The NBA trade deadline isn’t until late March, but the Cleveland Cavaliers have already made a blockbuster trade. The Brooklyn Nets acquired superstar James Harden from the Houston Rockets (without giving up Kyrie Irving) in a massive four-team deal that included the Cavs as facilitators. Cleveland landed 22-year-old center Jarrett Allen and veteran wing Taurean Prince in a move that changes the long-term outlook of the franchise.
Here are the full terms of the trade from what we know so far:
BKN receives: SG James Harden
HOU receives: SG Victor Oladipo, SG Dante Exum, SF Rodions Kurucs, 2022, 2024, 2026 BKN first-round picks, 22 MIL first-round pick, 2021, 2023, 2025, 2027 BKN first-round pick swaps, future second-round pick
IND receives: SG Caris LeVert, future second-round pick
CLE receives: C Jarrett Allen, SF Taurean Prince
For the Cavs, they give up Dante Exum, the Bucks’ 2022 first-round pick, and a future second-rounder to land Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince. Yogi Ferrell and Thon Maker will reportedly be waived to make room for the new additions.
For a while, it seemed as if that Milwaukee first-round pick might hold some decent value, but once Giannis Antetekounmpo signed his extension, that hope went out the window. The pick will almost certainly be in the late first round, and while it’s still an asset, the odds of the player selected with that pick being as good as Allen are very slim.
Now, to the players. Prince was the 12th overall pick in 2016 and spent his first three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks before being traded to Brooklyn. He is in the first year of a two-year $25.5 million contract. Prince stands 6-foot-7, 218 pounds and while he doesn’t provide much defensively, he’s a solid scorer who should be able to find success in a depth role with the Cavs. His $13 million salary next season could be traded if the Cavaliers wish to continue the cycle of taking on bad contracts for assets. Prince was included in this deal in order to make salary work, but he’s far from a bad player. Perhaps head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be able to work some defense into him.
The centerpiece of this deal (at least for Cleveland) is Allen, who will turn 23 years old in April. He’s in his fourth NBA season after being taken 22nd overall in 2017. At 6-foot-11, 243 pounds, he has great size for a big man, and it’s impossible to forget his trademark afro hairstyle. Allen is an excellent rim protector, and has the potential to develop into perhaps the NBA’s best defensive center, not because of his rim protection ability, but because of his quick feet and elite length (7-foot-6 wingspan). He has no issue switching onto smaller players on the perimeter, and more than holds his own out there.
Andre Drummond is a fine defender inside and holds the league’s top defensive rating so far this season, but he struggles to defend outside the paint. Allen does not have that limitation, and it’s why this trade is such a massive win for the Cavs. Drummond is going on 28 years old and is likely to be traded before this year’s deadline, as his $28 million expiring salary will be very attractive to teams in cap hell. Drummond has obviously had a huge role with the Cavs this season, but he’s never been a long-term piece. Allen is, and it’s a wonder he cost so little.
Allen has never averaged more than 26.7 minutes per game, which is why his numbers don’t look all that impressive: In 12 games this season, he’s putting up 11.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 blocks while committing only 1.8 fouls. He’s shooting 68 percent from the field (over 20 percentage points higher than Drummond) and 75 percent from the free throw line. Allen also ranks 14th in defensive rating, a number that should skyrocket once he starts playing with the best defensive team in the NBA.
Once Drummond is out of the picture, whether that that happens at the trade deadline or after the season, Allen will finally be a full-time starter with the Cavs for the first time in his NBA career and based on his per-36 averages, that is something to look forward to.
Allen per 36 minutes in 2020-21: 15.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.1 blocks
What Allen does not offer right now is a refined offensive game or floor spacing. He’s almost like a significantly better version of Tristan Thompson, but with the potential to develop his scoring ability. Allen will be a restricted free agent next season, and extension talks between his camp and the team will likely begin immediately.
It’s unclear how much he’ll demand because he doesn’t have the pure stats to match up with other young players who are being paid handsomely.
Final grade: A++
There’s a very real chance that the long-term contract Allen plays on with the Cavs will be even more of a bargain than what the team gave up to get him, and that was highway robbery.