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NBA Trade Grades: Cavaliers Gear Up for the Playoffs With Caris LeVert

Cleveland pushed in its most valuable trade chip for Indiana’s second-leading scorer. Is this the move that puts the Cavaliers over the top?

Caris LeVert is headed to Cleveland. The Cavs acquired the shooting guard and a second-round pick from the Pacers in a trade Sunday, sending the expiring contract of Ricky Rubio, a lottery-protected first-round pick and two second-round picks back to the Pacers. LeVert, 27, is averaging 18.7 points per game this season. Rubio, a free agent this summer, is out for the year after tearing his ACL in December. Let’s grade the deal for both sides.

Cavaliers: B

My immediate reaction is I like but don’t love this move for Cleveland. At his worst, LeVert is an inefficient ball-stopper with tunnel vision for the hoop. At his best, he’s a secondary scorer who can create his own shot when the offense breaks down. The Cavs need more of the latter, even though LeVert has often been the former with the Pacers amid some rotational (and coaching) turmoil over the last year. LeVert is currently shooting only 32.3% from three and has never been a great floor spacer, yet he’s still an offensive upgrade over the defensive-minded Isaac Okoro. With their backline of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, the Cavs are probably willing to take a little bit of a defensive hit for more scoring juice. As long as LeVert doesn’t take away too many shots from newly minted All-Star Darius Garland, the fit is sensible.

Was it the best move for a deep playoff run? LeVert still has to prove he can be a closing player on a good team. If Eric Gordon was available, that may have been a better short-term move, but who knows how the discussion ended with Houston. LeVert is signed through next season and becomes extension-eligible in the summer. Cleveland should get a good sense for how he jells with the Garland-Mobley-Allen core before deciding how to proceed. The Cavs have definitely become better (especially considering Rubio couldn’t play). They also cashed in their best trade chip for someone who isn’t going to necessarily push them over the top.

Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) shoots the ball while Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) defends in the first half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Pacers: B+

This seems to be the start of a proper teardown in Indy, with ESPN reporting Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis could be next to go. It’s a shame the Pacers never got to play Turner, Sabonis, LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren altogether. Alas, while practically flashing an “Everything Must Go!” sign, the return for LeVert is pretty good! The Pacers get a first this summer, as well as Houston’s second-round pick, which should be essentially the same in value as another late first. And Rubio’s contract gives them one less year of money on the books and ample cap space this summer, which should help in kick-starting the rebuild. 

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