CLEVELAND: For 2½ years, the Cavaliers have sat on cap space, boasted about their flexibility and waited for the right moment to use it. After 48 hours of negotiating, they finally found it Tuesday morning.
The Cavs obtained Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for little-used forward Jon Leuer in a move designed to get the Grizzlies under the luxury tax and give the Cavs another appealing draft pick to add to their growing collection.
The Grizzlies will save about $6 million in salary, and the Cavs will receive a pick they expect to be a lottery pick, perhaps as soon as two years from now.
Assuming the Grizzlies make the playoffs this season — they have the fourth-best record in the West — the earliest the Cavs will acquire the pick is 2015. The pick has top-five protection every year through 2018, plus it is protected 15-30 in both 2015 and 2016.
The pick has top-five protection only in 2017 and 2018, meaning if the Grizzlies are still a playoff team in four more years, the Cavs will pick in the lower half of the first round. By 2019, if the pick still has not been conveyed, it is unprotected.
To make room, the Cavs waived Jeremy Pargo — whom they acquired from the Grizzlies last summer in a separate salary dump. The Grizzlies traded Pargo to the Cavs for a second-round pick to avoid having to pay him a guaranteed $1 million. Counting the money owed Pargo, plus the incoming salaries, the Cavs believe they just paid about $7 million for a draft pick somewhere between Nos. 6 and 14.
Speights is the most appealing player obtained, particularly given the recent setback to Anderson Varejao that will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. But this trade has much more to do with the draft pick than any player obtained in the deal.
Speights is a 6-foot-10 forward averaging 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in his fifth season. Ellington is in his fourth season and averaging 5.5 points in 40 games off the bench. Selby, 21, is a little-used guard who is in his second season after the Grizzlies selected him in the second round in 2011.
“We needed another big with Andy being lost for the season,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Marreese has been in the league for a while and definitely has proven he can play. Good mid-range shooter, tough kid, plays hard, rebounds the ball.”
Speights is making $4.2 million this season and has a player option for $4.5 million next season in the final year of his deal. Ellington is making about $2 million in the final year of his deal, although the Cavs can make him a restricted free agent next summer by extending him a qualifying offer. Selby is making $760,000 this season, and the Cavs will hold a team option for next season.
All of contracts for the players obtained Tuesday come off the books by the summer of 2014, when LeBron James can head what should be a superior free-agent class.
So how exactly can a fringe NBA forward in Leuer command so much in return?
New ownership took control of the Grizzlies early in the season, and they were scheduled to pay about $4 million in luxury-tax penalties this summer. This trade alleviates that, while allowing the Grizzlies to maintain their core of Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
“It’s a trade that had to be made from a business decision,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told reporters in Memphis. “So we have a chance to keep our core together and we move forward.”
The Cavs have obtained six first-round picks since the summer of 2010, although they already used two of them to obtain Kyrie Irving and Tyler Zeller. The Cavs do not owe any draft picks, plus they have four first-round picks and three second-round picks owed to them in the coming years.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.