CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the feel-good stories of the NBA season thus far with an 18-12 record through their first 30 games of the season. The team currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the conference.
The team has been led by center Jarrett Allen, point guard Darius Garland, and rookie big man Evan Mobley. Allen signed a $100 million contract extension with the Cavs this offseason and has certainly looked well worth the investment on both ends of the floor. Garland is looking like the All-Star guard the Cavs hoped he would be when he was drafted fifth overall in 2019. As for Mobley, despite the fact that he was selected third overall, he looks already like the steal of the draft. He’s already an advanced defender and has helped the Cavs on the offensive end of the floor in a number of ways.
The Cavs have raced out to this hot start against the league’s toughest schedule. Of the 30 games they’ve played this season, 21 of them have come against teams that made either the playoffs or play-in tournament last season. In addition to that, five more games thus far have come against Sacramento, Minnesota, Chicago, or Washington, four teams that find themselves in the thick of the playoff race this season. Through all of this, the Cavs have the best net rating in the Eastern Conference, outscoring their opponents by 5.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s thanks in large part to the NBA’s second-best defense, something that was certainly difficult to see coming after the Cavs were the NBA’s 25th-ranked defense just a season ago.
All of this is a complicated way to say that the Cavs are a really good team and one that’s completely sustainable too. They’re a team that still may be a bit away from being a true championship-contending team, but they’re also not going to just fade away. This Cavs team is anything but fraudulent.
The question that Cavs general manager Koby Altman will repeatedly have to ask himself over the course of the next couple of months is whether or not this is a team that’s worth upgrading. For as good as the Cavs have been, the roster still has a significant hole on the wing and could always use more 3-point shooting.
Here are three guys that could potentially be available via trade this winter:
The Sacramento Kings are fighting for a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament as things stand right now, but after firing head coach Luke Walton earlier this season and dangling Buddy Hield in trade talks this summer, it’s not a stretch to think his name is going to be brought up again.
Hield doesn’t have the size that the Cavs would ideally like in someone to play on the wing, and could force Isaac Okoro back to playing the small forward position at times. That said, Hield’s shooting from the outside could make up for that. He’s having a bit of a down year, but is a 40.1% shooter from beyond the arc in his career and could be a sniper off the bench for the Cavs.
The Atlanta Hawks are in the awkward position that many general managers would love to find themselves in. They have actually drafted too well, or at least that’s the positive way to frame it. The Hawks have a number of guys that are very deserving of being paid top dollar, and it looks like Reddish may be the odd man out of that bunch. The team has already committed a max contract to All-Star guard Trae Young, $125 million to big man John Collins, plus sizeable deals to Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. When adding in the fact that Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter also may be deserving of contract extensions, Reddish looks more and more like the odd man out in Atlanta.
Reddish was a very highly touted high school prospect out of Pennsylvania before attending Duke for a year. He was selected 10th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and has struggled with injuries throughout much of his time in the NBA. That said, when he’s been on the floor he’s shown flashes of being an above-average contributor on a good team. Reddish’s 3-point shooting and points per game are the best they've been in his career despite playing a career-low in minutes at just 22.6 per game. A better opportunity, which the Cavs could surely provide for the 6-foot-8 swingman, could be all he needs to break out as a player.
The Indiana Pacers very rarely find themselves as one of the worst teams in basketball, historically, but they may be ready to venture into those waters as the team is set to embark on a rebuild, according to a report from The Athletic earlier this month. A number of players on the Pacers may be on the move before this season’s trade deadline, and swingman Caris LeVert could be one of them.
LeVert’s career has been one filled with potential but also ravaged by injuries. He fell in the draft coming out of Michigan thanks to a leg injury, suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in November of 2018 while playing with the Brooklyn Nets, was then traded to the Pacers in early 2021 where it was discovered he had a renal cell carcinoma of the kidney which was promptly treated. Finally, before this season, LeVert was dealing with a stress fracture in his back that has since cleared up.
This season, the 6-foot-6 wing has played in 23 games for the Pacers, averaging 16.3 points per game in 29 minutes. His size could allow him to play at the small forward or shooting guard position while providing a needed scoring punch off the bench.