With trade season now open, who can the Cleveland Cavaliers target?

With trade season unofficially opening, the Cavaliers can try to fix some of the flaws on the perimeter with their roster.
trade mcdermott cleveland cavaliers spurs
SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 12: Doug McDermott #17 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 12, 2022 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s December 15 and you know what that means – trade season is officially unofficially open across the NBA. That’s because, on December 15, players that signed contracts during the offseason leading into this season are now officially trade-eligible, expanding the market quite a bit. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that every NBA team is going to enter a free for all, firing off transactions at will. That’ll likely happen on February 9, when teams have until 3 p.m. ET to finalize any trades (happy birthday to this author).

With that said, it doesn’t mean the Cleveland Cavaliers cannot start combing through what options are available to them. Over the summer, the Cavaliers made one of the biggest moves of the offseason in acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. To get a player like Mitchell, it required a boatload of assets, and Cleveland has zero regrets about giving those up based on how this season has gone so far.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers are perfect. In fact, despite the star power, Cleveland has some flaws within their lineups and rotations – especially on the perimeter. The Cavaliers have struggled to find a permanent answer at small forward and depth at the position since LeBron James left town for a second time. Sure, that’s not an easy task for any team to build out of. But, the Cavaliers are almost there in regard to becoming a complete team and addressing this issue should be the top priority leading up to the trade deadline.

Thankfully, there are options out there available for Cleveland. Today, Right Down Euclid will be sharing and breaking down what league sources shared about what wing players the Cavaliers could target in a trade. Mind you, Cleveland is fairly limited on trade assets after acquiring Mitchell this summer. But, there are still moves the Cavaliers could make on the margins to improve what the organization has built. Besides, Cleveland doesn’t need a LeBron-like player to make a difference. They just need three simple things in a trade: shooting, size and athleticism.

With that said, who the Cavaliers lost to earlier this week on the road may make the most sense as a trade partner. The San Antonio Spurs are in the midst of a teardown before entering a rebuild after they shipped off Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks over the summer. But, they’re still in a bit of a tricky spot in regard to where things stand in the Alamo City: there are a lot of young players the Spurs are looking to draft but there are several established players at the same position somewhat preventing that. Naturally, San Antonio is doing the right thing and finding a proper balance between everything, giving time to both player development and keeping veterans happy. But, with things now opening up a bit more, the Spurs could be primed to open up shop and start talking with opposing front offices on deals.

Multiple sources have confirmed with Right Down Euclid that of the players available on San Antonio’s roster, Jakob Poeltl, Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott are the most likely to be moved leading up to February 9. Of the three, Poeltl seems the least likely to garner interest from the Cavaliers. With Richardson and McDermott, meanwhile, it more so fits what Cleveland needs: shooting, size and athleticism.

Richardson is a swingman who is more of a natural two-guard but has the length to play minutes at small forward as well. Not only that but, he also is a great two-way player that has consistently led the league in three-point percentage since joining the Spurs last year. McDermott, meanwhile, is a natural small forward that also has the bulk to play power forward at times if his team wants to go smaller on the floor. While McDermott doesn’t possess the defensive chops like Richardson, he can and is always a willing three-point shooter. For his career, McDermott has connected on 41.0% of his 3.4 three-point attempts per game. Considering the talent on Cleveland’s roster, if McDermott were to enter the fold, that percentage would naturally go up and allow the Cavaliers to find proper balance on offense.

trade kennard covington cavaliers clippers
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 07: Cleveland Cavaliers Forward Evan Mobley (4) is surrounded by Los Angeles Clippers Forward Robert Covington (23), Los Angeles Clippers Forward Nicolas Batum (33) and Los Angeles Clippers Guard Luke Kennard (5) during a NBA game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers on November 7, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With that said, if Richardson and McDermott are so great on paper, why would a team like the Cavaliers be able to cobble together less than premiere assets to get them? Well, according to sources, the fact that Richardson will likely walk this summer from San Antonio and McDermott makes a little too much money on his contract gives the Spurs incentive to try and move. That, and this cannot be stressed enough, San Antonio is trying to develop younger talent with an eye for the future. Clearly, Richardson and McDermott aren’t part of those plans based on what multiple sources have shared with Right Down Euclid so, that means teams like Cleveland could have a negotiating advantage when trade talks start to heat up.

The problem is, the Cavaliers will be competing with 28 other teams to try and acquire some combination of Richardson and McDermott or both players at the same time. That’s why Cleveland shouldn’t entirely put their eggs in San Antonio’s basket, despite the fit making too much sense overall. Thankfully, there’s another Western Conference team that could be interested in doing business with the Cavaliers: the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers are in a fairly interesting situation where they have the pieces to contend right now with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George but they’re still stuck in the lower rungs of the Western Conference. Outside of Leonard and George, who are the marquee players for Los Angeles, sources say the Clippers aren’t completely pleased with the production they’re paying for on the perimeter, namely from Robert Covington.

For a team that’s paying so much for suboptimal results, it’s understandable why the Clippers might want to shake things up a bit. While Covington doesn’t check every box for the Cavaliers (he’s a great defender but not the greatest shooter), Cleveland could always try to expand the trade a bit and acquire Luke Kennard, a shooter who has also underperformed this season despite his hefty contract, as well. Both Covington and Kennard could give the Cavaliers a lot of what they need all while allowing the Clippers the chance to shed some salary from the second-most expensive payroll in the NBA.

Typically, you see these kinds of deals happen from a good team like Los Angeles to a lesser squad looking to rebuild. So when situations like these arise between two aspiring contenders, it’s rare. With that said, Cleveland could be apprehensive to take on the long-term money of Covington and Kennard together based on their less-than-stellar performance this season and the fact that they’ll have to start paying their youngsters sooner rather than later.

So while there are two somewhat defined options out there, the Cavaliers again cannot put all their eggs in one basket. There are plenty of other names worth watching sources tell Right Down Euclid, including Houston’s Kenyon Martin Jr. and Brooklyn’s Joe Harris, as things start to open up on the trade market. Again, Cleveland doesn’t need to find a superstar to round out their starting five and bench units. They just need some form of reliable depth on the perimeter to help connect things on either end of the floor. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next as the Cavaliers remain opportunistic to take the next step in their growth.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at evan@downeuclid.com. He can also be found three to five times a week on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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