Andrew Bynum is on the trading block, and the Cavaliers have to make a move by Tuesday at 5 p.m. They don’t need to trade him, but they do need to do something.
Actually, the Cavs could just keep Bynum, but then they would have to pay his full $12.25 million salary for the season. If they waive him on Jan. 7, he is due just half of that.
So Cavs general manager Chris Grant has three clear options: 1. Trade Bynum; 2. Waive Bynum; 3. Keep Bynum, pay the full salary and use his expiring contract as a chip at the trading deadline (or just let it expire).
Grant is at least exploring the first option, league sources say, as the Cavs are checking out interest and finding out what the 7-footer might bring in return. Considering Bynum missed all of last season with Philadelphia with knee issues, and was suspended (and later exiled) from the Cavs for conduct detrimental to the team–well, dealing him is a shaky proposition.
Here are five aim-high and imaginary scenarios, entirely for fun, that might work:
1. Bynum to the LA Lakers for Pau Gasol: This has actually been explored and may be revisited, league sources said. The Lakers are open to moving Gasol’s expiring $19 million contract. Dealing for Bynum, then immediately waiving him, would save a hurting team like LA loads of cash. But sources say the Lakers want more than just Bynum. They apparently want something special, a prospect or an asset. The Cavs will indeed have to throw in another player to make a trade work, but they don’t want it to be a valuable piece. Grant should stick to that rally cry. The Lakers need the Cavs every bit as much as the Cavs need the Lakers (if not more).
2. Bynum to Brooklyn for Paul Pierce: The Nets were expected to be among the favorites to contend for the Eastern Conference title. The Cavs were expected to be a young, exciting team on its way up. So far, neither prediction has been accurate. The Nets lost center Brook Lopez for the year with a broken foot. Bynum is a center. The Cavs don’t really have a starting-caliber small forward. Pierce is a starting-caliber small forward. If the Nets were smart, they’d consider this. We don’t know if they’re smart.
3. Bynum to Chicago for Luol Deng: Obviously, this trade would only pay immediate dividends for the Cavs. The Bulls have no reason to go here — unless you consider the status of Deng. He becomes a free agent at season’s end. The Bulls are holding out hope he can be re-signed. But with another major knee injury to star guard Derrick Rose, Chicago’s future is dicey. There’s no clear rebuilding plan, nor is there a clear idea if the Bulls even need to rebuild. Right now, they’re just sort of playing things out. They’d be wise to hang onto Deng until at least the trading deadline. But if Grant could somehow convince them otherwise (with an actual player or draft pick in addition to Bynum), hey, you never know.
4. Bynum to Dallas for Shawn Marion: Bynum was a free agent this past summer, and along with the Cavs and Atlanta, the Mavericks were among the teams he visited. They love Marion, and somewhat surprisingly, could be going places. But Bynum supposedly loves Dallas, and perhaps he could produce and be a good soldier. If so, his presence next to Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis could give the Mavs quite a terrifying trio. (At least, that could be Grant’s sales pitch.) For the Cavs, Marion has an expiring contract and would immediately become the top-flight wing defender the team currently lacks. Marion may be 35 years old, but he is a winner who brings it every stinking night.
5. Bynum to New York for Carmelo Anthony: Go ahead. Laugh. But what do the Knicks have to lose here? Anthony has said he’s opting out of his contract (his legal right) after the season. The Knicks stand a chance to watch him walk away for nothing. That’s especially the case if they continue to disappoint. Anthony is a ball-stopper and doesn’t really make anyone around him better. But he’s sort of a modern-day Bernard King in that he can score on anyone, from anywhere, at any time. The Cavs could use a guy like that. More players would have to be involved and the Knicks would never do it. Other than that, it works great.