Lloyd: As close of trade, CBA talks converge on Cavs. What it means for young stars

The date that the Cavaliers are paying particular attention to these days is not necessarily Thursday at 3 p.m., but March 31st. That’s the new finish line the league and players’ union agreed on this week for a new collective agreement that could have long ramifications in places like Cleveland.

The ongoing CBA talks are also loosely tied to Thursday’s trading deadline.

For weeks there has been a growing feeling that the Cavs are sitting idle and Friday’s roster will look the same as it does today.

(Mandatory disclaimer: All trade talks remain fluid, and all of that could change if Nets GM Sean Marks wakes up Thursday to find that Luke Travers is the rebuild piece Brooklyn needs and is ready to step away from, say, Kevin Durant break him up. You never know, right?)

I heard from a few league folks recently that this is not considered a large pool of trade candidates and the market is slow moving. This has been the case for years past, but then one trade triggers the next, and then the next. There could still be a number of moves before 3 p.m. Thursday, but it doesn’t sound like the Cavs will be involved at this point. You have explored the market but are running low on trading assets and you are hitting the tax limit. It’s not a great combination. More on that in a minute.

They would like to take Bojan Bogdanovic, but Detroit’s asking price remains too high for their liking. Of course, as deadlines approach, sticker prices may fall. This list is not perfect. The Cavs could use more shooting and an upgrade on the 3, but Isaac Okoro continues to show steady growth down the wing and their obvious all-in move was acquiring Donovan Mitchell in the summer.

With players like Evan Mobley and Darius Garland on rookie contracts, Cleveland was able to be aggressive and create the momentum for Mitchell. Now building the roster around them must be a priority.

While Caris LeVert is Cleveland’s most attractive trade chip on an expiring contract, the Cavs would love to bring him back next year if he’s (probably) still in town after the deadline. And here Thursday and March 31 begin to collide.

Any new LeVert deal would likely only last two years as every decision the Cavs make now is geared towards the summer of 2024. Then Mobley is eligible to sign a maximum extension that would begin with the 2025-26 season. With $47 million falling from their cap between the expiring contracts of LeVert and Kevin Love this summer, the Cavs will dictate the terms of when they enter the luxury tax. The later the better.

Ideally, it would not happen until the 2025/26 season. Currently, the Cavs only have four players signed for this year – Garland, Mobley (currently on a qualifying bid but that will change), Jarrett Allen and Dean Wade. It’s a relatively squeaky clean cap blade.

Mitchell holds a player option for this season and the Cavs need to start the awkward Mitchell talk sooner than you think, but we’re not there yet.

Currently, the CBA negotiations include two key issues that could have a major impact on the Cavs’ future. The league and union have been discussing changing or removing the limit on designated rookie extensions, multiple sources said, while also pulling out levers that would encourage stars even further to stay with their current teams rather than the free one to stay hand.

Evan Mobley’s Rookie Max expansion would begin with the 2025/26 season, which is also the year of Donovan Mitchell’s player option. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

The proposed rookie max extension, which will allow players to sign for five years and more, is important to Cleveland because only two players per team can own such deals under the current system. If the goal is to level the playing field for small market teams, it’s counterintuitive to limit how many specific rookie max deals can sign. It’s almost like punishing them for drafting well (and sometimes trading well).

Right now, Garland and Mitchell both fill spots for the Cavs. Mobley’s extension would begin with the 2025–26 season, which is also the year of Mitchell’s player option.

In the event that the limit remains two per team, this issue could still resolve itself. If he’s healthy and playing well, it seems unlikely Mitchell would exercise his player option. It’s far more common for players to opt out and sign a new contract, which in Mitchell’s case would take him out of intended Rookie Max Extension status. Whether Mitchell will sign his next deal in Cleveland is another conversation altogether, and perhaps could also be linked to another key point in these CBA talks.

Some teams are hoping that the league will continue to strongly encourage players to stick with their current teams. In theory, the more money the Cavs can offer to someone like Mitchell that the Knicks or Nets or Lakers can’t, should persuade him to stay there.

I can’t remember a time in the last 25 years when the league had so many superstars in small markets: Mitchell in Cleveland (and before that, Utah), Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, Ja Morant in Memphis, and Nikola Jokic in Denver, um just to name a few. All should get MVP votes this year. The league, of course, likes it when the Lakers and Knicks are relevant, but it’s healthiest when the small market teams are also important.

It’s important that Sacramento and Cleveland make the playoffs as high seeds this year. The Nuggets, Kings and Grizzlies sitting above Los Angeles teams are great for competitive balance.

There is probably no financial incentive possible that keeps a player in a small market if they intend to leave to go elsewhere. But the league is at least trying. It worked with Antetokounmpo. It has also worked for Morant and Jokic so far. The Cavs are hoping they could be next.

(Top Photo by Donovan Mitchell: Brad Mills/USA Today)

https://theathletic.com/4168190/2023/02/08/cleveland-cavaliers-trade-deadline-cba/ Lloyd: As close of trade, CBA talks converge on Cavs. What it means for young stars

Russell Falcon

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