Plan A for the Cleveland Cavaliers is a no-brainer: get Lebron James to sign on the dotted line, while continuing to add the necessary pieces around him to make a run at a NBA championship.
Depending upon which way the wind is blowing on any particular day, the chances of Plan A coming to fruition range from 25% to 75%.
“Plan B” is something that no one in Northeastern Ohio even wants to think about. But if you are owner Dan Gilbert or GM Danny Ferry, considering “Plan B” is a must.
Rather than joining in to the fray of Lebron worshipers, Lebron bashers, or those who are just plain sick of hearing the Lebron rumors, I thought I might take the time to look at what exactly “Plan B” should be. What should owner Dan Gilbert do if The King decides to change the address of his castle?
Keep in mind that with or without James, Cleveland is up against the $56.1 million salary cap. Lopping off the contracts of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Shaquille O’Neil does little to alleviate that issue.
The Cavs are on the hook for $50,973,892 of salary for the 2010-2011 season. The following players will be Cavs unless management can find away to trade them: Antawn Jamison, Maurice Williams, Anderson Verejao, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Sebastian Telfair, J.J. Hickson, and Leon Powe.
If the Cavs renounce the rights to every single free agent on the roster, they have only about $8 million in play money (including their mid-level salary cap exception). On the bright side, the Cavs have very few commitments beyond the 2011-2012 season.
A key decision that the team will have to make if James decides the grass may be greener is, “Should they grant a request for a sign-and-trade deal?”
The collective bargaining agreement is set up so that James can sign a contract for roughly $26 million more, over the lifetime of the contract, with Cleveland. Thus, James could ask the Cavs to sign him to that bigger deal, and trade him under the guise that, “Hey…you might as well get something for me.”
At first glance, that may seem like a logical step to take.
But unless a team is willing to part with a superstar for James, it would not make any sense to add mediocre players with the big salaries necessary to make that deal work (the Cavs must take back approximately $16 mil in players’ salary under league rules).
None of the teams with cap space that are currently involved in the Lebron Sweepstakes (Knicks, Bulls, Heat, Clippers, and Nets) have any players under contract that are enticing enough to make such a deal.
Derrick Rose (Chicago) would be such a player, but Chicago would never even consider it. Not to mention the fact that Lebron would not want to play for the Bulls sans-Rose.
Note to Chicago fans: If you think the Cavs would be willing to accept the albatross that is ‘Luol Deng’s contract’ for Lebron…you are absolutely kidding yourself! No one is going to take Deng and pay him nearly $52 mil for the next 4 years.
The Knicks could offer center Eddy Curry (assuming Curry picks up his $11 mil player option) and another player. But Curry offers little value other than an expiring contract. As noted earlier, the Cavs do not necessarily need salary cap relief after the up-coming year.
The Clippers only palatable trade offer would have to include center Chris Kamen or Blake Griffin. And like the Bulls (without Rose), a Clippers team without Kamen or Griffin would not be very attractive to Lebron.
There are no viable trading options with the Heat.
The Nets would have to trade almost their entire roster to make a trade work. If Lebron OK’d that deal, then we would know for sure he doesn’t care about winning a championship.
Looking around the NBA, there is only one team with both the sizeable contracts and, at least somewhat tempting talent, to make a sign-and-trade work. This might surprise you…and it is not a team that has been mentioned in the national or local media.
If I were Dan Gilbert, I would be getting the cell phone number to Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks.
“Why?” you ask.
Because Mr. Gilbert does not strike me as the kind of guy who is patient enough to go through the rebuilding process. He wants to win now…and the Mavericks may have the players to at least keep the team “watchable.” And Mark Cuban is just the kind of owner who has the intestinal fortitude to make a blockbuster type deal.
Not only that, but Dallas could be alluring to James as well. They are a big market. They have a deep-pockets owner with the capability of marketing a player such as James. They could still unload talent and have enough left over to satisfy James’ desire to make a run at the title. He would even be closer to his hero, Warren Buffett.
James himself has often expressed a desire to play with their point guard (Jason Kidd).
The Mavericks have the following players under contract:
Position Player Salary
C Eric Dampier $13,075,000
G Jason Terry $10,650,000
F Caron Butler $10,561,960
PG Jason Kidd $8,500,000
G Shawn Marion $7,305,000
G-F Matt Carroll $4,300,000
G DeShawn Stephenson $4,151,786
F Edward Najera $2,800,000
PG Jose Juan Barea $1,815,000 (team option)
PG Rodrigue Beaubois $1,156,080
The Mavericks also have Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has a one-year “players only” option for $21.5 mil. While Cuban and Nowitzki are close buddies, Nowitzki would love a longer-term deal and Cuban would love to have Lebron James.
Nowitzki for Lebron straight up? The Cavs could do much worse.
Some combination of Dampier, Terry, Butler, Marion and Najera for LeBron and a throw-in? The possibilities are endless.
I hate it when fans start suggesting “fantasy” trades, but this could work for both teams.
If Lebron came back to me requesting a sign-and-trade to New York, Chicago, L.A., Miami, or New Jersey - I would tell him to pound salt! I would call his bluff.
If those were my options, I would just as soon blow the team up and start over under “Plan C.” The Cavs would be better off taking it on the chin for a couple of years, hoard salary cap space, and build through the draft (like Oklahoma City has done).
But if I heard the words: “Mr. Gilbert…it’s Mark Cuban on Line 1” - I would take that call.
So Cleveland fans…I ask you:
Would you grant Lebron James’ request for a sign-and-trade deal if you knew he would not stay home?