Regardless whether Iman Shumpert has requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it does seem like the seventh-year forward is expendable. If the Cavaliers do deal him before the season starts, especially after adding Jae Crowder, there’s no need to act surprised.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, who attributes the report to “multiple league sources,” Shumpert did request a trade from Cleveland after the season. Shortly thereafter, The Vertical’s Shams Charania tweeted that Shumpert has not requested a trade but has been “actively shopped” by Cleveland since free agency began.
Conflicting reports like these often come down to technicalities. Perhaps Shumpert hasn’t officially requested a trade but his agent has heavily implied that he would prefer to play somewhere other than Cleveland next season. If that were the case, both sides (Cleveland’s front office and Shumpert’s camp) could spin it their direction without truly being wrong.
Regardless, it seems like Shumpert’s standing in Cleveland is tenuous at best. Here’s an explanation.
Why Shumpert wants out from Cleveland
Shumpert, at one point, said the Cavaliers “grabbed me out of hell” when they traded with the Knicks for him. Last year, he played the most games and averaged the most minutes of his two-and-a-half seasons in Cleveland.
However, the Irving trade request showed that things might not be totally rosy behind the surface. Whether Shumpert officially requested a trade or not, perhaps there are reasons for players to want out from Cleveland. Maybe playing in LeBron James’ dominating shadow isn’t for everyone.
The other reason is obvious now, though Shumpert’s desire to leave seemingly came before this happened. The Cavaliers acquired Crowder in the Irving trade, who is essentially a better version of Shumpert. Both are ostensibly 3-and-D wings, but Crowder is a much more consistent shooter, is more effective on both ends, and will eat up many of Shumpert’s minutes, especially in the postseason.
Why Cleveland wants to ditch Shumpert
The Cavaliers might have saved some money ditching Irving for Thomas, but they’re still well over the salary cap and deeply embedded into the luxury tax. Shedding Shumpert’s $10 million would save them much more than $10 million, thanks to the exponential luxury tax penalties that Shumpert’s salary would incur.
(Cleveland currently has $135 million on its roster sheet, if you’re wondering. The luxury tax threshold — once you go over, you get penalized two or three or even four times as harshly — is $119 million.)
Shumpert would play next year, but he’s not a fundamental part of the team, not with Crowder now in tow. Ditching him, saving some salary, and perhaps getting a cheaper asset back in return would be something that owner Dan Gilbert would very much appreciate.
Likelihood the trade happens: 4.5 out of 10
Both sides are motivated to move on, but there simply may not be any trade partners available — not before the season starts, anyway. McMenamin reported that two deals already fell through with Minnesota and Houston, and unless those talks re-engage, it might be hard to move Shumpert until later into the year. That’s why I’m saying it’s slightly more likely it doesn’t happen than it does.