Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (11) pounds his chest after hitting a 3 point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Suns won 92-87. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t done wheeling and dealing just yet. There are more trades on the horizon for the defending champions.
Who could Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin be targeting as the team’s backup point guard?
As trade season heats up, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed the first big deal of the season as they acquired shooting guard Kyle Korver from the Atlanta Hawks. Korver, a marksman from deep who’s shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range this season, is expected to play a big part in the Cleveland Cavaliers offense as it comes to replacing the three-point shooting vacated with the injury of J.R. Smith and executing on offense.
Nonetheless, the Cavs need another point guard because as LeBron James rightly pointed out, they only have two. He also provided an interesting comparison to what the Cavs would look like without Irving for an extended period of time, comparing the impact of Irving being injured to that of Derek Carr, a quarterback for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. The Raiders quarterback is out for the playoffs with a broken leg. The Raiders, who were a very vibrant team, are now dejected because there isn’t a quarterback on the roster that can replace Carr.
There isn’t a point guard on the roster that can replace Kyrie Irving either.
Yet, should the Cavs play their cards right, they can end up with that player who allows Irving to rest and can be the primary ball-handler, facilitator and playmaker for the second unit. With general manager David Griffin’s history of completing trades that look like highway robbery on paper, there are a few interesting players he could target.
Kyrie Irving needs a backup that can let him rest and the Cavs should look no further than Brandon Knight, a point guard who scores like he’s on hyperdrive while still displaying a solid all around game.
He sounds too good to be true but he’s apparently so unhappy with his role in Phoenix that it’s effecting his play on the court. The reason his role changed, from that of a starter to a sixth man, is because of the play of Devin Booker. Booker, a young player who has shown an advanced understanding of the game at just 21-years-old, is one of the cornerstones for the Phoenix Suns along with Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Marquese Chriss.
As a sixth man, Knight is in a unique position. With the isolation ability of Bledsoe, Booker, Warren and the need for the team to see what it has in a young frontcourt that features Chriss, Dragan Bender and Alex Len, Knight isn’t truly a sixth man because he’s not needed to score.
While playing a career-low 22.7 minutes per game (averages 31.9 minutes per game for his career), Knight is averaging a career-low in field attempts per game (10.8), three-point attempts per game (2.8), two-point field goal percent (41.2), assists per game (2.6) and, of course, points per game (12.6).
What’s interesting is that considering he’s still shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range, a better figure than the 34.2 percent he was shooting last year, his shot isn’t broken. He’s being underutilized.
What fans should understand is that Knight played for a small Christian school in high school that made him it’s do-it-all player. He went to and started at a powerhouse program, declaring for the draft after he led the team in points per game (17.3) in his freshman year. He’s been a starter in every season except this season, his sixth in the NBA though he’s only 25 years old.
This role doesn’t suit him. The Suns trying to accommodate Knight at the expense at one of their other young, talented players doesn’t either. It makes sense then, that the Suns are open to trading Knight.
With his disappointment starting to effect his play on the court and the fact that he’ll be on his fourth team in seven years, his trade value could be less than it was the last time he was traded, despite his strong year last season.
To that point, Shumpert could greatly improve the Suns’ defense.
With the Cavs, Knight could excel in the second unit as the main offensive weapon. He’s the perfect triple-threat at point guard and will be able to create shots for himself and others with ease as he plays next to Korver, Smith, Jefferson and Channing Frye in the playoffs. He should also be able to be an able compliment with any combination of the Big Three.
Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin spent 17 seasons with the Phoenix Suns in various capacities, including three as the senior vice president of basketball operations. It’s certainly plausible that here of all places, Griffin would be able to work his magic.
Dec 7, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) gestures after scoring a three point basket during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Brooklyn Nets won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Jameer Nelson is an ideal trade target for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nelson has been a longtime target for the Cavs, like Frye and Korver had been before finally being acquired by David Blaine, um, I mean Griffin.
He’s also a point guard who, in his 13th season, is a masterful floor general and will learn how to run plays like they were drawn up on the back of his hand. This season, Nelson is averaging 4.2 assists per game compared to 1.9 turnovers per game. His 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio might not jump off the page until you consider that he’s playing on one of the most inexperienced teams in the NBA.
On the Cavs, he’d have a smaller role and more experienced teammates and so his turnovers should decrease. His assists would seem like they’d decrease too. However, with Frye, Korver and others in the second unit with him he’d still be able to rack up a decent amount of assists per game. His ability to get into the lane, especially after screens, will leave the Cavs shooters and big men in great position to capitalize off the space he creates as defenders gravitate towards him.
Currently shooting 37.0 percent from three-point range, he’ll fit in nicely with the Cavs offensive system.
Because of his size and age, his defensive numbers are nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, Nelson’s experience will allow him to do well as a team defender even if he’s not spectacular in a one-on-one setting. His strength will also allow him to guard opposing shooting guards if need be, a role he’s had on the Nuggets team while playing beside Emmanuel Mudiay.
Nelson, as James knows, also has significant playoff experience. In 44 career games, Nelson averages 15.0 points and 4.6 assists per game. He’s done that while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three-point range.
Nelson is one of the leaders on the Nuggets team and while the team may accept a first round pick and a young player like McRae or Osman in a trade, the team will need to replace Nelson’s leadership. Because of this, giving the Nuggets a first round pick and Dunleavy Jr. instead would be more reasonable in a trade. Dunleavy Jr. is still available, technically, as the Cavs and Atlanta Hawks look for a third team to facilitate the deal.
The Nuggets also need to improve their team defense. However, the Cavs won’t be Shumpert or Liggins to acquire Nelson when there are three point guards of a similar skill level that will be available in free agency soon enough.
Augustin is a player who will attack the rim all game offensively, move the ball and take the available three. All of those factors make it easy to see him fitting within the Cleveland Cavaliers offense. With him consistently in position to score at the rim, defenders will have to decide between leaving him open to attack it or following the stretch bigs the Cavs roll out. It won’t even matter what the defense decides, honestly, as the Cavs will great chance to put points on the board regardless of the defense’s decision.
Averaging 3.1 assists per game on a team where he’s looked at as one of the primary scorers and one that doesn’t have a lot of knockdown is more impressive than it looks. With the Cavs, Augustin’s willingness to pass and ability to execute the play without turning the ball over (1.2 turnovers per game) will result in man-a-three for the champs’ sharpshooting second unit.
When it comes to his shooting percentages, Augustin is making 37.9 percent of his threes and will be able to knockdown a fair share of his attempts as the ball moves around. He’s also making 52.1 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet, the fourth-highest mark of his career.
Defensively, Augustin isn’t the best defender at 6-foot-0 and 183 pounds because he can get caught up on screens more often than a bigger point guard. Still, he does at least display the defensive intensity that the Cavs will want to see.
Augustin has played 28 games in the playoffs but hasn’t been efficient, shooting 38.0 percent or less from the field in each of his three playoff appearances. Augustin did manage to shoot 39.6 percent from three-point range in 2013, however. He managed to average 6.1 assists per game in 2014.
What the Magic would want for Augustin would seem to be another scorer, at the very least. Dunleavy Jr. also has familiarity playing in Vogel’s system, having played for Vogel for four and a half years (four while Vogel was an assistant coach). That was with the Indiana Pacers, but Dunleavy Jr.’s floor spacing would be useful for a team that ranks 26th in three-point field goal percentage. Again, that’s a scenario that could only occur if the Magic were involved in a three-team deal with the Cavs and the Hawks. Adding in a first-round pick and a young prospect would also make sense for Augustin, who has played will this season.