The Cleveland Cavaliers have fallen off a cliff over the last two months, making them potential sellers before the March 25 NBA trade deadline. Center JaVale McGee is a prime trade candidate.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reports the veteran big man is being pursued by championship contenders, with a potential buyout on the horizon if a trade doesn’t come to fruition. McGee, 33, is averaging 7.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks across 15.2 minutes per contest off the bench.
With 22-year-old center Jarrett Allen now present and McGee a free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season, it’s sensible for the latter to be shipped out. It’s also likely that the Cavs will fetch a small return given his contract situation and the possibility of teams calling their bluff on keeping him. However, such a return is better than losing McGee for nothing in free agency.
Here are three teams that could trade for JaVale McGee.
3) Indiana Pacers
Pacers receive: JaVale McGee
Cavaliers receive: Goga Bitadze
One way or another, the Pacers are all in on their new core grouping of players featuring Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren when he’s healthy. With that in mind, they should be on the hunt for upgrades like McGee.
The big man would serve as Myles Turner’s backup and make an impact on both ends of the floor. He finishes emphatically in the paint, hits the boards at an efficient rate and defends the rim well. In fact, McGee is actually averaging more points, rebounds and assists per 36 minutes than Turner. McGee is a starting-caliber player who would take some stress off Indiana’s inside duo of Sabonis and Turner.
Bitadze has struggled to get playing time this season despite injuries, midseason transactions and a lack of a true backup center in head coach Nate Bjorkgren’s rotation. He’d be getting the chance to showcase himself with the Cavs as a rotation player for their roster past this season. This trade would give the Pacers a legitimate backup center. The reason they may opt against making this move is the mere fact that McGee will hit the open market this offseason where they can surrender nothing more than money for his services. They could also give Bitadze more playing time down the stretch.
Would this trade move the needle for a tedious season?
2) Miami Heat
Heat receive: JaVale McGee
The Heat traded big man Meyers Leonard and a future second-rounder to acquire veteran forward Trevor Ariza, vacating a spot in head coach Erik Spoelstra’s big-man rotation. JaVale McGee would seamlessly fill that void.
McGee would be the first big off the bench, providing an inside jolt on both ends. He’d be in the paint for easy buckets when Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are double-teamed with the ball in their hands. McGee would be the defensive anchor for the second unit, serving as a viable starting option if injuries present themselves (Adebayo has dealt with numerous injuries over the last year).
McGee also brings plenty of playoff experience to the table for a team looking to finish what they started in last year’s NBA Finals. Harkless is out of their rotation and could be flipped on a dime for a future second-rounder upon arriving in Cleveland.
The knock against the Heat trading for McGee? They could probably get through the season without a midseason move for a center. The Heat could go small at the end of games with Kelly Olynyk coming off the floor. They could also give more minutes to rookie big man Precious Achiuwa.
McGee would help their rotation, but he’s not a must-have for their sake.
1) Toronto Raptors
Raptors receive: JaVale McGee
Cavaliers receive: Stanley Johnson
The Raptors have a young core on the cusp of its prime, accompanied by some veterans who want to win. This is a win-now team that has to turn matters around in their treacherous 2020-21 campaign. Trading for JaVale McGee would enhance their chances of making the Eastern Conference Playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.
McGee would be an instant contributor off the bench for head coach Nick Nurse. He’d add an inside complement to their athletic and versatile forwards (Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher). It’s also not far-fetched to think McGee could become a starter down the road.
Stanley Johnson is a former lottery selection with some talent, but he hasn’t been a factor for the Raptors over the last two years. They can afford to deal the youngster given their playoff aspirations and standing in the conference from a sentimental standpoint. Johnson needs a place where he can get on the floor every night like Cleveland. Perhaps he gets his career on track playing for a rebuilding team that’s trying to turn a corner?
JaVale McGee will come at a low cost and would be an impactful pickup for the Raptors.