Cleveland Cavaliers May Have New Plan for Brendan Haywood Contract

By Casey Drottar
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been quite some time since a rumor popped up regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brendan Haywood. As you’ll recall, Haywood’s contract is appealing around the NBA since a team could clear $10.5 million in cap space if they acquired the forward and waived him before July 31. Just a couple weeks ago, there seemed to be a handful of interested teams reaching out to the Cavs to see if a deal could be done.

Now? Well, if there are any talks going on regarding Haywood’s contract, they certainly aren’t loud enough for anyone to hear. Once free agency kicked off, names like Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Nick Young were all tossed around as potential players Cleveland could receive in exchange for the right to waive Haywood. As of now, though, these rumors have definitely quieted down.

It appears the reasoning for this may be a change of plans for the Cavs. Instead of trying to acquire a significant player, Cleveland is reportedly becoming more intrigued about the idea of sending Haywood’s contract to a team with plenty of cap space in hopes of getting a trade option in return. And, at this point, this might actually be a better plan for the Cavs.

Cleveland did a similar thing last offseason when they acquired Keith Bogans. Before he could even consider playing for the Cavs, Bogans was traded again the very next day to the Philadelphia 76ers. In exchange, Cleveland received a trade exception which matched the amount of Bogans’ contract ($5.4 million). The Cavs eventually used this exception when they acquired Timofey Mozgov last January.

Shifting back to the present, it’s starting to look like the team is considering the same route with Haywood.

Instead of trying to get a team to pony up a solid player in exchange for Haywood, the Cavs can instead send him to a club looking to create more room in the salary cap and then receive a trade exception of $10.5 million. Said exception would remain available to Cleveland for a full year.

Frankly, this seems like a much more appealing course for the team to take.

Sure, it’d be great to find instant help in a Haywood trade. Guys like Johnson or Crawford could easily benefit the Cavs next season. At the same time, there don’t appear to be many options available at the moment outside of these two. Additionally, thanks to Johnson’s salary and the likelihood of Crawford being traded decreasing, these two might not even be possibilities any more.

So, instead of buckling to some sort of pressure of trying to get a player right away, why not just shed Haywood’s contract and leave $10.5 million in usable trade space for later in the year? After all, this game plan worked wonders last year. Badly in need of a viable big man, the Bogans exception helped the Cavs acquire Mozgov, who proceeded to vastly exceed expectations.

On top of this, there’s a greater chance more options become available later in the year.

For all intents and purposes, the free agency craziness of the summer has cooled significantly. A move or two could still be made, but it’s unlikely anything incredibly major is going to occur in the near future.

At the same time, if the Cavs could turn Haywood into a trade exception and wait until midway through the upcoming season around the time of the trade deadline, they may find much more appealing situations are available. $10.5 million is a lot to work with, and could certainly help bring in a quality player to help with a mid-season playoff push.

The Cavs have just 13 days to figure out what they want to do with Haywood’s contract. At the end of the day, they could end up just waiving it themselves and freeing up that space. However, I would still expect them to explore any and all avenues when it comes to a possible trade.

A couple weeks ago, the focus seemed to be on what kind of player Cleveland could immediately get in return. As of today, the idea of getting a trade exception instead is looking much more appealing. It may not be the splashiest move to make, but the potential for it to pay off later makes this a much better solution.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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