The Lauri Markkanen trade was the right call for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Hindsight is a powerful thing, and it’s not something available to us at the moment. Usually, it’s not something I have to invest in personally, I rarely have a bad, flat-out wrong take. Yet, I have to own this one. I was adamantly against acquiring Lauri Markkanen for Larry Nance, and while I would love to have Nance back, Marrkanen was the right player for the Cavs.
The talk of trading Markkanen right now is a bit curious, he was one of the few most consistent players over the last 20-odd games when Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen both had issues staying on the court. His shot started falling and while he wasn’t a great defensive player, he was a solid guy who was longer than most of the guys he was matched up against. As one pro wrestler likes to say, he’s seven feet tall, and you can’t teach that.
Markkanen’s unique skill set, size, and positional use made him very interesting to watch. He was good on offense near the end of the season and his defense was no worse than Darius Garland’s. With Kevin Love not being a lock after this season to stay on the team, having a guy like Markkanen would help replace him should he get traded, sign elsewhere after the year or even retire.
I’m not saying build the team around him but he’s earned his contract and using him in a trade to improve the team would just require you to replace him. Not the move to make. Your best trade assets are Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, and maybe Cedi Osman if you need to make the money work (and you’re getting at least two quality guys back in turn).
The Cleveland Cavaliers still miss Larry Nance, however
Just because the Cavs made the right move by getting Markkanen, doesn’t mean that losing Nance hurt any less. Nance isn’t a $10+ million guy, not even close, but he’s an upgrade over a guy like Okoro. He does everything Okoro does but is longer and a better shot blocker.
He’s older, which isn’t a mark in his favor, but he’s someone that if he were cheaper, would’ve been perfect to play in this Cavs defense. He’s such a great hustle guy. He’s heading into the last year of his contract, and should he opt not to re-sign with the Pelicans after the 2022-2023 season, I hope the Cavs re-sign him.
Still, it’s been nice to see Markkanen do work and hopefully, he does so beyond this one year.