Kidd To Cleveland More Fantasy Than Reality

LeBron James and Jason Kidd

It seems a little absurd to me to even be considering thinking about the roster next season when the Cavaliers’ hopes in this current season are more than alive and well. I’d much rather look ahead to the playoffs than look ahead to free agency next year. It’s one thing to wonder what will happen to current free agents-to-be Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak, and quite another thing to wonder about outside players who the Cavaliers may be looking to bring in.

However, a bit of that happened this weekend when the Cavaliers played the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. It’s no secret that LeBron James and Jason Kidd have formed a very close friendship, and that LeBron has publicly stated more than once how much he would like to play on the same NBA team with Kidd at some point. So, with Kidd being a free agent this off-season, I suppose it’s only natural that some would ask Kidd about the chances of him signing with the Cavaliers this summer.  

By now, many people have seen Jason Kidd’s quotes from the Plain Dealer. In Brian Windhorst and Mary Schmitt Boyer’s article, they quote Jason Kidd as saying:

“I could sit and watch from the bench. [LeBron] is so talented, he’s going to get guys wide open shots. So we’ll look at free agency and what happens for me next year.”

Kidd came far short of saying he was definitely considering Cleveland as a destination, but the quote was enough to get some Cavs fans talking and wondering what the chances of this happening really are.

The problem is, there’s more to that quote. Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News paints a slightly different story. His article, titled “Dallas Mavericks’ Kidd dismisses talk of free agency”, understandably spins things to make it sound a little less likely that Kidd will come to Cleveland. He writes,

After Sunday’s loss to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kidd said he tries not to think about James calling him and suggesting a reunion next season.

The two became friends when they played together for the U.S. Olympic team.

“Yeah, that’s a hard call,” Kidd said. “You don’t want to answer the phone. I just have to explore my different options I’m going to have this summer.”

Kidd tries not to think about the summer. There’s plenty of season left for the Mavericks. But with the Mavericks playing the Cavaliers, it was inevitable the subject would come up.

No matter which way you want to look at it, it’s a little early to be seriously forecasting where guys will end up next year. Until we get a salary cap figure, we can’t fully understand the financial landscape of this summer, and so to try to predict the extent to which certain teams will be buyers and sellers now is not entirely prudent.

There are, however, several factors we can consider now. First, we can think about why the Cavaliers would be interested in Kidd’s services, and what the Cavaliers would potentially have to offer. There are essentially only two reasons why the Cavaliers would have any use/want/need for Jason Kidd at this point. One, he’s friends with LeBron, and two, the Cavaliers could use a true PG to backup Mo Williams.

The fact that he and LeBron are such good friends and that LeBron has such a strong desire to play with Kidd should not be taken lightly. The Cavaliers are always searching for any advantage in keeping LeBron in Cleveland, and if the Cavaliers go longer on years to sign Kidd, keeping him in Cleveland past 2010, it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Cavaliers’ chances of keeping LeBron. Plus, Jason Kidd is still seeking an NBA Championship. With the Mavericks lineup somewhat in flux and a lot of uncertainty surrounding the direction of that franchise, Kidd could be more receptive to coming to Cleveland to win a title with LeBron.

As for the type of player the Cavs would be getting, that one is a little tricky. Jason Kidd is 36 years old and is not the same player he once was. Yes, he is averaging 9.2 points, 8.3 assists, 6.3rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game this year (all numbers you would love to have in a backup PG), but his efficiency rating has been in a fairly steady decline going all the way back to the 2002-03 season. On the other hand, his turnovers are down this year at a career low 2.3 per game, and his 3pt shooting is up to 40.7%, which is a career high. Kidd has been making adjustments to help prolong his career. He may not be the nightly triple-double threat that he once was, but he is certainly still an above average PG.

There are some issues that making the Cavaliers signing Kidd seem pretty unlikely, though. First, and perhaps foremost, Jason Kidd has indicated that he doesn’t really want to leave Dallas. He’s been playing much improved basketball with the Mavericks lately, and he may not be too keen on giving up that situation. Beyond that, coming to Cleveland would likely mean a new role for Kidd: Sixth man. Kidd has started everywhere he’s been in the NBA, and if he stays in Dallas, he will still be the starter there. In Cleveland, though, he would almost surely be asked to accept a bench role. Mo Williams is 10 years younger, was an All-Star this year, is averaging 18.1 ppg on 46.6% shooting from the field (43.5% from 3pt range), and is an established team leader. It’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers being able to bench Williams at this point.

Looking beyond just his role on the team, you have to consider the financials as well. This season, Jason Kidd is making $21.372 million dollars. As the Cavaliers are over the salary cap next year, they would only be able to sign Kidd using one of their exceptions. The bi-annual exception ($1.99 million) will not be enough to get the job done. That will leave just the mid-level exception, which could be as low as $5 million next year, depending on how much the cap drops. So, in order to come to Cleveland, the Cavaliers would either have to work out a sign and trade with the Mavericks, or else ask Kidd to accept a $16 million pay cut. The Mavericks, though also over the cap next year, will have Kidd’s Bird Rights and thus would be able to offer Kidd a higher contract than what the Cavaliers can offer.

Assuming that in all reality, Jason Kidd isn’t going to come to Cleveland for $5 million (even if the Cavaliers offered a 5 year deal), the Cavs will be left with few options. The Cavaliers could try to defer some of the money to fit Kidd under the cap this year, but thanks to the Over-36 rule, that isn’t a realistic option. In fact, the fact that Kidd is already 36 years old means that if the Cavs did sign him to a four- or five-year deal, the deferred salaries from those years would have to be front-loaded into the deal, thus meaning the Cavs couldn’t even offer him the full $5 million this year (Kidd would still be paid $5 million, though, as the deferred compensation would be paid up front). The best the Cavs could do is sign him to a 3 year deal with 30% of his salary this year deferred (thus meaning the true value of his contract next year would be approximately $7.143 million). Again, the Mavericks simply have the ability to blow that offer out of the water, while still offering significantly less than the $21 million he made this year.

The best chance for the Cavaliers to acquire Kidd, then, would be via sign-and-trade. The problem here is that once again, the Cavaliers have few tradable assets. The Cavs could offer Ben Wallace, but the Mavericks would probably just rather take the salary relief of losing Kidd than take on $14 million of Ben Wallace for one season. Furthermore, if the Cavaliers wanted to re-sign Varejao, the addition of Kidd’s salary would pretty much eat up all of the Cavaliers’ 2010 cap space once you take LeBron’s salary into account.

There are only two ways I see the Cavs being able to sign Jason Kidd. First, Kidd could simply decide he wants to take the $16 million pay cut to come to Cleveland, come off the bench, back up Mo Williams, and try to win a Championship with LeBron in Cleveland. The second way, would be if it became clear that Varejao is not going to re-sign in Cleveland for the amount the Cavaliers want to pay him, and Kidd makes it clear to Dallas that he doesn’t want to sign there and wants to play in Cleveland. In that scenario, the Cavaliers and Mavericks could possibly work out a sign-and-trade involving Varejao going to Dallas and Kidd coming to Cleveland.

Ultimately, it would seem highly unlikely that Jason Kidd will be a Cavalier next season. For Danny Ferry, there are simply too many variables. He needs to figure out how to keep Anderson Varejao and what to do about Wally Szczerbiak, all while being mindful of their 2010 cap space. While there’s little question that Jason Kidd would be a more favorable piece to the puzzle than Szczerbiak, if the choice is between Varejao and Kidd, the Cavaliers would unquestionably choose Varejao. Once we know the cap figure for 2009, we will have a better idea of what the 2010 cap projection might be and can better gauge what kind of space the Cavaliers will have. If they decide that they won’t have enough space to go after another big free agent in addition to keeping LeBron, then perhaps adding on Kidd’s salary would be an option, but with the primary focus likely to be on Varejao, it would seem that all the talk of Kidd coming to Cleveland in recent days is centered more on fiction than fact. As always, Ferry will explore all of his options, but Cavs fans would be wise to not get their hopes up.

  • kevin

    if Varejao leaves cleveland because te cavs dont offer him the type of money he expects, i dont see danny ferry work on a sign and trade for kidd because we would more than ever need a YOUNG PF/C!!!

    But i think there will be something to do with the Jazz, since paul millsap and Carlos Boozer will be free agents, and it is unlikely that they will re-sign both since they dont want to pay the luxury tax. And if they do, they will trade andrei kirilenko.

    But as you said there are more crucial things coming up such as the playoffs!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    It doesn’t matter what the Cavs need, as much as what they can get. They will only have around $5 million from their MLE to spend. You’re not going to get a high quality PF/C for that money. I would simply expect more minutes for Jackson and Hickson next year.

    The Jazz had their chance to trade AK to clear cap space to keep Boozer and Millsap, and they chose not to. They’ve made their choice, and they’re going to let Boozer go and keep Millsap. The last thing the Jazz are going to do is trade AK for another PF like Varejao.

    But I agree that Ferry is unlikely to do any kind of trade for Kidd, and that was kind of the point of the article. Not only is it really hard to find a scenario whereby the Cavs could get Kidd, but of the scenarios that are even remotely plausible, they are still far from likely to happen.

  • DCBucks

    Great analysis Rock. Should be an intriguing off season.

  • mike

    kidd is going to get a big paycut no matter what. dallas is going to ask him to take a big paycut as well. i cant see anyone really paying him more than $5-6 mil/year at this point. anything more than that would be pure stupidity.

  • mike

    then again – mark cuban did give up devin harris to get jason kidd back, so he might HAVE to overpay kidd to keep him around to justify that trade. what an awful trade that was for dallas.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    Yes, Dallas will ask him to take a pay cut. But Dallas wants him to stay, and they have the ability to ask him to take less of a pay cut than anyone else. Dallas will overpay to keep him, I have no doubt about that.

  • Swig

    Kidd could simply decide he wants to take the $16 million pay cut to come to Cleveland, come off the bench, back up Mo Williams, and try to win a Championship with LeBron in Cleveland.

    This is the only thing that makes sense to me. I don’t want Kidd if he’s making $10mill+

  • bridgecrosser

    We build around defense so we sign a player who plays mediocre defense and takes minutes away from out younger players? I can see him playing over Boobie but not D-West or Mo. Plus Kidd’s not taking that kind of a pay-cut either.

    Let’s assume we get the feeling Andy V. is leaving due to highest bidder, would you take our 1st rounder and package Boobie to move up 10 spots to get a better PF prospect?

  • http://www.NoLogoNeeded.com Don_NoLogoNeeded.com

    If Andy leaves, Boozer is an interesting option.

    From Brian Windhorst’s blog…

    “Just heard that Carlos Boozer has filed for divorce from his wife, CeCe. It surprised no one here at The Q and that is all I will say about that for now. CeCe played a major role in Boozer leaving the Cavs five years ago, in fact she may have played the biggest role. Certainly makes things interesting for this summer, when I am now sure Boozer will opt out. He won’t want to owe her any of his new contract, I assume.”

  • MacNip

    You would think that at 36, winning a championship becomes a bigger concern than making money (it’s not like the guy is struggling to make ends leet right now). Do you think he has a better chance of winning a championship in Cleveland or in Dallas? I say Cleveland. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come here for little money

  • Swig

    Boozer is NOT an interesting option.

  • S-Dub

    To me this was WAY too in depth discussion from something that a media member decided they wanted to talk about. Great analysis Rock, but as you pointed out, why even talk about it?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    I talk about it so you guys don’t have to. :)

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