The addition of Caris LeVert fills Cleveland’s hole at shooting guard, but whether the risk is worth the reward is yet to be determined.
The Caris LeVert trade occurred in a relatively optimal time. Early on Sunday, news came out the Indiana Pacers traded LeVert to Cleveland. Ironically enough, later that night, the two teams faced off. Although this could merely be by coincidence, the Cavs certainly benefited from his absence from the Pacers lineup. Nonetheless, LeVert is now a Cavalier, and here’s how it happened.
Cleveland traded Ricky Rubio, a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick, and two second-round picks. In return, the Cavs received Caris LeVert and a second-round pick. However, the exact details of these picks matter tremendously. The protection on Cleveland’s first-rounder is essentially irrelevant unless they somehow drastically fall out of the playoff picture. Meaning the pick should fall within the early-20s. The greater distinction is with the second-round selections.
Despite their limited appreciation, second-round picks, if executed properly, can be very valuable. And the Pacers just received a very lucrative one at that. The Cavaliers traded away the Rockets’ second-rounder this year, which should be one of the earliest ones. Whereas, in return, the Pacers sent the Heat’s 2022 second-rounder, which should be one of the last ones. This minor detail may seem irrelevant, but the implications may be drastic.
Breaking Down the Trade
First off, this is an excellent pickup for the Cavs. Adding LeVert to a somewhat underwhelming offense might make the difference come playoff time. Furthermore, Cleveland only surrendered Rubio’s expiring contract as his knee injury will sideline him for the remainder of the season. So, on the surface, trading an unavailable player for a very talented one appears brilliant. Not to mention the Cavs control LeVert throughout next season as well.
However, doing so forced the Cavaliers into sending some valuable picks. Despite their relevancy this year, those picks would add much-needed depth to a young, depleted roster. This trade means that rather than continuing to build through the draft, Cleveland’s focus shall shift onto free agency. Which, in all honesty, is acceptable. This is a very young roster with several players controlled for years to come.
The issue lies in their cap space. Sure, switching Rubio’s contract for LeVert’s works out well this year. However, next year is a bit more concerning. The Cavs already pay Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love, and Lauri Markkanen hefty sums. Considering this and next year, those three alone combine for $132.37 million, which is already above the cap. Additionally, the Cavs must decide what to do with their restricted rights over Collin Sexton. Currently, all signs point to a sign-and-trade, but anything is still possible. Lastly, they must begin thinking about extending Darius Garland, which should be pretty expensive.
All things considered, unless some major moves are made, the Cavaliers find themselves in a bit of a payroll predicament. The easiest solution is to trade or restructure Love’s deal, but seeing that he’s a fan favorite, that may not be so easily accomplished. Overall, this is a quality trade for now, but the future outlook may be very different.
Caris LeVert is Ineffefficently Effective
Caris LeVert brings Cleveland significant offensive help, but not necessarily in the ways they need it. There is no denying LeVert is a talented scorer, but his efficiencies are not awe-inspiring. So far, Cleveland’s predominately played either Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman, or Lamar Stevens at the two-guard position. Although Osman provides solid shooting capabilities, the other two do not. They combine to only have a 30% clip from deep, albeit on limited attempts (45/150).
Granted, Okoro and Stevens bring undeniable effort and energy to both ends of the court. Their focus, along with the overall team’s, is centered around paint production. As a team, Cleveland currently sits in 17th in the NBA with a 35.1% three-point percentage. Furthermore, the Cavs shoot 33.7 attempts from deep per game, putting them in 21st across the association. Finally, the Cavs host the 18th best offensive rating in basketball (109.8).
In this sense, LeVert does not overtly improve the Cavs in any of these categories. LeVert is taking 4.8 threes a night but only making 32.3% of them on the season. Moreover, LeVert’s 108.6 offensive rating this year is below the team average too. That said, these statistics do not undermine the value of this pickup.
Caris LeVert is scoring 18.7 ppg and will boost everyone around him as a more than adequate facilitator. An underrated aspect of this acquisition is how closely LeVert’s style of play aligns with Cleveland’s. As the second-highest rated defense in the NBA, the Cavaliers rely on their defense to win games. Unlike the stereotypical scoring guard, LeVert possesses a defensive activity that upholds Cleveland’s identity.
Cleveland’s Future with Caris LeVert
All things considered, the Cavs made a confident yet restricted trade. They were able to acquire a high-quality asset without losing too significant of assets. Losing Rubio is not a big deal whatsoever, but those picks may come back to hurt them. Outside of a scoring guard, Cleveland’s next most prominent issue is their depth. Late-first and early-second-round picks provide teams with cheap alternatives to free agency. Furthermore, despite their success this season, Cleveland does not jump off the page as a free-agent destination. Due to their payroll limitations, the Cavaliers bench may become an issue in the future.
However, in the present, the Caris LeVert trade is exactly what Cleveland needed to get over the hump. His offensive production shall lift this otherwise middle of the pack offense to newer heights while maintaining their defensive integrity. The looming question, though, is whether or not the acquisition hampers their future, both in the draft and in free agency.
Without much financial freedom, the Cavaliers may have just squandered their chances at James Harden. Granted, if the LeVert trial does not pan out, he becomes a valuable trade asset to actually acquire Harden. That said, this theory is strictly theoretical at this point. Whereas, uplifting their current roster to a championship-caliber is precisely what Caris LeVert brings. All Cleveland can do now is wait and see if their gamble pays off.
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