NBA Insider reports the Cavaliers are open to trading a core player

Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

The NBA offseason is a time for rumors. In truth, the entire calendar year has become open season for trade rumors, but the offseason is when the games take a break and everyone can put their full attention on dreaming of fun possibilities for their teams and favorite players.

One of the most popular rumors swirling around the Cavaliers has been the possibility of trading All-Star center Jarrett Allen. The impetus for such rumors makes sense: it’s hard to play two non-shooting big men and win in the NBA, and Allen disappointed against the New York Knicks in the playoffs this past year. Flipping Allen for help on the wing would alleviate the shooting problem and give them a more versatile lineup.

Trade rumors are suddenly becoming concrete

Those fanciful ideas of trading Jarrett Allen are suddenly something much more. Unlike the unsubstantiated and ridiculous idea of trading Darius Garland, which cropped up last week, the prospect of the Cavaliers trading Jarrett Allen has moved from dreams to the corner of reality.

One of the most plugged-in NBA Insiders in the business is Marc Stein, and he recently reported in his Substack newsletter that the Cavaliers prioritized Max Strus in free agency because of his toughness in the playoffs. He then dropped this fascinating line:

"On the same subject, there have been some whispers this week that the Cavaliers are more open to trading Jarrett Allen than advertised for the opposite reason: He appeared to struggle with the moment at various points of the Cavaliers’ five-game exit to the Knicks."

This is, to this humble author’s knowledge, the first time concrete reporting has pointed to the Cavaliers organization themselves considering an Allen trade. Fans and amateur trade gurus have been doing it for months, but now it has become clear that the Cavs are doing the same.

There are plenty of options available for such a move, from flipping Allen for another center to trying to trade him for an upgrade on the wing. That could mean turning Allen into a veteran or two, or moving him for younger pieces to grow with this young core. There are plenty of options available for the Cleveland front office.

If the Cavs move Allen for a wing or forward, which is the most likely thing to happen, Evan Mobley would need to move to center. He is an elite rim protector, but hs also lacks bulk, which could be an issue over an 82-game season. He also has thrived when free to roam the court, similar to what the Milwaukee Bucks have done with Giannis Antetokounmpo in pairing him with Brook Lopez. Breaking up the combination of Mobley and Allen would make them a worse defensive team; there’s no way around that.

The series against the New York Knicks was this group’s first playoff series together; for Mobley and Garland, it was their first playoff series period. Was the loss to the Knicks really Allen’s fault? And just how badly did he play? We’ll dig into those questions in another piece, but scapegoating Allen seems like a weird gut response to a five-game sample with a rotation that wasn’t ready for prime time.

If Koby Altman and the front office think it’s hard to build a top-flight NBA offense with two non-shooting bigs, that’s fine. If they think they improve their long-term chances by building a more versatile roster positionally, and trading Allen is the best path to get there, that makes sense.

However, If they, or owner Dan Gilbert, wants to trade Jarrett Allen simply because he didn’t appear to play well in one playoff series, that’s an emotional response and not smart team-building. There were a lot of things going on in that playoff series, and laying all of the blame on Allen seems bizarre and short-sighted.

Next. Grade the Trade: Cavaliers add Max Strus, lose two wings. dark

Whatever the reason, Marc Stein’s report means the Cavaliers are indeed considering this. Will Allen be in another uniform by the start of next season? For the first time ever, the answer to that question has moved from the fanciful and put boots on the ground. Now, we wait.