Worst Trade No. 10: Panic leads to Caris LeVert
The 2021-22 Cleveland Cavaliers looked like they were finally going to do it. After three seasons in the dregs of the NBA standings following the departure of LeBron James (again) they were above .500 and on track to secure a top-6 seed in the Eastern Conference, thus ensuring they could avoid the Play-In Tournament.
Then injury after injury struck the Cavaliers’ backcourt, with a bit of COVID-mandated absences sprinkled in. With Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio out for the season, the Cavs were leaning on two-way guards and the creaky Rajon Rondo to survive when Darius Garland wasn’t on the court.
The Cavs could have been patient, letting the season play out and letting the chips fall where they may. Instead, they traded Ricky Rubio’s expiring contract, a lottery-protected first-round pick and two seconds for Indiana Pacers swingman Caris LeVert.
That was a deal that looked bad at the time and got worse over time. LeVert is an on-ball player, a good scorer and passer who doesn’t have the skillset to thrive off-ball. The Cavs let go of the rope and stumbled to an eighth-place finish and a Play-In loss, then traded in the summer for Donovan Mitchell, rendering LeVert even more superfluous.
The first-round pick will convey this year, and at the time of writing the 2023 Draft has not occurred. The 2023 draft saw the Pacers land Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard with the 31st pick from the Cavs, and Nembhard was an All-Rookie performer this season, starting as a rookie. LeVert was a poor fit that the Cavs overpaid for trying desperately to make the playoffs, and that sort of impatient panic move is what lands you on a list of the worst trades.