Let’s start with the reasons why the Cavaliers shouldn’t make this deal. They already have a lot invested in their two starting bigs, and without moving Jarrett Allen the only space left for a player like John Collins is to come off the bench. $26 million is a lot to pay for a bench player, even in the modern cap environment.
Collins is an inconsistent defender, which makes it hard to trust him defending behind the shaky defense in the backcourt the Cavs already deal with. He shot an abysmal 29.2 percent from 3-point range last season, and he is under contract for the next three seasons.
Now for the positives. Collins is a monster rebounder, especially when he is allowed to operate near the rim. That was a clear weakness against the New York Knicks and one that this team didn’t exactly address this summer. His shot did fall off last season, but he also still shot 80.3 percent from the free-throw line, and hit 40 percent two consecutive seasons in 2019-20 and 20-21.
Collins isn’t an elite rim protector, but he’s not a pushover either; his size and shot-blocking are much better than Niang, for example. His vertical ability will make him a sparkling pick-and-roll partner, and he has a decent chance to regain his corner 3-point shot.
Trading for John Collins is a significant risk; if he doesn’t work out, the Cavs are on the hook for his contract for multiple seasons while they are trying to build a contender around Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. With that being said, it also opens up possibilities, either to trade Allen and start Collins and Mobley, or to use Collins as matching salary in a bigtime trade.
Play Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen 32 minutes each, and you can still give Collins 24 minutes off the bench, essentially playing as the PF when one of Allen or Mobley is on the bench, and then have eight left over for defense (Wade) or shooting (Niang) depending on the situation.
Isaac Okoro is a good chance to have his value crumble this season as his role diminishes, and Caris LeVert is not a long-term fit for the Cavs. This deal is expensive and risky, but it also comes with a first-round pick — in fact, the Cavaliers’ own coming back from the Donovan Mitchell deal. That frees them up to move a first in a deal for a 3-and-D wing.
This trade isn’t an obvious home run, but the more you dig into it, the more unexpected value emerges. This is creative and a deal the Cavaliers should strongly consider.