By Josh Flagner
By the time you read this, we’ll all know the gory details. The Cleveland Cavaliers sent point guard Ramon Sessions and young wing Christian Eyenga to the Los Angeles Laker in exchange for Jason Kapono, Luke Walton, and the Lakers 2012 first round draft pick. Two quick notes about the Cavaliers shiny new draft pick; if LA misses the playoffs this season, they keep the pick and the Cavs can swap Miami’s 2013 first round pick, which they own, for LA’s first round selection.
Those notes about the draft pick swap are only notes because the Lakers aren’t going to miss the playoffs this year, not even with Mike Brown destroying the offense in La La Land. The Lakers will pick somewhere between #20 and #25, and that leaves Cleveland in a great spot.
The Cavs will likely miss the playoffs and have high enough lottery pick with their own pick in 2012 to be in a position to pick one of a handful of NBA superstars in waiting. Jeremy Lamb, Harrison Barnes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, and Austin Rivers are all wing players who could dominate in a back court playing alongside Kyrie Irving. Cleveland didn’t need to trade Sessions to make that happen, but the probability of having two young back court players chewing up minutes meant that Ramon was probably going to exercise his opt-out clause after this season and go looking for a starting job on his own.
All the Cavs did was speed up Ramon’s decision. And putting the team in a position to draft a young big man to play behind Anderson Varejao is icing on the he-was-going-to-leave-anyway cake. Imagine Cleveland going to the bench for a raw Fab Melo to give Varejao a rest. Admittedly, Fab hasn’t gotten great press going into March Madness after being declared academically ineligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament, but the only intelligence requirement in the NBA is being smart enough to not threaten teammates with guns in the locker room.
If it’s not Fab Melo, there are a bunch of young guys that the Cavs would love to have and who would be available that late in the draft. The 2012 draft class is deeper than the pile of crap that the Cleveland Browns front office is forcing its fans to walk through to get to the ticket windows.
As far as taking on Walton and Kapono, who cares? Walton has next year and $6 million left on his contract, but he’ll either get bought out after this season or be insurance that the Cavs will reach the NBA salary floor. And Kapono? His contract is up after 2012, and probably just a throw in so the Cavs can finally have an all-pasty garbage time five.
Giving up Christian Eyenga and Ramon Sessions for the chance to have a shot at two franchise defining drafts is a no brainer. Eyenga still has a year at $1.1 million and a team option for $2.1 million left on his rookie contract and if you think that’s a fair price for a guy who’s only played 50 NBA games in two years I have a bridge to sell you. Eyenga definitely has potential because of his athleticism, but he’s so much farther from his potential than are Alonzo Gee or Omri Casspi. Eyenga wasn’t going to get any playing time on this Cavs team, so what good does having him sitting around on the NBDL Canton Charge do for the organization? And let’s not pretend that Eyenga was even tearing it up in the D-League. He’s averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. That’s barely enough to be a meaningful contributor, and that’s the minor league. I like the guy, but he was a bad draft pick in 2009 and he’s a bad investment now.
Ramon Sessions is a different story. He’s the piece of this trade that the Lakers absolutely had to have, and the piece that the Cavs are going to miss. Sessions is the type of aggressive point guard that the Lakers need to play off of Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. And while I thought Sessions was a great part of the Cavs, let’s not pretend like he was going to be a part of the Cavs after this season. Sessions may not have been a regular starter so far in his career, but that was due more to circumstance than talent level.
Those circumstances weren’t going to be getting any different in Cleveland once Kyrie Irving ripped the franchise player banner away from Anderson Varejao. Kyrie is fixed in the starting point guard role and Sessions has been stuck splitting backup duties with Daniel Gibson. The fact that he’ll be the starting point guard for the championship contending Lakers is a pretty good indication that Sessions wasn’t going to pick up his player option for 2012-13. $4.5 million is a lot of money to opt-out of, but he would have gotten very close to that to be a starter somewhere. And even in these times of brand building and business decisions, nothing speaks more loudly than playing time. (Except LeBron’s mom, good Lord is that woman loud.)
The Cavaliers traded the 25 games left this season of Ramon Sessions and a guy that had the tools to do everything on the basketball court except actually play basketball for a chance to define the franchise. If Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert can pick two game changers a year after the Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson draft…
We might just be talking about the Miracle on East Ninth in the next couple of seasons.
Stats: Basketball Reference