This is what happens when you're smart with money and don't overspend for mediocre free agents.
Chris Grant made the tough choice this past offseason to pass on several players that could have helped out the team this year, but would have tied up the cap space going forward. Instead he stood pat and kept the Cavaliers cap flexible so that they could pull off a deal like they did today.
In a move that was first broken by Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Grant was able to turn Jon Leuer into Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first round draft pick. The Grizzlies needed to make the deal to get under the luxury tax threshold so they could avoid trading away one of their best players like Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph.
For the Cavs, this is an absolute steal. It might be more akin to robbing a gas station than a jewelry store, but nonetheless this is a great move by the Cavs and Grant.
Grant has been under some criticism by fans and media members who are impatient with the progress the team has been making. It's understandable to an extent because the Cavs are one of the worst teams in the league for the third year in a row.
But when you really examine the problems with the team, they all center around injuries and depth issues. Injuries are a part of the game and there's nothing that Chris Grant can do about that. It's not his fault that his three best players have all missed extended stretches of games and that Anderson Varejao had about as bad of luck as a player can have with his injury, misdiagnosis and the blood clot that ended his season.
The depth of the bench is on Grant. But as I said, he could have overpaid for fixes in the offseason or wait to get a deal like he pulled off today that comes MUCH cheaper and doesn't tie up their salary cap.
None of the players the Cavs acquired today have contracts that extend past the 2013-14 season, which falls right in line with the rest of the roster. This is on purpose.
It's no secret that LeBron James can opt out of his current deal with the Heat and become a free agent after the 2013-14 season. The theoretical possibility does exist that he could come back to Cleveland at that point and the Cavs will have loads of cap space to make that happen if he should desire.
But that's miles away at this point, so I don't want to spend any more time on that.
The players the Cavs got today will immediately improve what is one of, if not the, worst benches in the NBA. Earlier this season, the Cavs were trotting out lineups that had guys like Donald Sloan, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton, Jeremy Pargo, Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody. Only Casspi and Walton are still on the roster as of today (Pargo was cut to make room for the new players) and they likely won't see much floor time going forward.
Speights is a very solid big man (6'10", 255 pounds), whose presence will be noticed immediately. He has a PER this season of 16.29, and averages 18.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. For comparisons sake, Walton's per 40 minute numbers are 7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and an 8.19 PER. That's a huge upgrade right off the bat.
Ellington is a 6'4" shooting guard who has a .423 three-point field-goal percentage this season and is a lifetime .385 shooter from deep. His PER is only 10.17, but he should still be an upgrade as a backup wing player over Casspi.
Selby is a 6'2" point guard who's in his second year out of Kansas and hasn't gotten much run in Memphis thus far in his career, only appearing in 28 games last season and 10 games this season. He's still a very young player who could develop into a nice backup point guard down the road, but he certainly wasn't the key piece of this deal by any means.
The best part of the deal for the Cavs could end up being the future draft pick. Windhorst explains the protections on that pick as follows:
In 2015 or 2016, if the Grizzlies' first-rounder falls between picks 6-14, the pick goes to the Cavs. Starting in 2017, if the Grizzlies pick falls outside the top five, the Cavs then get the selection. In 2019, the pick becomes unprotected. It is the sixth first-round pick the Cavs have traded for since 2010.
Who knows when we'll end up seeing this pick actually go to Cleveland, but it could turn out to be a very good one in the future. And even if it doesn't, and I can't stress this enough, the Cavs didn't give up anything.
I'm still not 100 percent sure if Jon Leuer is actually even a basketball player and isn't really a towel boy that they let put on warm-ups and sit on the bench for games. He has zero significance for this or any team really.
And, in addition, the Cavs maintained their cap flexibility. This really was a fabulous move by Grant to help out the team in the present without hurting it in the long run, something that Danny Ferry always screwed up.
While you may not love all of Grant's decisions, like the drafting of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, you can't deny that through shrewd cap management, he's been able to capitalize on desperate teams and fleece them for picks.
He has now turned Mo Williams, Jamario Moon, Ramon Sessions and Leuer into Kyrie Irving, Tyler Zeller, Speights, Ellington, Selby and a future first-round pick. And if the Lakers make the playoffs (which doesn't appear likely at this current moment), the Heat pick this coming draft could be drastically improved also. That's really impressive work.
The present may not be great to watch right now as a very young and inexperienced team struggles to find its way. But the future, thanks to Chris Grant, is very promising.
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.
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