Mike Fratello said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There are two pieces that they needed: a backup point guard and a big man to replace Chris Andersen when he went down. They just signed Derrick Williams, who they seem to be happy with right now.”
Williams, 25, has averaged 10.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in three games for Cleveland.
“This is his fifth team in six years, but they needed a strong body, somebody that can go out there and do some dirty work for them,” Fratello said. “Derrick Williams, in the limited games he’s played, in the limited amount of days that he’s been here, they’re very happy with him. So I would assume they sign him to another 10-day contract, and then based on what LeBron is saying, this could be longer than just a 10-day deal. If that’s the case, I would think that they need a big man. They only have Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson. With Love now going down, this is a small team – really small team.”
That makes Tyronn Lue’s job even tougher. Lue wants to win games, yes, but he doesn’t want to over-extend his players, especially his veterans.
“It seems like Tyronn Lue, after experimenting and giving some of the (young) guys shots at playing some of these games, it seems like he’s decided if we’re going to hold off Boston, if we’re going to hold off Toronto, if we’re going to hold off Washington and Atlanta, we’ve got to win some games with these people being out,” Fratello said. “So it seems like he’s turned to his veteran guys and playing the veterans. If that’s the case, then you’re talking about more minutes for Richard Jefferson than he probably thought he was going to play when he came out of retirement. And now Korver is added to the team, and early on, he was coming off the bench. Now, because of J.R. Smith’s injury and because of Shumpert spraining his ankle, he is playing more minutes. So Tyronn Lue is trying to juggle all these minutes, and I would have to say (Cleveland is) one of the teams we should be looking at that is looking to do something. All those top teams are looking to maybe make the one move that makes a difference in their team.”
The Raptors may have made that move Tuesday, sending Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round draft pick to Orlando for Serge Ibaka. The Celtics were also reportedly interested in Ibaka but unwilling to trade Terry Rozier.
Fratello, though, thinks it was probably more complicated than that.
“Often what we don’t know is what was the complete deal,” he said. “What more were they asking for besides Rozier? We get bits and pieces sometimes on these hearsay trades, and I think teams are allowed to inquire without being ready to pull the trigger. It’s two different things. One is finalizing it, and one is just kind of asking around: What would you like for that guy? How much would it take from us to get that guy? Perhaps Boston realized they have a lot of assets to use to make a blockbuster trade and they’re going to have money to use on certain guys – if any Utah guy might happen to be available in the future that might want to go back and play for his college coach.”
That “Utah guy,” of course, is Gordon Hayward, who, along with Brad Stevens, led Butler to an NCAA runner-up finish in 2010.
“Maybe they felt that because Ibaka has had a subpar year based on the standards that they were looking at when he was enjoying his most success in Oklahoma City that they backed off the thing and said, ‘You know what? We’re young. Our key pieces were young. We’re playing really good right now. Why disrupt or why have to give away a couple key pieces to get somebody who may come in here and maybe is not what we thought he was from three years back?’” Fratello explained. “He’s not blocking the same number of shots. He’s not on the offensive glass. Maybe the invention of the jump-shot for him along the baseline and people saying you need to move back and get a little more range on your shot, maybe that’s changed what he used to do well. And maybe he makes a few more jumpers now but it takes away from other parts of his game. Just throwing that out for consideration.”