2023 NBA Draft: Could the Cleveland Cavaliers make a trade?

Making a trade for Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis or a first round selection could both be options for Cleveland
trade allen porzingis
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 23: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Washington Wizards fights for position against Jarrett Allen #31 of the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 23, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: The user expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, the user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s always an arms race at the top of the NBA, new league-wide collective bargaining agreement be damned. Over the weekend, the Phoenix Suns acquired a package headlined by star guard Bradley Beal for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and multiple draft picks. While the Western Conference is now a wider bloodbath with Beal in Phoenix, the trade did knock the Washinton Wizards, Beal’s former team, from a hapless hopeful to a full-scale rebuild.

It seems likely that the Wizards will begin having a fire sale of the pieces they put around Beal for several seasons. Mind you, it won’t happen all at once – this isn’t the NBA 2K series where you can manifest a trade with just a snap. But don’t be shocked when free agents like Kyle Kuzma don’t return to The District or veterans like Paul, Kristaps Porzingis, Monte Morris or Delon Wright are traded leading up to next year’s annual trade deadline.

Speaking of Porzingis, when the Beal news broke, Right Down Euclid was flooded via email and social media about the Cleveland Cavaliers trying to acquire him. In this hypothetical scenario, Cleveland would send out big man Jarrett Allen while acquiring Porzingis as his replacement, which makes sense on paper. Porzingis is big enough to play center alongside Evan Mobley because he can stretch the floor and give Mobley the space required to attack from inside. The Washington big man can also provide passable defense, especially on the interior, and wouldn’t be a total liability within head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s schemes.

Unfortunately, Right Down Euclid is here to burst everyone’s bubble on the idea behind Porzingis coming to Cleveland. First, Porzingis would muddy things up quite a bit on offense considering he’s averaged 26.9 plays per game in his career, 28.0 plays per game with the Wizards and has scored 19.6 points per game in those possessions. Allen, meanwhile, has averaged 16.3 plays per game in his career, 17.0 per game with the Cavaliers and 12.0 points per game in that stretch. It’s nearly an eight-point swing, but the usage rate is also vital. Allen has always been a low-usage player on offense, allowing teammates like Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell more opportunities to thrive. Porzingis, meanwhile, could disrupt the flow quite a bit and the offensive juice he provides could not be worth the squeeze.

Meanwhile, Allen is a shade better than Porzingis when comparing their bodies of work defensively, with Allen allowing 0.5 points per 100 possessions less than Porzingis. But, over the last two seasons, the Wizards have allowed 112.2 points per 100 possessions with Porzingis on the floor. In that same span, the Cavaliers have allowed 107.3 points per 100 possessions with Allen on the floor. That five-point defensive swing and the offensive difference would only give Cleveland a net rating boost of nearly three points per 100 possessions. As valuable as Allen is, Cleveland adding Porzingis by sacrificing their defensive big man may not be worth it.

Sure, trading defensive grit for offensive firepower should be how the Cavaliers tackle things this summer. But, and this cannot be stressed enough, Cleveland will not be making franchise-altering moves this summer. That means there won’t be an Allen trade for Porzingis – or an Allen trade for anyone. Again, this isn’t NBA 2K, and sometimes boredom goes hand-in-hand with instant gratification. 

Instead, keep an eye on free agency, with multiple sources saying Kuzma is now becoming a more realistic target for Cleveland to sign with their full mid-level exception. Those same sources said that the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons and the Houston Rockets could also be in the mix for Kuzma and, more importantly, offer the high-scoring forward more money in free agency.

trade kris murray nba draft
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MARCH 09: Kris Murray #24 of the Iowa Hawkeyes drives past Justice Sueing #14 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half of the second round in the Big Ten Tournament at United Center on March 09, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Ultimately, it chalks up to how much Kuzma prioritizes winning on the court over winning whenever he checks his bank account. He would be a near-seamless fit alongside Mobley and Allen and could give the Cavaliers a lot more fluidity rotation-wise. Kuzma’s shooting would give Cleveland a ton of spacing and his playmaking acumen would also unlock offensive wrinkles they weren’t capable of before.

That doesn’t mean the Cavaliers won’t try to make a trade when the 2023 NBA Draft opens on Thursday evening. Sources across the league have confirmed to Right Down Euclid the multiple reports that Cleveland is looking to find a way to sneak into the back half of the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. A separate source shared that the Rockets (20), the Jazz (28) and Brooklyn Nets (21, 22) are all viewed as teams that the Cavaliers will speak with on a deal. 

While Cleveland doesn’t have much asset-wise to work with, the same source said that Cedi Osman’s non-guaranteed $6.7 million contract could act as a lynchpin for a possible trade. If the Cavaliers could bring the teams mentioned above to the table, some believe Rudy Gay (Jazz) or Patty Mills (Nets) would be the players coming Cleveland’s way with a pick attached. Of course, trading with Utah would hinge on whether or not Gay picks up his $6.4 million player option next year, but there are options on the table for the Cavaliers.

If Cleveland can land a pick at 21, 22 or 28, they could have plenty of options to bolster their wing rotation. Mind you, the Cavaliers haven’t worked out any first-round prospects during the pre-draft process. But considering that Cleveland still needs a first-round choice, it’s fine not to understand prospects within this range completely. The Cavaliers can rely on scouting and intel gathered by their staff always on the road if they suddenly find themselves picking in the first round.

The prospects that make the most sense for Cleveland in this speculatory spot are Iowa’s Kris Murray, Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski or Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis. All three are bigger wing-type players that can give the Cavaliers a much-needed scoring threat on the perimeter. Sure, they all have their lumps – Murray will be 23 next month and Podziemski and Lewis struggled on defense in college. But, these players shouldn’t expect to be day-one, heavy minute contributors immediately, either.

Many people will scream and point to rookie forward Christian Braun contributing to the championship-winning Denver Nuggets a few weeks ago. That’s an incredibly lazy take considering Braun only had one major outburst in Game 3 of the 2023 NBA Finals and discredits how otherwordly Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were. Braun averaged 5.8 points on 3.4 attempts in 16.2 minutes per game in the NBA Finals. That’s more than probably anyone reading this article averaged and also crystalized the importance of grabbing NBA-ready wings through the draft.

Landing a player similar to Braun, Murray, Podziemski or Lewis gives Cleveland a cost-controlled option to add depth on the perimeter. Sure, they might not play much. But they can also be relied upon in random moments and be the deciding factor in a playoff game. That can make things easier for the Cavaliers when things roll around to free agency and allow them to be more dynamic with their options with only two more days to go until we know where things stand in the NBA Draft.

Buckle up.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at evan@downeuclid.com. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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