The NBA Trade Deadline is just days away, and fans could be in for a wild ride. Numerous teams appear to be buyers this year, especially in the Eastern Conference, as several contenders are within striking distance of the No. 1 seed.
Among those teams is the Cleveland Cavaliers. And it looks like they could be just a Caris LeVert trade away from becoming the favorites in the East.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are interested in Caris LeVert
There have been reports surrounding Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert and the Cavs throughout the past two months, but with the NBA Trade Deadline coming on Thursday, it looks like things could be getting more serious.
“The Cavaliers are trying to acquire Caris LeVert from the Pacers ahead of next week’s deadline. For a little twist, Indiana is on its way to Cleveland today for a game tomorrow,” The Athletic’s Joe Vardon tweeted on Feb. 5.
The Cavs have reportedly been one of the more busy teams in terms of having discussions leading up to the deadline. Reports have linked them to the likes of Eric Gordon, LeVert, and others.
The season-ending injuries to Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio have left the Cavs thin along the perimeter. Darius Garland is a star at point guard, but no other Cleveland guards average more than 10.6 points. The majority of their scoring comes from Garland (19.8 points per game) and their assortment of bigs in Jarrett Allen (16.2), Evan Mobley (15.0), Lauri Markkanen (13.6), and Kevin Love (14.5).
Adding LeVert, though, would be exactly what the Cavs need to become the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Caris LeVert would make the Cavs the Eastern Conference favorites
The Cavaliers have already become one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. They are 32-21 and just 1.5 games out of first place. However, Caris LeVert would make them the favorites in the East.
While they don’t have another scoring threat along the perimeter right now, LeVert would give them just that. He has averaged over 18.5 points each of the last three seasons and recorded as many as 20.2 for the Pacers and Brooklyn Nets last year. This season, LeVert is averaging 18.7 points, and he’s shooting 44.7% from the field.
He has also been tremendous since the middle of December, recording 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in his last 17 contests. He’s shooting 46.8% during that stretch and 34.1% from deep.
It’s not LeVert’s numbers that would help the Cavs the most, though; it’s the way he plays. Garland is the only player who can consistently create his own shot off the dribble. Big men like Mobley and Allen can, to a degree, but they aren’t threats along the perimeter, so it’s mostly just shots close to the rim or from midrange.
LeVert can use his dribble to create room for himself from midrange to deep. He would essentially become the Cavs’ fourth legit scoring threat, making them as difficult to defend as anyone in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland has won thanks to its stellar defense all season, but improving offensively would make the Cavaliers a more complete team and a matchup nightmare for anyone.
The other major threats in the East are the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Nets. If the Cavs can use their excessive length (they start three big men) and athleticism to defend the likes of Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and others, while also using those same skills to beat them offensively, all five of those squads would have a difficult time going against the Cavaliers, a team just a hot streak away from claiming the No. 1 seed.
So, to put it simply: The Cavs might be days away from becoming the favorites in the East if they can acquire LeVert.
How much will it take for the Cavs to pull off the trade?
The only issue with trying to acquire Caris LeVert is what it will take for the Cavs to get him.
In January, Mike Scotto of HoopsHype reported that the Pacers have a somewhat high asking price, looking for a young player and a first-round pick in return for the Michigan product. The Cavs control their first-round picks, but the young player is where it could get tricky.
Cleveland seems to love Isaac Okoro, a gritty defender along the perimeter. It doesn’t look like the front office wants to get rid of Collin Sexton, either, and Garland, Mobley, and Allen are likely off the table. But the deadline puts pressure on desperate teams, so the Cavs could decide to give up more than they initially wanted, or the Pacers, a team eager to start its rebuilding process, may just take what they can get.
Either way, it will be an interesting next few days. And the Cavaliers could be just one move away from becoming the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference