INDEPENDENCE: As the NBA nears Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Cavaliers remain in pursuit of another first-round pick to add to their bulging war chest of draft picks. With time running out, there is at least a decent chance they don’t get it.
There was little chatter regarding the Cavs during the All-Star break in Houston, and for all the conjecture over Mo Speights’ future, multiple sources said over the weekend and again on Tuesday his name has yet to really gain traction in any trade talk.
Speights would seem a likely candidate to move because he has a player option for next season. Neither Speights nor his agent, Andy Miller, has given any indication if he will pick up the $4.5 million option for next season or opt instead for free agency. But about half of the league’s teams could have cap space next summer, making it likely Speights could get a long-term deal making at least the $4.5 million he will earn next season on his current deal.
“I ain’t looking forward to free agency yet,” Speights said Tuesday.
For what it’s worth, Speights waived his Bird rights and had to approve the deal to come to the Cavs from the Memphis Grizzlies last month, but that’s not a guarantee he’s willing to pass up long-term security to remain with the Cavs. Coach Byron Scott avoided all trade speculation on Tuesday.
“I like him. I like what Mo’s done,” Scott said. “I wouldn’t be unhappy if he’s here, let’s put it that way. If he’s here after the 21st, I wouldn’t be unhappy at all.”
A more likely trade scenario for the Cavs would be taking on salary to help a team get under the luxury tax threshold. The Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are two of seven teams that have never paid a luxury tax penalty, yet both are over the threshold this season.
The Warriors are over by less than $1 million and the Bulls are over by a little less than $4 million. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, a complicated tax structure will take effect next season that has harsher punishments for being over the cap, and as the seasons pass, it punishes teams that are repeat violators.
The money under this season’s dollar-for-dollar tax is relatively minimal, but the Warriors must decide if it’s worth taking a step toward the repeat violator list for less than $1 million. The Bulls must determine if it’s worth paying about $4 million in penalties and taking a step toward repeat violator status when it’s uncertain at this point if Derrick Rose will even return this season. Without Rose, the Bulls are not legitimate contenders in the East.
The Boston Celtics are also about $1.3 million over the tax threshold, but Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems less concerned with the tax and more concerned with choosing between another playoff run against rebuilding the roster.
The Cavs have about $4 million in available cap space.
National TV game
The second half of the season begins tonight when the Cavaliers host the New Orleans Hornets in a game to be broadcast on ESPN. On the surface, it’s a strange game for national television to pick up since both the Cavs and Hornets are in last place in their respective divisions. But it’s also a meeting of the two most recent No. 1 overall draft picks in Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis.
Both Irving and Speights said a .500 finish the rest of the way would signal progress for a team carrying the league’s fourth-worst record. The Cavs were temporarily .500 since the start of January before a three-game losing streak prior to the All-Star break ruined that and dropped them to 9-12 in their past 21 games.
“I think we all want to play somewhere in that neighborhood. Our biggest thing is just to continue to take positive steps,” Scott said. “We know we’ve got 29 [games] left. I want to win as many as possible. I’m not trying to put a number of it, I just want to win as many as possible. That’s what I told our guys today.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.