In a move that shakes up the team’s roster, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired forward Lauri Markkanen from the Bulls and traded forward Larry Nance Jr. in a three-team deal. The trade, confirmed by Forbes, was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The full deal is as follows: Markkanen to Cleveland on a four-year, $67 milion deal via a sign-and-trade, Nance Jr. and a future second-round pick to Portland and forward Derrick Jones Jr. and a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Bulls. The second-round pick is a 2023 second rounder Cleveland acquired from the Nuggets in last season’s JaVale McGree trade, per a league source.
Nance Jr., the son of franchise icon Larry Nance Jr., has been a member of the Cavs since 2018 when he was acquired in a deal with the Lakers at the trade deadline. In 2018, he signed a four-deal extension with the Cavs that now has two years left on it. Nance Jr. has had injury issues in Cleveland — dealing with everything from a broken hand to an MCL sprain to an illness – but was one of the team’s better players in recent years and improved. His deal was also reasonable at $10.69 million this year and at $9.6 million the following year.
In getting Markkanen, Cleveland is betting they can rehabilitate the 24-year-old and betting on his best skill (shooting) being a missing ingredient for the team. Markkanen has played his entire career with the Bulls since being drafted seventh overall in 2017. Last year, he appeared in 51 of a possible 72 games, averaging 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game.
There are questions to be answered about how Markkanen will fit in Cleveland. In theory, his shooting should be a good fit alongside Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. However, it doesn’t seem reasonable to play them all on the court at the same time in order to provide spacing for the frontcourt. Markkanen is a poor defender, so perhaps he’s going to be best used playing alongside either player. In this sense, it’s fair to wonder if keeping Nance — who has played some three and can hang on the perimeter against some wings — would have made more sense. Was it worth paying a likely bench piece a deal paying him $17 million a year, pending information still not clear about how much of the deal is guaranteed, and at a position already has several players at? Aside from Mobley and Allen, Cleveland still has Kevin Love and Dean Wade taking up minutes up front with Love still commanding a massive salary if he is not traded or bought out before the start of the season.
Because they acquired Markkanen in a sign-and-trade, Cleveland also has hard capped themselves next season. That means the Cavs cannot surpass $143,002,000 in total salary. That leaves them with about $12 million in flexibility if they need it for trades or a free agent signing.