The ultimate decision still lies with LeBron James, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are steadily inching closer to the King’s return.
As ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Wednesday morning, the Cavs have agreed to a three-team trade involving the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics that will shed the contracts of Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev in the process. The Nets will acquire Jack and Karasev in the deal while Boston will add youngster Tyler Zeller to their roster along with Marcus Thornton from Brooklyn and a first round pick from the Cavs. Cleveland will have to take on a second round pick from either Boston or Brooklyn.
This isn’t quite a blockbuster trade, but it’s an important one for all three teams, so let’s take a look at what grade each team gets for this deal.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B+
This grade instantly turns into an A+ if LeBron James ends up coming home, but for the time being the Cavs are giving up quite a few assets in order to pave the way for possible heartbreak. Jack was pretty underwhelming in Cleveland, averaging 9.5 points and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor and and 34 percent from three-point range. After a stellar year with the Golden State Warriors in which he put up 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game (45 FG%, 40 3P%), it was a pretty disappointing drop off.
However, nobody on the Cavs played particularly well last season and Jack still has some use as a backup in this league. Likewise, Zeller didn’t exactly set the basketball world on fire in his second year in the league (5.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG), but he’s another young asset the Cavs were hoping would pan out down the road. Karasev seems pretty expendable, but at age 20 he’s another young prospect, and including a first-rounder in the deal hurts as well.
Still, the move cuts tons of cap space ($9.5 million) even if Cleveland had to take a second round pick back. The Cavs now have the space to offer LeBron the max deal he wants and if this gamble for LeBron James pays off, it will be the best trade of the offseason. If it doesn’t, the Cavaliers didn’t lose too much that they can’t overcome in the future, but it would be another slight step backward for a team that desperately wants to return to the playoffs.
In 3-way, Cavs get: Draft rights to Nets prospects: Karaman/Drejer/Bavcic. And cap space — more than the $20.7M needed — to sign James.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 9, 2014
Boston Celtics: A
That darn Danny Ainge just continues to pile up the assets. Whatever your opinion on Tyler Zeller is as a player, the Celtics just added another young and potentially intriguing power forward/center hybrid to their ranks. Why is this important? Because with Boston still pursuing a trade for Kevin Love, Ainge now either had a new trade chip in Zeller or someone who will soften the blow if the Celts are forced to part with Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk.
Thornton is a bit of a gunner, averaging 9.8 points per game on 39 percent shooting in Brooklyn last season, but he’s proven in the right situation he’s capable of flourishing off the bench. It’s been awhile since Thornton’s been in the right situation, but the rebuilding Celtics might not be the worst place for him.
And then there’s the draft pick. Whether or not another first-rounder turns out to be the difference in a Love trade going through remains to be seen, but it is incredible how Ainge continues to pile on the assets to sweeten any potential deal. The Celtics had to take on a few contracts to get there, but they’re intently focused on adding Kevin Love and certainly aren’t done this offseason.
Deal gives Celtics assets for a big trade (like Love) but also allows for a long build as well (finally a young center with upside). — CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) July 9, 2014
Brooklyn Nets: C+
The Nets are kind of an afterthought in this deal that’s all about the Cavs, but after Shaun Livingston signed with the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn was left with a pretty decimated backcourt and Thornton certainly wasn’t going to fill that role. Jack is still a serviceable backup point guard and, as he showed with Stephen Curry in Golden State, he’s also a combo guard capable of playing off the ball. Don’t be surprised to see him and Deron Williams splitting time together in the backcourt.
Jack has a pretty sizable contract, but the money isn’t guaranteed for the 2015-16 season and Thornton was actually being paid more annually. Karasev might not move the needle much for most, but he’s a 6’7″ shooting guard who can light it up from the perimeter. Add that to the fact that he’s Russian and now you’ve got a Karasev-Andre Kirilenko-Mikhail Prokhorov connection going. The Nets aren’t losers in this deal, they’re just third on the podium.
Nets had discussed Jack at the deadline, but moved Evans & Terry for Thornton instead. Essentially got Jack and Karasev for Evans & Terry. — Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 9, 2014