When the Seattle Super- Sonics used their hefty trade exception to acquire Kurt Thomas and a pair of first-round draft picks from the Phoenix Suns on July 20, 2007, it accelerated the team’s rebuilding plan and ultimately proved to be one of the key reasons the Sonics-turned- Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to this year’s NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers have spent the last two years looking for their own Kurt Thomas. Now nearly five years to the day of the Suns/Sonics deal, they may finally have it.
But it won’t be as lucrative, and finishing off this deal won’t be easy.
Trade talks involving the Cavaliers in a complicated four-team blockbuster continued on Monday, but one league source with knowledge of the talks cautioned that the Cavs’ role isn’t as entrenched as some national reports would indicate.
Yahoo! Sports reported the Cavaliers would send Luke Walton’s expiring $6 million deal to the Orlando Magic and receive Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries and Sundiata Gaines, Orlando’s Quentin Richardson, $3 million from the Nets and a first-round pick in a deal that would ultimately send Dwight Howard to the Nets.
Gaines and Humphries are both free agents who would have to be part of sign and trades, while Richardson is under contract for about $2.6 million for this season. He also holds an option of about $2.8 million for the 2013-14 season.
Of all those pieces, the most valuable to the Cavaliers is the first-round pick. Which pick they would receive is unclear, but it is expected to at least be lottery protected.
Nets guard MarShon Brooks, who just completed his rookie season, is also involved in the talks and could be headed to a fourth team – ESPN.com reported it to be the Los Angeles Clippers – that would supply another lottery-protected pick that would go to the Magic, who are looking to cut salary and acquire draft picks to begin their massive rebuilding effort without Howard.
While Brooks remains openly available, the Cavs had little interest in him before last summer’s draft and don’t appear to be interested in acquiring him now, either. Brooks has the reputation of being a prolific scorer on dismal teams. He put up big numbers his senior year for a bad Providence team and averaged 12.6 points as a rookie on an equally bad Nets team. Questions remain about how effective a player and scorer he would be on a good team.
The Cavaliers have remained quiet on all trade talks.
“The Cavs are very tight-lipped,” one agent with a player involved in the talks said. “None of this is leaking from their end. I respect them for that.”
One source with knowledge of the negotiations said the deal was far from being completed and plenty of stumbling blocks on the Cavs’ end remain.
The biggest of which is Humphries, who is the hinge to the entire deal.
The Nets need to find a place to park his salary to make the trade work. With more than $20 million in cap space, the Cavs are a logical fit. They were heavily involved with trade talks between the Nets and Magic regarding Howard around the trade deadline last season, but the negotiations crumbled when Howard waived his Early Termination Option and agreed to remain in Orlando through this coming season.
Shortly after signing the paper, he reiterated his request to be traded.
A deal could work if the Nets can find a place to put Humphries in a sign and trade. The Cavs are willing to take Humphries and give up some of their cap space if it means acquiring another first-round pick, but it’s believed they don’t want to commit to him beyond this season.
When the Cavs traded Le-Bron James to the Miami Heat two years ago, it created their own $18 million trade exception. It ultimately expired without their using it, but this is precisely the type of deal they were seeking – an opportunity to absorb unwanted salary in exchange for a draft pick, just as the Sonics did five years ago.
The Cavs no longer have the trade exception, but their endless cap space is just as good.
Humphries, meanwhile, played on a one-year contract last season and apparently has no interest in doing that again. He is reportedly seeking a four-year deal. To be included in a sign and trade under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Humphries must sign for at least three years, but only the first year must be guaranteed.
His agent, Dan Fegan, also represents Howard. That seems to be muddying the waters, since the best interests for Howard and Humphries are in direct contrast of each other. Fegan told Sports Illustrated on Monday that it’s “ridiculous” to think he would negotiate a deal that guarantees only one season.
“I have not had one conversation about a one-year [guaranteed] deal,” Fegan said.
Sources stressed over the weekend and again Monday night that the Nets are frantically searching for another team to make the salaries fit. That doesn’t have to be the Cavs. There are plenty of teams out there with ample cap space to make this deal work, so if the Cavs fall out, it’s entirely possible the Nets and Magic could figure out a deal using another team.
The Nets and Cavs, it’s worth noting, have tried this before. The Cavs were trying to use their $18 million trade exception two years ago to help facilitate the trade that would’ve sent Carmelo Anthony from Denver to the Nets. At one point, the Cavs thought they had a deal before the Nuggets backed out.
Those talks eventually crumbled and Anthony was ultimately traded to the New York Knicks.