The Cleveland Cavaliers are pursuing a dramatic reshaping of their roster before the N.B.A.’s Feb. 8 trade deadline in hopes of rising out of a worrisome midseason funk, according to two people familiar with the team’s plans.
It remains to be seen if the Cavaliers have the requisite trade assets to complete the deals they are exploring, but Cleveland is targeting the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams as well as Sacramento Kings guard George Hill, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Cleveland’s plans publicly.
Fearing that the gap between the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors is widening by the day — and trying to be aggressive knowing that LeBron James will become a free agent July 1 — Cleveland officials have made a number of their veteran players available in attempts to acquire an elite rim protector and rebounder (Jordan) and drastically alter their backcourt rotation (by pursuing Williams and Hill).
The Cavaliers, who are enduring a 4-9 slide after a recent 18-1 surge, are willing to trade Tristan Thompson, J. R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, in addition to draft compensation, to facilitate trades for their top targets, according to the people familiar with the team’s plans. All three played prominent roles on the Cleveland teams that reached the last three N.B.A. finals and beat the 73-win Warriors for the championship in 2016.
Yet Cleveland’s hopes of acquiring Jordan, or even Williams, from the Clippers, according to the people, could well hinge on the Cavaliers’ willingness to surrender the highly coveted 2018 first-round pick via the Brooklyn Nets that they acquired from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade in August.
The Athletic) that regularly cover the Cavaliers reported that multiple prominent Cleveland players — speaking on the condition of anonymity — acknowledged growing concern within the team’s locker room that the team’s season-long defensive problems and increasing signs of creakiness would improve over time as seen as recently as last season.
The Cavaliers were 23-23 after Jan. 8 in the 2016-17 season but still cruised through the Eastern Conference playoffs with a record of 12-1 before losing to the Warriors in five games in the championship series. This season, though, Cleveland has slumped to 29th in a 30-team league in defensive efficiency and appears to face a long wait before newly acquired Isaiah Thomas returns to his All-Star form from last season. He recently joined the lineup after missing the first 36 games of the season with a hip injury.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are known to be fielding trade offers for Jordan, who is widely expected to pass on his $24.2 million contract option for next season to become a top free agent alongside James on July 1.
Williams, 31, has unexpectedly put himself into All-Star contention this season with fine play for the Clippers in the wake of Chris Paul’s departure to Houston, while Hill has become expendable in Sacramento — even though he’s in the first year of a new three-year, $57 million contract — because of the Kings’ increasing focus on developing their young players.