Deal with Memphis is “pretty great for Cleveland”

While many want to parlay the recent trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies into a cap play in exchange for depth, Grantland’s Zach Lowe chimes in with his (always educated) take:

“I was as guilty as anyone this morning in burying the lede on Twitter, in part because it makes sense to focus on the fringe title contender instead of the sad lottery team,” writes Lowe. “So here’s the lede: This is a pretty great deal for Cleveland, and the greatness is in the details of the future first-round pick Memphis is sending. The Cavaliers had about $10.35 million in cap space before this trade, and they stood as one of just three teams (Phoenix and Houston being the others) with enough cap space to take on significant Memphis salary. Cleveland, of course, has to pay a prorated portion of those salaries, and that kind of spending has a price: the draft pick.”

In exchange for cap relief in present day, Chris Grant and the Cavaliers are wagering that the Grizzlies — who are strapped for cash as it is — will not be able to keep their core together into the 2018 or 2019 season. If said core gets blown up, Memphis could potentially revert back to the team that traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers.

The pick Cleveland received today is actually a slightly lesser version of the one Toronto sent to Houston in the Kyle Lowry deal. And they received it for Jon Leuer, a player who has struggled mightily with confidence while bouncing between Cleveland and Canton. It’s a pick similar to the one that many wanted in a potential deal for Anderson Varejao, but one that may take a few seasons of cost-cutting in Memphis before it arrives in Cleveland.

“A lot of first-round picks that change hands work so that the team sending the pick doesn’t have to actually send it if it’s high in the draft (lottery protected, or top-10 protected), with another rule that if the pick isn’t sent after a few years, the team can just send a second-rounder instead.” writes Lowe. “Cleveland got a much better pick than that today.”

[Related: On the Cavaliers and the Prospects of a Failed Rebuilding Process]

  • DontbringLBJback

    So basically, pick up $6,000,000 in salaries so you can get a possible ten top draft pick (if the stars collide) in 2018 or 2019? This seems like a really bizarre trade to me.

  • Patrick Elder

    We probably have a 90% chance of getting a lottery pick in the next 2-4 years.All Memphis has to do is miss the playoffs in 2015 (which is incredibly likely) and we’ll get that pick, provided it’s not in the top 5. Same chances in 2016. If we still haven’t gotten it yet, as long as Memphis doesn’t get a top-5 pick in 2017, we’ll get the pick, since it’s only top-5 protected.

  • Patrick Elder

    Slightly better chance than stars colliding.

  • Lee Nicholas

    We picked up that much in salary, but this isn’t Luke Walton 2.0. These are all young players, one of which could hopefully become serviceable. Additionally, best case scenario, this could be the #6 pick in 2015 or as high as the #1 pick in 2019. Perhaps most importantly we added assets without jeopardizing cap space for any potential free agents – say ones that could crop up in the summer of 2014 – or ruining our shot at one of the top picks in this upcoming draft. Even if (as will likely happen) Lebron does not come back to Cleveland, it is likely that by 2016 or 2017 we’ll be in the playoffs, no longer receiving high draft picks – except for potentially this one. Adding a #6 pick to a contending team? Awesome.

    This is a great deal for the Cavs.

  • mgbode

    $6mil for a 1st round pick with it potentially being in the lottery. Along with a chance that one of the players we acquired becomes a long-term rotational guy for us. Doesn’t hurt our long-term flexibility.

    If Gilbert is willing to write that check, then why WOULDN’T Grant make the trade?

  • Robbie

    Seems strange to me, too… but I guess if you’re a billionaire, what’s 6 million? Very expensive lottery ticket.

  • mgbode

    we eventually will get a 1st round pick. it will be in the lottery unless Memphis stays in the playoffs through 2019. that is alot of sustained success for a small market team.

    if we can pay Luke Walton $6mil, then we can pay $6mil for an eventual 1st rounder.

  • Patrick Elder

    The Cavs are ridiculously far under the cap for this and next year. Dan Gilbert has shown he is willing to pay the luxury tax (at least in the past), so it’s actually a pretty cheap price for a lottery pick. Relatively speaking, at least.

  • co811809

    Am I wrong in thinking Speights is significantly better than Samardo, Luke Walton, Kevin Jones, Casspi. From what I know he is a decent enough player that could be our fourth big on a team with Andy TT and Zeller going forward. If he was a FA signing in two years I think it would be solid.. Why not take him now and get a first round pick. As far as I’m concerned Leuer is nobody. And the other two are free agents after this year so this is another tryout to beat out potential resignings such as Boobie?

  • mgbode

    please also note that while we are “under the cap” we do have a higher actual payroll due to still paying Baron Davis’ amnestied contract this season. so, Gilbert does get some kudos for taking on high salary even in a rebuilding year.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Speights is better then the guys you listed but that’s about it he’s not really a legitimate piece, at least not to me.

  • Jack

    What does ‘parlay’ mean in this context?

  • Jack


  • Steve

    But it’s a lottery ticket that is guaranteed to pay at some point. Rookies are generally underpaid in the NBA, so that 6 million spread over the entirety of a rookie contract is nothing, especially if it’s a lottery pick.

  • Laughing Cavs

    If a team with Dwight-Kobe-Nash-Pau are capable of missing the playoffs (depriving us of a 1st rounder along the way), anything is possible…

  • Kildawg

    If Austin Carr is glowing about Speights’ game, he might be a guy we keep longer-term. Otherwise, a first-round pick anywhere from 6-14 without any long-term obligation and a way to possibly reach the salary floor means the Cavs win this trade. Memphis only gains by avoiding the luxury tax.

  • Harv 21

    Gilbert and Grant sniffing out the desperate and playing the role of NBA payday lender. Win-win, baby. Nothing to lose but a wee bit o’cash.

    If Grant can’t rebuild this thing it won’t be for lack of support by ownership, that’s for dang sure.

  • Derpus

    It means be more specific when posting a question.

  • mgbode

    Carr would be glowing about my game if the Cavs signed me though. And I have no game to speak of :)

  • Hypno_Toad

    Derpus with the assist.

  • thenoclist

    You know Austin Carr is a senile old man who is now completely out of his mind, right?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Not really depriving us, just depriving us of the ability to swap Miami’s pick for a slightly better one. Stinks, but it’s not like losing the pick.

  • Jack

    It means people don’t know what the word ‘parlay’ means.

  • Jaker

    I have decent game, but not “glow-worthy”

  • mgbode

    but you have to just love the way Jaker approaches the game. it’s not always there but it’s just fantastic when he gets in a rhythm and you can tell he’s going to put it together. just wait, everyone is going to say we got a steal when we got this Jaker fellow.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’d be fine giving Gibson a roster spot if he wasn’t injured so often… that’s the deal-breaker for me. You only get a couple months of Gibson each season and it always takes him a week or two to get his shot back after he is deemed fit to play. With enough practice/game time he is one of the best 3-point shooters in the game and a decent defender. You just get so little of that each season because of the never ending string of injuries.

  • Steve

    Of course, the Cavs were only in the position to buy a first round pick because they had the lowest salary commitment in the league (how’s that for ownership support). In fact, they had to up payroll a bit just to get to league minimum.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    If you mention that, you should also mention that Gilbert’s still paying that colossal contract to Baron Davis… it was amnestied so it doesn’t count against the cap, but it’s still real money that he’s paying.

  • Harv 21

    it’s perfect support if you view it in the accurate context of an owner who has left no doubt he’s willing to generously spend his money, on players, new practice facilities, whatever.

    Here’s what he’s saying to Grant: I know we can buy some ok free agents, win a few more and sell some more tickets. But if you say clearing cap space maximizes our chances of long-term gain through draft choices or ability to make a big trade, do it. I’ll take the hit on tix sales and criticism.

  • woofersus

    We get their pick if they slot at 6-14 in draft order any year from 2015-2017. If that doesn’t happen we get their pick if they slot anywhere below 5 in 2018, and if that doesn’t happen, we get their pick no matter what in 2019. This pick actually has protection for us. If it’s too low we don’t take it until the later years.

  • woofersus

    Not only that, but taking back Davis’ 30 million dollar contract and paying him not to play is what facilitated the Mo Williams trade for the pick that became Kyrie Irving. Interestingly I came across this old article while looking for the salary numbers: He seems to think the Cavs organization is horrible and the trade made no sense and we’d regret it. How stupid the Cavs were to essentially pay 9mil for a draft pick! He looks pretty stupid now.

    Either way, I’m not sure what Steve’s dig at ownership support is about. When your roster is filled with rookie contracts they tend to be cheap. That’s just how it works. Dan Gilbert has never hesitated to open the checkbook to make the team better.

  • Dave

    This is really quite simple to me: We gave up basically nothing, and got a bunch of prospects, a few of which might turn out to be decent. What’s not to like?

    Part of rebuilding is that you’re constantly rolling the dice on young players to figure out who’s a keeper and who’s not. The more shots we have on finding a gem, the better.