As most Cleveland Cavalier fans have heard by now, center Andrew Bynum has been suspended indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team”. What exactly that conduct was is unknown, but what it means is that Bynum has likely played his last game in a Cavalier uniform. There has been lots of speculation regarding Bynum’s future, ranging from his wanting to get released so that he can go to the contender of his choice, to his not wanting to play basketball at all anymore. While this is an unfortunate turn of events for the Cavaliers, this cloud may have a silver lining.
As I mentioned here, the Cavaliers must decide by January 7th whether to waive Bynum or pay him 12 million this season. If the Cavaliers were to trade Bynum to a team just before January 7 and that team were to waive him, he would only be owed six million much of which the Cavaliers would have already paid, even though he has a cap hold of over 12 million. This may make Bynum attractive to another team as “instant cap space” even if they are not interested in the player himself. Here are a several different trade possibilities (all checked by the ESPN Trade Machine) involving Bynum that could make sense for both the Cavaliers and the team(s) they are dealing with, the pros and cons for each side, and the likelihood of the deal happening.
The Brooklyn Nets receive Andrew Bynum. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive Paul Pierce.
The Cavaliers have a glaring hole at small forward. While he has begun to decline with age, Pierce would still be a huge upgrade here. Bynum, despite the bad knees and shooting 41 percent from the field, is probably the best fill in for Brook Lopez the Nets could find. Both men are also essentially on expiring deals. Even if the Nets were to simply waive Bynum they could save roughly 45 million in luxury tax in doing so. That being said the Nets allegedly have no interest in Bynum, making a deal unlikely.
The Chicago Bulls receive Andrew Bynum and a top-ten protected first round pick. The Cavaliers receive Luol Deng and Nazr Mohammed.
Like the Pierce deal, a trade for Deng in some form has been discussed by fans and the media ever since Derrick Rose tore his meniscus. Trading for Bynum and then waiving him would allow the Bulls to get under the tax line and even a mid-first round pick has tremendous value in this year’s draft, particularly when you consider that Deng will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If Deng helps the Cavaliers make the playoffs as hoped the Bulls get the pick. Mohammed provides depth at the center position behind Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. Despite the Cavaliers’ probable interest, the Bulls seem set on trying to resign Deng in free agency.
The New York Knicks receive Andrew Bynum and a 2014 second round pick. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive Tyson Chandler.
As unlikely as this trade seems, there are several reasons this trade would make sense for New York. First off it allows the Knicks to greatly reduce their tax bill going into next season if they waive Bynum either after the trade or before July 10. Owner James Dolan has also shown the desire to make a big splash with “name” players on several occasions, and Bynum certainly qualifies. Chandler obviously gives the Cavaliers an excellent rim protector who excels in the pick and roll. While Chandler is five years older, Bynum’s knee issues negates much of that advantage. A second round pick also has value to a team with a dearth of picks like the Knicks. However, as said before, this trade is highly unlikely unless the Cavaliers took on a bad contract such as J.R. Smith, a move they are unlikely to do.
The Houston Rockets receive Ersan Ilyasova, and the Orlando Magic’s 2014 second round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Philadelphia 76ers receive Omer Asik. The Milwaukee Bucks receive Andrew Bynum, Sergey Karasev, and a lottery protected 2014 first round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive Larry Sanders and Thaddeus Young.
This is a personal favorite that I actually came up with last night before Bynum’s suspension was announced. While it’s far-fetched to be sure, it makes sense for each team involved. Let’s take a look at it team by team.
Houston has been trying to trade Omer Asik since he opted out of a game against the New York Knicks earlier this season. While the Rockets tried playing him alongside fellow center Dwight Howard, that experiment was a failure and Asik has requested a trade rather than come off the bench. Originally Houston was looking for a power forward who fit with Howard as well as a first round pick by their self-appointed deadline of December 19th. When that goal did not come to fruition, the Rockets decided to hold on to Asik. This trade may be the closest the Rockets could get to their original desires. While he has struggled as he returns from an ankle injury, Ilyasova has been one of the best stretch four’s in the league the last few years and is a solid rebounder as well. Considering the struggles of the Magic this season, their pick should be fairly early in the second round. Considering the fact that second round picks don’t have guaranteed contracts, one could make the argument that an early second round pick is worth more than a late first round pick due to the additional flexibility it offers.
Philadelphia has shown interest in Asik throughout this process, which is no surprise considering General Manager Sam Hinkie’s prior position as the Rockets’ Assistant GM. Asik is an elite level rim protector and a front office that values analytics (definitely the Sixers) knows how important that skill is to winning basketball games. Despite the anticipation surrounding the 2014 draft, there are no players who will definitely have this skill at the next level, and relying on 2013 draft pick Nerlens Noel is a highly risky proposition given his injury history. In giving up a high quality player in Young who has allegedly requested a trade, the Sixers are able to add an elite defensive piece in Asik while still positioning themselves for a high pick in the upcoming draft.
While the Milwaukee Bucks began the season hoping to contend for another playoff spot after an offseason of retooling their roster, it has become apparent that will not happen. The Bucks currently have the worst record in the league and even the returns of Ilyasova and Larry Sanders have not helped. At this point the Bucks seem to have accepted their fate and are beginning to build around their young core of Brandon Knight, John Henson, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and whoever they snag in the upcoming draft. Part of rebuilding often means getting rid of long term contracts, and Sanders and Ilyasova are the Buck’s longest. Sanders has also had trouble fitting with Henson and according to Sam Amico, the Bucks are willing to listen to offers. In trading for and waiving Bynum, Milwaukee would free up tremendous cap space and get out from their two longest deals, and don’t have to deal with Sanders’ headaches anymore. They would also receive a pick in the upcoming draft that should be a solid player (as long as the Cavaliers make the playoffs), and a young wing in Karasev whose outside shooting and all-around basketball I.Q. would make him a tremendous fit alongside the Bucks’ young core.
Make no mistake, the Cavaliers are taking some risk here. While they will no longer have to deal with Bynum’s issues, Sanders has had his problems both on and off the court. The Cavaliers would also give up most of their financial flexibility for the next few years. That being said, Sanders and Young could have a huge impact on this team both this season and in the future. Sanders was one of the best defensive players in the league last year, a tremendous shot blocker whose mere presence alters opponent’s shots. He has also shown potential as a dive man in a pick-and-roll, although he needs work in this area. Young is a solid defender who should be able to slide seamlessly from his power forward role with the 76ers to small forward with the Cavaliers, particularly with his improved three point shooting this season. Young has always been highly efficient on offense and typically does a better job defending smaller players on defense. Both Sanders and Young are 25 years old, have playoff experience, and would provide length that the Cavaliers need and Mike Brown loves. A core of Sanders, Young, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters, along with Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Matthew Dellavedova, C.J. Miles, and Earl Clark is young and talented enough to keep the Cavaliers in the playoff picture for years. Even if the Cavaliers are able to sign LeBron James (unlikely in my opinion), any of these players could easily be moved to free up cap space.
No matter what happens with Andrew Bynum over the next nine days, the Cavaliers will be making a move that will help define the rest of this season and possibly the team’s future. Only time will tell whether or not the Cavaliers will be able to benefit from this unfortunate parting of ways.