The trade deadline for the 2019-2020 season falls on Feb. 7, 2020. The Cleveland Cavaliers will have played 51 games before this deadline.
Since it’s been quiet on the Cavaliers front this off-season following the head coach announcement and draft, let’s take a look where the organization might be at this season’s trade deadline. In their first season under John Beilein’s “renaissance,” the Cavaliers are widely expected to struggle as they develop their youth identity. My predictions won’t fall far from the perceived league standards for this season’s iteration of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Barring any cancellations, the Cavaliers will play 51 games before the February 7 deadline. Given their expectations with a fresh, diverse coaching staff and a developing roster, the Cavaliers shouldn’t focus too much on wins and losses, or chasing the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The NBA virtually has no expectations for this Cavaliers team. They’ll play only one nationally televised contest this season. To put this into perspective, the Los Angeles Lakers will play more than half their games on national television.
If I had to predict at this moment, the Cavaliers should hover near a 12-29 or 13-28 record. The Cavaliers play early season contests in October and November against the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls, which should give Cleveland realistic options for several victories. But given their current roster, these aforementioned teams will be marking Cleveland as a realistic win for them, so it goes back and forth.
The Cavaliers should get several wins in the early months against weak competition, but will still struggle as the season develops. 12-29 is a realistic record I’ll predict Cleveland will have by the deadline.
The trade rumors
By the trade deadline, Cleveland will find trade partners for veterans Jordan Clarkson, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, and John Henson. While Clarkson provides exceptional scoring off the bench, an aspect Cleveland will miss, he doesn’t really fit in their long-term plans. As rookie Darius Garland develops alongside sophomore Collin Sexton, it’s difficult to imagine Clarkson wants to continue a bench role here.
Another reasons veterans like Thompson and Knight fit in this category is their expiring contracts after the 2019-2020 season. With the financial toll these two contracts have on the Cavaliers right now, it’s unreasonable to expect these players to remain with Cleveland long-term. For Thompson, the development of Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic will severely limit his playing time as the season goes on.
Since his contract will pay him $18.5 this season, the Cavaliers can give Thompson’s future team some financial reward for taking on his expiring deal. The same goes for Knight, who Cleveland could likely reach a buyout with.
There’s a reason all-star Kevin Love wasn’t mentioned in the trade rumor section. If I had a dollar for every time Love was mentioned in a trade rumor, I’d be a wealthy man. After this article, I’ll be one dollar richer than before. His contract will likely turn teams away from trading for the all-star veteran. In my opinion, it’s likely the Cavaliers keep Love to not only keep their fanbase content, but to help develop the younger players.
As I digress, this section doesn’t indicate the Cavaliers will add new players through trades. The trades they make at the deadline will help their future, but not their present. Draft picks are likely the only compensation Cleveland will look for in any trade deal.
The new faces will be younger players the Cavaliers give additional playing time. Rookie Dylan Windler, a sharpshooting forward I’ve been high on since the Cavaliers drafted him, will receive significant minutes toward the trade deadline. The same goes for Kevin Porter Jr. Once the aforementioned veterans are off their roster, these rookies will play key minutes.
Two-way forward Dean Wade will be another player to watch for post-trade deadline. We’ll likely see players like recently signed Jarell Martin compete for minutes once the roster slims down in February. This hinges on Martin earning one of the Cavaliers final opening day roster spots.
The Cavaliers absolutely nailed this off-season early on with the decision to hire Beilein and selecting three first-round picks. But since their roster seems depleted of all-NBA contributors and star power, they’ll struggle, despite being in the weaker Eastern Conference.
As the season continues to develop, the Cavaliers will shift their attention toward their future, including Garland, Windler and Porter Jr. among others.
There’s a guarantee the Cavaliers will be well under .500 by the trade deadline, but as long as they make the right trades and progress toward positive player development, the first half of the season will be a success.
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