Would the Cavs say yes to this trade?
Trading two players at the same position is theoretically the easiest kind of trade to evaluate, comparing like-for-like, but it somehow rarely happens. This type of “challenge trade” essentially is a bet that two players will both be more impactful on different teams; each team has to expect to “win” or at the least not lose the deal.
Do the Cavaliers win this trade? It’s hard to say. Jarrett Allen had the better overall season last year, and was the more dominant defensive force. At the same time, Ayton was clearly being marginalized by head coach Monty Williams, and the friction between the two has been reported throughout. His previous two seasons were much more impressive.
Defensively, Allen certainly has Ayton’s number, but it swings back the other way on offense. Ayton has a deep bag of tricks around the rim, with a soft touch, a deadeye floater and a short jumper that Allen certainly doesn’t. You would like him to play with more force at the rim as a finisher, but at the same time, he plays with more force as a rebounder than Allen.
This truly is something of a “challenge” trade, as both players are similar enough that any comparison is trying to navigate their nuanced differences to come to a conclusion. Ayton is less than a year younger than Allen and is also under contract for three more seasons. Both are generally healthy.
Was Ayton’s friction with Monty Williams the reason he had a poor year, or was it a lack of motor once he got paid? Was Allen’s abysmal showing in the playoffs against the New York Knicks an aberration he can learn from, or a sign of a fatal flaw?
In the end, the Cavaliers should probably stick with the center they know. Ayton doesn’t space the court out to 3-point range, and the questions about his motor are concerning enough that the Cavs shouldn’t mess with their all-in chemistry. Still, these are the right kinds of questions for a team to be asking as it looks to improve.