With the Cleveland Cavaliers rolling, at 23-8, might they consider moving the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected first-round pick prior to the February trade deadline in exchange for immediate help?
But probably not.
As one general manager told the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:
“They would be open to a deal by all indications,” one general manager told Sporting News. “But they’re not talking about that pick. That’s the Plan B for the LeBron stuff and from what I know, they don’t want to budge on it.”
“The LeBron stuff” is, of course, the decision star forward LeBron James will make this summer, when he hits free agency. Cleveland will be central to two enormous decisions in the offseason, beginning with what James decides to do, but including whether the Cavs agree to pay guard Isaiah Thomas, currently rehabbing a hip injury, the max salary he will seek.
This stance is fine, particularly with the Cavaliers now 1.5 games out off the first-place Boston Celtics. Things would be different if they were still struggling. Possession of that pick would feel like an ultimatum, with LeBron perhaps indirectly applying pressure on the team to get something done.
But he doesn’t have that motivation to gripe or push right now. The Cavaliers might still snag the No. 1 seed as currently constituted, and they’ve yet to integrate Isaiah Thomas, an All-Star. They can view him like their midseason trade acquisition and continue using the Nets selection as a safety net in the event James leaves.
Now, if James comes back, they’ll revisit the pick’s status over the summer, deciding whether to make a move for an impact player before 2018-19. But the selection won’t be as valuable then, when it turns into an actual player. That’s how these things work. Even now, with the Nets barely tracking toward a bottom-10 record, it has lost some of its clout. So, in theory, if the Cavaliers were looking to capitalize on its value, they should do so now, while its stock remains kind of hot.
Short of James guaranteeing his return, though, it doesn’t seem like they will.