The Cavs have sent Larry Nance to Portland in a trade for Lauri Markkanen.
The Portland Trailblazers got a huge piece to their puzzle on Friday, as the Cavs, Bulls, and Trailblazers agreed on a three-team deal with the Bulls sending Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland, and Larry Nance off to Portland. In addition to the trade, the Cavs have agreed to an extension with Markkanen for $67 million over four years.
Chicago is getting back Derrick Jones Jr. from Portland, who had just signed with the Trailblazers in 2020, as well as a lottery-protected first-round pick from Portland and a second-round pick from Cleveland.
This is all according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
What is Koby Altman doing with this trade?
I like Lauri Markkanen quite a lot, and I even like his salary for the next four years. What I don’t like, and what needs to be pointed out, is that Markkanen doesn’t fit on this team as it’s constructed. This is maddening because either Altman doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care.
The Cavs are a defensive-minded team first. It’s the whole crux to their identity. It’s why they signed J.B. Bickerstaff in the first place. Why they drafted Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley in back-to-back years. No one with a clue thinks they’re going to turn into Kawhi Leonard or prime-Dwight Howard, everyone is just hoping they develop into Bruce Bowen and Tyson Chandler; defensive-minded guys.
Markkanen is a fine offensive player, he’s inconsistent offensively; +0.1 in ’17-18, +1.0 in ’18-’19, -1 in ’19-’20, and -0.5 in ’20-’21, but for the most part he’s fine. He has good shooting splits for a big-man, 44% from the floor for his career and 37% from three for his career, an 80% plus shooter from the free-throw line, but he is a soft rebounder though. Think prime-Brook Lopez. Markkanen is also a little turnover-prone. Again, not bad, just not consistent.
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In any other circumstance, save for trading Collin Sexton or a first-rounder, I’d be very happy to get Markkanen. He would’ve been the best scorer off the bench the team may have ever had. Sure, he’s a defensive liability but Jarrett Allen, Mobley, and Nance would’ve helped negated that.
Now, however, Markkanen will replace Nance, who everyone thought would replace Kevin Love in the starting lineup. Markkanen will now need to fill in for Nance on defense, on top of providing an offensive pop. He’s never shown the ability to be that type of defender before.
The whole point of building a ball club that has an identity is going after guys who can fulfill that identity. That was one of the key reasons so many were debating between Deni Avdija and Okoro. Like with Okoro, Avdija fit a need in the scheme of the team. A defensive-minded wing player. That’s why so many, wrongly so, are so bullish on Cam Reddish. The one thing he does do well is cover the third-scoring option on opposing teams.
Can’t shoot worth a lick but he can lock down a guy who’s not an All-Star. In the context of this team, Reddish actually makes sense from a defensive perspective. He still doesn’t fit offensively though.
So in the Cavs pursuit to build the Cleveland-version of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, the Cavs gave up one of their best defensive player. That’s like being on an NFL team, hearing you need a running back, and trading away your entire offensive line to go get him.
The only way, the absolute only way, this deal makes any sense at all is if Nance wanted out of Cleveland. Then I’ll eat crow, accept the trade as is, and be fine with it. Until that day comes, which it may never, this trade was a bad one. Not because the player in return isn’t good, he is, it’s because the player in return doesn’t fit with the narrative of what this team is trying to be.
And considering you just wasted two draft picks on guys with no real offensive game to speak of, we were all kinda hoping that this team would be all about that defense.
As the kids would say; Altman is going to Altman.