Have the Cleveland Cavaliers arrived?
It sure feels like it during the early stages of the 2021-22 NBA season.
Rookie forward Evan Mobley has burst onto the scene as a true threat on both ends of the floor. Darius Garland is having a career year, and role players like Cedi Osman have had their moments as well.
CEDI OSMAN GOT US FEELING LIKE 🔥
4-4 3PT pic.twitter.com/KSB9x6ov8a
The Cavaliers are 16-12 to start this season, and they’ve done it mainly without the man who came into the season as the team’s top player.
Guard Collin Sexton is out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, but the Cavs haven’t missed a beat this season.
Basketball Reference’s Pythagorean wins statistic, which is a team’s expected wins based on points scored and allowed, actually thinks the Cavs are better than what their record states. Cleveland’s record in this metric is 18-10, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Cleveland is currently third in the NBA in defensive rating (104.1) and fifth in the league in net rating (4.1) this season.
The Cavs, at this point in the season, are for real. For the first time since LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers, the playoffs truly seem in reach for Cleveland.
That’s great news for Cavs fans, but it also begs one question: Should the Cavs try to trade Collin Sexton to bolster their playoff chances this season?
That is a loaded question.
Cleveland has a lot to think about with Sexton, who will be a restricted free agent this coming offseason as long as the team extends him a qualifying offer.
First off, there has to be interest in Sexton around the league, but given the fact that any team that traded for him this season would be able to bring him back as a restricted free agent, there is some value in dealing for the 22-year-old guard.
Secondly, the Cavaliers would actually have to be willing to part ways with the No. 8 overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft.
Obviously, if the Cavs are intent on extending Sexton and matching any offer he receives in free agency, then there is no way that the team will trade him.
However, since the Cavs dragged their feet and didn’t come to terms on an extension with the 22-year-old guard before he got hurt, who’s to say that they don’t envision a future without him, especially with how well the Cavs have played this season?
The biggest need for Cleveland at the moment is another wing/guard scorer, and it could make sense to use Sexton as a piece to try to fill that hole.
The Sexton-Garland backcourt has been an up-and-down project for the Cavs, as the two smaller guards are not exactly the best defensive duo, but they can score the rock at a high rate.
Worst defensive rating by a player in NBA three-point era:
121.0 — Collin Sexton last season
119.5 — Darius Garland this season
The Cavs starting guards are statistically the two worst individual defenders the NBA has ever seen. pic.twitter.com/ZTjP15IBnr
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 2, 2020
However, with Garland really blossoming this season with Sexton out, maybe it’s time the Cavs surround him with a piece that complements his game a little more.
LeVert isn’t the only option for Cleveland, but there are a few things that the Cavs would need to check off in any potential deal.
There must be long-term value for Cleveland
If a team is trading for Sexton, they are almost certainly committing to matching any offer for him and maintaining him for a long-term deal this coming offseason.
The Cavs will have the same opportunity if they decide to keep Sexton. If Cleveland wants to get true value from the deal, the player it receives in any hypothetical Sexton deal should be under contract for more than just the 2021-22 season.
The Cavs aren’t looking for a quick fix. They are looking for another player to add to the roster to help them make the playoffs this season and beyond. If they are unable to find that, then the team would be wise to hold onto Sexton for multiple reasons.
First off, the team could simply bring the 22-year-old guard back next season. Secondly, the Cavs could use Sexton in a potential sign-and-trade if the price for him in the offseason is deemed to be too high.
However, Cleveland is still risking it with Sexton in restricted free agency, as a team with cap space could attempt to acquire him without a sign-and-trade deal and force the Cavaliers to match the offer or lose Sexton for nothing.
That is a worst-case scenario for the Cavs.
Any trade should make Cleveland significantly better this season
This seems like a no-brainer, but there is a little more to it than just becoming a better team.
The Cavs need to trade for a player who is going to provide a significant boost on offense or defense that would turn the roster from playoff hopeful to playoff lock.
Even if Cleveland nets a player that would be with the team for the long term in a Sexton deal, the player also needs to be a difference maker right away.
The Cavs could trade Sexton for a younger player to develop, but at the end of the day that doesn’t help the team make the postseason in the 2021-22 campaign if the player can’t step right in and contribute.
In that case, Cleveland would be better off letting Sexton’s free agency run its course rather than moving him for the sake of moving him.
Verdict: Yes, the Cavs should consider trading Collin Sexton
Can the Cavs trade Sexton? Yes, they can.
Do they have to trade Sexton? No, they do not.
Should they consider it? It would be foolish not to.
The Cavs may never get an offer they deem worthy of moving Sexton, and that is completely fine.
However, the team should explore all options during this season to see if there is a deal that makes sense for the organization in the long term.
The Cavs are 16-12. They might have 2 All-Stars and the ROTY this season.
— 19 PPG, 7 APG
— 17 PPG, 11 RPG
— 71 FG%
— On pace for 15/10 on 70% season ever
— 14 PPG, 8 RPG, 2 BPG
— Leads rookies in REB and BLK
— 2nd among rookies in TS% pic.twitter.com/lW1SO0yYDy
— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 12, 2021
The Cavs are ahead of schedule in their rebuild centered around Mobley, Garland, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen, but if they can find a way to build this team for the future while also helping them win this season, it may be worth trading Sexton now that he can’t contribute on the floor for the rest of the campaign.