The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently 19-12 on the 2021 NBA season and are on a current six-game winning streak. That has them sitting pretty as the current number three seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They are also just a game back of the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Central Division, and two and a half games back of the Brooklyn Nets for the best record in the conference.

So, why would anyone want to mess with this current Cavs team? They seem to have some of the league’s best chemistry on the court and their lineups are towering over other teams because of the sheer size that they put on the floor every second of the game. Well, that answer comes down to whether you think Cleveland is a playoff contender or not. If you do, like us, then you can start getting into the nuts and bolts on how to make this team reach its peak value. Once you do that, you realize the team is one superstar away from possibly becoming the next Phoenix Suns.

So, with a superstar as the barometer, we settled on New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and his on-again, off-again relationship with elite basketball. Whether the Pelicans do end up dealing Ingram is still a huge question mark, as he still has four years left on his deal. But, if they decide that they are going to be in a rebuild of any kind, they would be wise to part ways with as many high-money players and veterans as they can.

For this exercise, we are assuming the Pelicans will be sellers at the trade deadline, and with Ingram set to make $30 million over the next four years, it was a little hard to find a deal with the Cavaliers that would make it through ESPN’s NBA’s trade machine. In the end, we prevailed and this is the trade we came up with.

Cavs Get: Brandon Ingram – four years/$28.7 million per

                    2022 second-round pick

Pelicans Get: Lauri Markkanen – four years/$15.7 million per year 

                           Isaac Okoro – three years/$6.7 million per year

                           Dylan Windler – two years/$2.2 million per

As you can see, Windler and his almost expiring contract are needed to make the salaries match enough so that Cleveland could absorb Ingram’s salary.

The trade makes sense for the Cavs because Darius Garland has become the leader of their backcourt and Ricky Rubio has become a revelation. There is no room on the Cavaliers for Okoro to play forward so he is out of a job–and his comfort zone– as a backup two-guard. Also, if they add Ingram as the leader of the front-court to go along with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, they are looking at one of the best young cores in the NBA–if not the best.

For the Pelicans, they get a shooting big man in Markkanen that they can play next to Zion when/if he returns and this trade also gets them a half of a season to get a look at Okoro and determine a path for him moving forward. Most will look at this trade and probably like the Pelicans side more, as they are getting two players who have shown at times they can be on Ingram’s level. The issue is that neither Markkanen nor Okoro have performed consistently enough just yet to give faith to their coaching staff.