Amico: Cavs Trade of Clarkson Rushed, Brings Nothing in Return

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- This isn't an indictment of Cavaliers GM Koby Altman. I generally think he gets more right than wrong.

I liked the coaching hire of John Beilein over the no-names that were also being considered. I liked the picks of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the draft. I have even liked Altman's wheeling and dealing at the trade deadlines.

But Monday's move that sent Jordan Clarkson to Utah stinks to high hoops heaven.

In return for Clarkson, the Cavs received Dante Exum and two second-round picks. Exum has been a total bust since the Jazz drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick in 2014. Major injuries to his knee and shoulder have robbed him of his potential. He is no longer explosive. He isn't very strong. His skills seem better suited for the minor leagues or overseas.

Clarkson is averaging 14.6 points; Exum is averaging 2.2 and was entirely out of Utah's rotation.

Along with all that, second-round picks don't usually result in much. The Cavs received a 2022 second-rounder that actually belongs to San Antonio and a 2023 second-rounder from Golden State in the trade.

So in summary, the Cavs got a non-NBA player and two future non-NBA players for Clarkson, one of the league's top scorers off the bench.


I understand the Cavs' desire to trade Clarkson and move some of the veterans for young talent. 

Clarkson has an expiring contract. He's been especially good off the bench this season. We all know players tend to be a little more focused and consistent in contract years -- and that's been Clarkson. He scored a season-high 33 points in his final game as a Cavalier.

Altman and the Cavs didn't want to lose Clarkson for nothing at the end of the season. It would have been tough to re-sign him. He is a nice scorer, but the Cavs were doomed to overpay Clarkson in free agency. He might have even taken less to go to a contender.

Basically, the Cavs and Clarkson were going to part ways in June or July. From that standpoint, a move makes a lot of sense.

But what was the rush?

That's what I keep asking myself. The NBA trade deadline isn't until Feb. 6, almost six weeks away.

Did the Cavs really feel gifting Clarkson to the Jazz was the best deal they could get? Maybe it was, but I strongly doubt it.

And even if so, just keep Clarkson then. Watching him play was one reason for fans to walk in the building. That too is something the Cavs are lacking.


Now, the trade of Clarkson also means more minutes for the likes of Sexton, Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. That can only be a good thing. In another season of development, Beilein is determined to play the young guys and let them take their lumps. 

But that doesn't erase the fact the Cavs could have and should have held out for something better. It was clear the Jazz wanted Clarkson. You can't blame them. He will be an excellent fit behind the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. in the backcourt. 

The Jazz had high expectations entering the season, but have been shaky so far. Clarkson will give their postseason goals an instant boost.

So if the Jazz only wanted to give up Exum and two second-rounders, the Cavs could have waited. That steal of a Utah deal would still be sitting there in February. Why not look around a little more, hold out and take a stand?

I can't comprehend making this trade now and almost guarantee I never will. You can talk all you want about clearing cap space, that the Cavs are going to use the money and future picks in another deal ... blah, blah, blah.

It could have waited.

The Cavs are also going to explore trading their remaining expiring contracts -- Tristan Thompson, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova and Brandon Knight. They won't trade them all, but you can be sure at least one will be moved. The same could be true with Kevin Love. This season, anything is possible.

Let's just hope they get something back in those potential trades. Because in the trade of Clarkson, the Cavs got nothing but a lump of coal and there is no other way to spin it.

Comments (8)
No. 1-6

Thanks for the story, Sam.

But what would have been your preferred deal? You didn't really suggest anything. I disagree that there is some kind of guarantee this deal would have been waiting for us in 6 weeks. Utah could have traded these assets away for some other 6th man.

It's like you said:

  1. The young players get more playing time since he's gone. Clarkson was definitely getting more minutes to increase his trade value, further stunting Garland's growth due to lack of playing minute in crunch time. Altman knows how you guys work. He was going to get destroyed by Cleveland beat writers if his numbers didn't improve soon before the break. I get it -- there's got to be some story to tell when there's actually no games being played. But did you see what Darius finally got to do in the final quarter the very first game after Clarkson was finally shipped?
  2. You really think we were going to get a lottery pick for Clarkson? Think again. I know you and Mr. Pluto are high on the young man, but anyone who enjoys advanced basketball statistics disagrees with you. Besides, the 3 assets we got for him are pretty much equivalent to one 1st rounder @ pick 20 or later.
  3. Salary. Now we can absorb a massive contract in return for better 1st rounder . Brandon Knight/??? can be be flipped for a bad contract player + much better asset.

Just my 2 cents.

Yours Truly, LeBronto.


Sam, I always enjoy reading your work but I have to agree I think you are missing some things here.

  1. Clarkson is a scorer and MAYBE there was another deal out there but its hard to see anyone giving a first rounder for him let alone 2 second rounders. What good does it do to keep him when this whole year is about Garland, Sexton, and Porter. Its time to see what they especially have in Porter possibly.

  2. I remember the first time Delly started coming off the bench for the team and many first and second opinions of his talents in Cleveland and around the league. Many smart people thought he was not worthy of a NBA uniform. Exum was the 5th pick in the draft. He has some talent . Wait until you bury him.

  3. Lastly, there are many who don't feel that Altman has made great decisions. Signing Love to that contract was a bad idea then and is a albatross. Two six foot guards is problematic as a starting backcourt. Does anyone really think Cedi Osman is a player you extend a 4 year contract?

There are much more questionable decisions that have been made then this trade in my opinion.


I couldn’t agree more Sam! This trade was trash like 90% of the Altman/Gilbert trades to date. Clarkson has more value than that. Exum is a MAJOR disappointment and poor value for Clarkson.


I agree w/ Sam. Possible he wasn't a big fan of the college boot camp and the rebuild. Contenders are seeming to want some defensive help which will be a problem with all of the guys to get rid of. TT might be our best chance. For some reason it seems the coach actually has a voice this year and the ball sticking and lack of ball movement truly matters in coaches system much like blatt. Going to have to go to Europe to find them, specially the big guys. I think Beilien offense is called the two gaurd operating with no true point and 5 shooters with no defense till the end of his run. Hopefully their not trying to revolutionize the game. I dont think they want to be stuck with all these guys till the last half hour and probably wish Love was already gone. I think TT could go fast next. Maybe Sexton,Cedi, + Nance could yield a lottery pick in a draft full of point gaurds YYEESS


The Cavs aren't going anywhere until management quits trying to sell tickets in lieu of building a championship team and do what needs done. They need to get worse in order to get better first dump Kevin Love and Kristen Thompson now not later. All their doing for this team is maybe selling a few more tickets costing the team lottery picks and in so doing crippling the future of this team. The only way your gonna build a championship team in Cleveland is through the draft. No top free agents are clamoring to come here That's the fastest and only way its gonna happen. The longer management waits to do this greatly increases the risk of building a team that for years is too good for lottery and too bad to even come anywhere close to a championship. Come on Cavs wake up and give the fans of Cleveland what they deserve and quit trying to sell tickets!!


Kudos for making a novel & reasoned argument, but it is very hard to agree or disagree w/o really knowing the market, something only a front office employee knows.

For better or worse, I have read everything I can find about this trade. I've found a few things & want to mention them on the off chance they're of interest.
--Clarkson apparently has materially improved this year in some ways that do, and some ways that don't, show up in a box score. See the article on the trade by "Early bird rights."
--Clarkson is also a really outstanding run/jump athlete (see 2014 Combine testing), something I haven't seen mentioned.
--Finally, I noticed that the Jazz took on a G League player about the same time as the trade was done. If the Jazz feel this can be additive to their team, I wonder why it can't help the Cavs.