Caris LeVert Makes the Cavaliers a Contender

The Cleveland Cavaliers have strengthened their chances at an Eastern Conference Finals run by adding Caris LeVert to their ranks. Cleveland has acquired LeVert from the Indiana Pacers sling with a 2022 2nd round pick via the Miami Heat. The Pacers received a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick, two 2nd round picks, and Ricky Rubio from the Cavaliers in return. 

Caris LeVert Makes the Cavaliers a Contender

Pacers Cash in on Huge Performance

The trade comes only two days after LeVert put up a career performance against the Chicago Bulls.  LeVert scored 42 points in the loss, adding five rebounds and eight assists to that line in his 41 minutes. The seventh-year shooting guard has averaged 18.7 points per game this year for the Pacers. Indiana is struggling (to put it politely) and the rebuild has begun. The front office pulled the trigger on this deal while LeVert’s name was as hot as it could be.

Cleveland Stakes its Claim 

With this move, the Cavaliers are solidifying themselves as a real contender for the Eastern Conference championship. LeVert is a solid ballhandler with a great touch at the rim. He has a solid mid-range game that he compliments with a nice pull-up. LeVert is also a quality teammate. He finds the open man and is an active contributor on the boards as well. The Cavaliers will benefit from LeVert’s scoring prowess. He provides them with another option in late-game scenarios. LeVert is willing to take big shots and won’t back down in the clutch. 

Cleveland moved quickly to replace the injured Rubio when he went down to an ACL tear in December. They traded Denzel Washington to the Los Angeles Lakers for Rajon Rondo. LeVert joins a solid core of young talent that includes Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and his former Brooklyn Nets teammate Jarrett Allen. The veteran presence of Kevin Love and now Rondo gives the Cavaliers a balance well suited for a playoff run. The eastern conference is wide open and as it stands today, Cleveland has just as good of a shot as anybody to get to the finals. 

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A Good Return?

Pacers fans have hopefully come to terms with their reality by now. This talented roster, unfortunately, didn’t work and it is time to rebuild around their young players. LeVert was the first chip to fall in a period that will likely see the exit of stars Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. The question remains, did the Pacers get their money’s worth in this deal?

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The haul of Rubio, a protected first and two second-round picks is what that Pacers got for LeVert, who will be a free agent in 2023. Rubio is a salary dump for Indiana. When his contract expires at the end of the year, the Pacers will be $26 million under the salary cap. We will see if there is enough left in Indianapolis to entice a potential free agent in the offseason. 

The 2022 first-round pick heading to Indiana is lottery-protected, but the odds of Cleveland falling to the lottery are low. It may be a late-round pick, but the Pacers have a history of turning these mid-to-late picks into quality players. You need to look no further than rookie guard Chris Duarte

The final pieces of this trade are the 2022 and 2027 second-round picks via the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz respectively. The Houston pick looks to be an early second-round pick, which the Pacers could turn into a bench-level contributor. They lose their own second-round pick in this deal and the 2027 pick is ungradable. While the recent pop of a 42-point barrage makes this feel like a small return, the Pacers have the opportunity to make this trade a win in this year’s draft. 

Final Thoughts 

The Pacers get two useful draft picks and additional free-agent cap space. It will be difficult to grade Indiana on this trade until we can see what these assets turn into. 

The Cavaliers get a boost in their backcourt and a shot in the arm offensively. LeVert is not only talented but is incredibly tough. He bounced back from surgery last season to put up career numbers to finish off the year. This gives Cleveland a real shot at a deep playoff run. If they cash in on that, they won’t care if the Pacers eventually win the deal. 

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