Cavaliers have tools to improve roster around LeBron James or smooth transition if he leaves this offseason
Cleveland Plain Dealer | 6 days ago

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Kendrick Perkins has played in exactly one NBA game in the last two years, yet in April the Cavaliers gave him a contract that could be worth $2.44 million next season.

Perkins, 33, signed with the Cavs on the final day of the 2018 regular season and played that night against the Knicks. He's here to fill out the roster for the playoffs and to offer a veteran voice in the locker room and on the sideline.

But the Cavs view Perkins, who in his heyday was a rugged center, as having added value. He's a potential trade piece, a tool in the toolbox to either improve the roster and entice LeBron James to stay or help accelerate the rebuilding process. And that's the bigger picture here.

The Cavs trail the Boston Celtics 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. The series isn't over -- the next two games are in Cleveland -- but it's been a rough few days for the organization as its roster problems have been magnified by the team it traded Kyrie Irving to. From the looks of things now, they got back little in return.

Not helping the optics was on Tuesday, minutes before Game 2 (which turned out to be a 107-94 loss) the Cavs learned they get the eighth pick in the draft via Brooklyn. The Nets' first rounder was the centerpiece of the trade for Irving, a former No. 1 overall pick, All-Star, and champion who's only 26.

Of course the Cavs wanted the pick be closer to the top of the draft. But at the same time, they now know precisely what they have to work with as they try to either put together a better roster around James or, if he leaves as a free agent, get the team back in shape quicker than when James left the first time in 2010.

Citing the aggregate of mock draft boards out there, the Cavs generally agree that a player like Michael Porter Jr., the Missouri forward considered by many to be the top player in the 2018 draft until he hurt his back at the start of the season, could be there at No. 8. Trae Young, the Oklahoma point guard who led the nation in scoring and assists, and Alabama point guard Collin Sexton might be there too.

The Cavs could take one of them or agree to a trade with a club looking to unload salary and rebuild, thus getting an All-Star in return (what would the No. 8 pick be worth to the Charlotte Hornets, for instance, who are burdened by a bloated payroll and have Kemba Walker on the rolls?).

"Of course I am going to go through my process of learning what it means for the rest of the league, but for us we have every intention of diving into who we can get in this draft and how it can help our team," Cavs general manager Koby Altman said Tuesday.

If James chooses to stay, the Cavs would have 14 of their 17 players under contract heading into next season, and Rodney Hood will be a restricted free agent.

Kevin Love is owed $24.1 million next season and has a player's option worth $25.6 million for the following year. The Cavs tried to trade him last summer and might again. He's a five-time All-Star, too, and could get Cleveland versatility or a draft pick in return.

JR Smith ($14.7 million next season) and George Hill ($19 million) both have large salaries for 2018-19, but their contracts for the next year have minimal guarantees. Kyle Korver will be 38 in March, but he's still draining 3s and is under contract for $7.6 million next season with a partially guaranteed amount for the following year.

Take any one of those salaries, add to it Perkins' $2.44 million (his contract is a team option) and, maybe, the No. 8 pick and the Cavs would have the room to add the kind of player James is said to want to team with elsewhere.

Or, they could be used to help speed the transition. The Cavs also have four trade exceptions -- one of them, $5.8 million from the Irving trade, is large enough to bring in a quality role player.

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