The Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired power forward Lauri Markkanen in a sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Markkanen, who averaged 13.6 points per game in 2020-21 while shooting a career-high 40.2 percent from 3-point range, agreed to a four-year, $67 million deal with the Cavs.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Cleveland will send prized forward Larry Nance Jr. to the Blazers in return, while the Portland Trail Blazers will send forward Derrick Jones Jr., a protected first-round pick and a protected 2023 second-round pick (via the Denver Nuggets) to Chicago.
With the Cavs the stars of the show in this deal, it makes sense to focus on what the trade means for them, particularly with Markkanen’s contract indicating a significant role in Cleveland’s rotation.
Nance provided the Cavs with a defensive-minded forward who could wreak havoc in passing lanes with his length but found himself at a physical disadvantage against larger players at 6’7.”
Despite this, Nance was also developing on the offensive end. Already a sound decision-maker as a passer and an excellent leaper who routinely made above-the-rim highlight plays, Nance was making strides as an outside shooter (36.0 percent from 3-point range last season) and ball-handler, often playing a quasi-point-forward role with Cleveland.
He’ll now bring those skills to the Blazers, who finished 29th in defensive rating last season (116.0).
Jones will join the Bulls as a defensive-minded forward, although his shooting development is behind the latter’s (31.6 percent from 3-point range last season). The Bulls, who traded versatile veteran forward Thaddeus Young to the San Antonio Spurs this offseason and will need to a player with a similar skillset to help compensate for Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan’s defensive limitations.
To that point, Markannen’s defensive reputation isn’t stellar. That matters less so on the Cavs, who have an above-average defensive frontcourt with Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen starting, and second-year forward Lamar Stevens likely to receive minutes with the second unit as well.
However, what will make all the difference for the Cavs is Markkanen’s combination of height (7’0″), shooting ability (36.6 percent from three for his career) and guard skill, as he compliments a frontcourt lacking dependable shooting outside of Dean Wade and Kevin Love (a buyout candidate).