How Cleveland Can Still Win The NBA Arms Race After The Durant Deal

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How cleveland wins the nba arms race

In the wake of Kevin Durant admitting his lack of male genitalia in signing with the Warriors, the same team his playoff ineptitude allowed to come back from a 3-1 deficit, the rest of the NBA is collectively wondering how to stop the new “super team” in the Bay.

Well, for twenty-seven executives, the answer is simple: you’re fucked. The Spurs and Cavs, however, cannot only slow Durant’s pathetic championship drive on the coattails of the Splash Brothers, but the Cavaliers can beat them — handily.

Here is my not-so-far-fetched blueprint for the Cleveland Cavaliers to win this Cold War arms race of NBA giants:

First, renounce the rights to all restricted free agents not named Matthew Dellavedova. Yes, I realize the Cavs have already, at least through “anonymous sources,” declined to match Milwaukee’s 4-year offer sheet to Delly, but that is not binding until the resumption of league business July 7th, so, like Donald Trump when it comes to his thoughts on torture, just change your mind.

Next, call the Denver Nuggets immediately. I know what you’re thinking: the Nuggets do not have a single player the Cavs would even consider starting, and you’re right. Well, at least for now. The Nuggets are in the fascinating position of having endless cash, but a roster and market nobody of note wants to play in. Just ask Carmelo Anthony.

The Nuggets need to then contact, and sign, Dwayne Wade. Wade, who was first offered a purely insulting contract totaling just $10 million for next season in Miami, currently has a two-year, $40 million contract on the table from Pat Riley and the Heat. The Heat, however, are not championship contenders in the near future, with the health of Chris Bosh a major question and the loss of Joe Johnson and Luol Deng. Even after retaining Hassan Whiteside, the aging roster and over-reliance on second-year wings Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow spells rebuilding for the Heat until Riley pulls another free agency coup.

The Nuggets, knowing Wade will not enjoy skiing after practice in Denver and that he does not fit their youthful roster in need of development, and with a crowded backcourt of four first round talents in the last four drafts, will look to move Wade. This is where Cleveland comes into play. With the intention of maintaining the Love/Irving/James core, the Cavs must clear the $20+ million Wade will be paid on his new contract, sending the approximate value (in total annual salary) of Wade to the Nuggets. This, however, can be done through multiple non-guaranteed deals.

Package Delly ($9 million), Frye ($7 million), and Shumpert ($4 million) along with first round picks in 2018 and 2019. Now, why would the Nuggets do this? Very simple: with the salary floor, and another explosion next year, the Nuggets have to spend somewhere. Would you rather give a player like Courtney Lee $48 million into his mid-30s like the Knicks just did, or $36 million to Delly, who is almost a decade younger and has shown flashes of elite on-ball defense (watch the 2015 NBA Finals) and playmaking ability?

I say Delly. But even if you don’t like any of the players involved, Frye and Shumpert are on one-year deals, likely willing to take buyouts to go to contenders. Swap Delly with JR Smith and the deal likely still works (and JR is also on a one-year deal) providing the Nuggets ultimate cap flexibility going forward and two first round picks — all for money they were going to have to spend anyway. There is no downside for Denver.

Now, if Denver for whatever reason won’t do this, the Cavs can clear $35 million under the hard cap by renouncing all restricted free agents, trading Frye, Shumpert, and JR Smith in an ode to the salary dump the Warriors continue to execute with the arrival of KD. James and Wade would then have to compromise, splitting $35 million for one season, likely rebounding heavily in 2017/2018 after another cap explosion.

Both moves would leave the Cavs with very little money to round out the roster, but not a total dearth of options. You’d need Richard Jefferson to reconsider retirement and come back on a veteran minimum deal. The Cavs would possess a small mid-level exception for about $4 million next season, a decent offer to a veteran looking for a ring. I’d suggest Nikola Pekovic, who is almost undoubtedly about to be waived by the Timberwolves.

With the massive overpayment of Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons coming to town, the Grizzlies will likely look to part ways with Tayshaun Prince, who is still a solid defender and mid-range shooter even in his mid 30s. Corey Brewer, a reformation of the “Heatles” with both Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers free agents, and the soon to be released Spencer Hawes would round out a solid minimum salaried bench.

Here is what the Cavs would look like in this scenario:

PG Irving
SG Wade
SF James
PF Love
C Thompson

Bench Jefferson
Bench Pekovic
Bench Prince
Bench Brewer
Bench Cole
Bench Jones
Bench Chalmers (once he returns from injury at some point mid-season)
Bench McCrae

To me, that is a true super team, far more physical and capable of defense surpassing anything the new look Warriors can offer.

Image via YouTube

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