NBA Trades: Why the Trevor Booker trade matters to the Cavs

The Cavs are holding onto the Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick, but will it turn out to be the asset it was predicted to be?

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(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

When the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, one huge element was the 2018 first-round pick they snared from the Brooklyn Nets. In light of the Nets’ improved form this season, coupled with their recent trade coup, we analyze how Brooklyn’s on-court fortunes impact the Cavs’ potential trade moves next year.

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New life in New York

Brooklyn acquired D’Angelo Russell,  Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll in the offseason, but NBA pundits still thought the Nets would be one of the worst teams in the league, meaning that Cleveland could have a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, at 10-15 at the time of writing, the Nets find themselves 11th in the Eastern Conference, and have exceeded expectations somewhat. Given the fact that Jeremy Lin went down early for the season, and D’Angelo Russell is yet to return from arthroscopic knee surgery, the team has fared pretty well. 

Now, more help is on the way as the Nets traded Trevor Booker for Nik Stauskas and Jahlil Okafor last week. Okafor was out of favor in Philadelphia and starts his new life in Brooklyn. He can be a solid player in the league thanks to his smooth, old-school post game that is rarely seen these days. Stauskas, meanwhile, had also fallen out of favor at the 76ers, but put up 9.5 points per game in 80 outings last season, shooting an impressive 37% from 3-point range. 

This is a great move for Brooklyn as both players are in a contract year and can be moved easily if they don’t work out. But impending free agency may force both to step up and show out for the Nets this season. With Okafor, Stauskas and Russell to enter the rotation, Brooklyn are poised for a strong rest of the season.

What this means for the Cavs?

The Nets’ pick will not top the draft, and there’s even a good chance that the pick might not even be in the top ten. Yet, the Cavs can definitely find top talent in the upper half of the first round. Just look at Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging 17.3 points per game for the Jazz off of 41% shooting from the field and 37% from deep, despite being the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

Let’s not forget that the Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went ninth and 11th, respectively. But if the goal is to make Cleveland a realistic destination for LeBron James again this summer, does a pick that currently has less than a two percent chance of being in the top three really provide any confidence moving forward? 

Including this pick in a trade package seems to be the best option for Cleveland. Once December 15 arrives, teams can trade players that were signed in the offseason, so the level of movement around the league will begin to pick up. Most teams are tight on cap space, so the next few months could be a strong trade period for the league. The Cavs have no movement in cap space at the moment, but making a trade could provide them with the room they need to make a team that LeBron James would take his player option for. Below, we list a couple potential trades that could make all this possible.

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Trade scenario one: Cousins to Cleveland?

Cavs receive: DeMarcus Cousins 

New Orleans Pelicans receive: Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green, Ante Zizic, Nets’ 2018 first round pick

Although DeMarcus Cousins is crucial for the Pelicans’ playoff hopes, they must also be wary that he’s in a contract year and could lose him this summer for nothing. Placing a rim protector in Tristan Thompson beside Anthony Davis and bringing in Jeff Green to improve their weak bench should be a consideration, not to mention a first-round pick that could translate into another solid piece. 

For Cleveland, the trade is a no-brainer. Adding a player in Cousins, who is averaging a staggering 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks a game, would be a huge coup. Having a dominant presence who can also spread the floor would give any team they face serious problems going forward, and would heavily increase their chances of competing with the Warriors. 

That Cousins is in a contract year can also work to their benefit. With the expiring contracts of Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, tallied with LeBron’s player option and Tristan Thompson being off the books, the Cavs will have more freedom to make moves in the offseason. They could potentially free up over $50 million dollars of cap space if LeBron exercises his option and re-signs, as Kevin Durant did for the Warriors last summer.

Trade scenario two: Jordan joins LeBron

Cavs Receive: DeAndre Jordan 

LA Clippers Receive: Tristan Thompson, Jae Crowder, Nets 2018 first round pick

DeAndre Jordan has a player option at the end of this season and can test free agency once again in 2018. The Clippers also need to be wary that Jordan could leave for nothing after this season, especially if they fail to make the playoffs. 

Thompson can insert himself as a rim protector and rebounder in L.A., while adding Jae Crowder would provide more depth to the bench, and could prove a key piece if Blake Griffin continues to struggle with injury. Then there’s the Nets pick, which could mean big things for the future. 

For the Cavs, Jordan is an elite rim protector and rebounder, and is always a threat to convert from the lob. If he exercises his option, the Cavs would also free up significant cap space for next season, allowing them to build a competitive team around LeBron.

The Cavs need to take the Nets’ recent trade dealings seriously. The Nets’ pick is losing its potency fast, and they could lose LeBron James just as quickly.   

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