Plenty of names have floated around after Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James admitted that the wine and gold need a legitimate backup point guard after losing Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency. Reports surfaced that the Cavs were interested in adding Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, or Jameer Nelson. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported on Saturday that the team is also interested in acquiring Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack.
The simpler option for the reigning champions, as opposed to a Melo-sized blockbuster deal, might prove to be a smaller swap in which the Cavaliers absorb the salary of a veteran point guard into their $4.4 million Anderson Varejao trade exception that expires Feb. 20. Sources say one vet known to interest the Cavs — one who possesses a salary that would fit into that exception — is Utah’s Shelvin Mack at $2.4 million. Mack, according to sources, is most definitely available.
The 26-year-old has averaged 7.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 22.5 minutes per game (42 games, nine starts). Mack is shooting 44 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. Although he is still averaging almost 23 minutes a game this season, he is playing much less than he did last season. After being acquired by the Jazz at the trade deadline in 2016, the guard averaged 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game while playing 31.4 minutes a game in 28 games (27 starts), all of which were the highest of his career. He also shot 44 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from long distance with Utah last season.
While it is unknown why the 6-foot-3, 203-pound guard has received less playing time this season, it seems as though he is available via trade because Utah has used plenty of backup point guards behind George Hill. Although his numbers have decreased this season compared to last because he has had less playing time, Mack would be a valuable option off the bench. He can not only score, but can also spread the ball around off the bench. He would be that legitimate veteran backup point guard that would ease the ball-handling burden off LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and also be a playmaker as well, which James has made known that the team needs.
Iman Shumpert is doing a good enough job as the backup point guard, but he’s a shooting guard. Rookie Kay Felder, who James wanted the team draft, hasn’t been able to take over the point guard duties behind Irving.
After rumors began swirling that James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert were at odds over the team’s payroll, along with taxes for being over the cap, would the Cavs add another player’s salary without giving up any salary? As WFNY’s Scott Sargent pointed out, adding Mack’s $4.4 million to the team’s payroll would force Gilbert to pay an additional $14.3 million in taxes ($3.25 in tax per new dollar spent because it’s over $600,000), just for adding the backup point guard. While it will make the team better, would the owner be willing to open his wallet even more than he already has?