Grade the Trade: Cleveland Cavaliers deal for Utah Jazz big in swinging pitch

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers
Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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As the Cleveland Cavaliers look to replicate their successes from last season and learn from their failures, they have been unafraid to make changes in the roster and lineup.

With their core of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley at the helm, the Cavaliers are on the better side of the rebuild that began in 2018 after LeBron James' second departure from the Land. After a 51-31 season in 2022-23, the Cavs fell apart and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Knicks. While they took steps forward that year, there was plenty of work to be done.

The following offseason had no shortage of moves, as the Cavs opened free agency with a sign-and-trade to acquire Miami Heat wing Max Strus and a move to add veteran 3-point shooter Georges Niang to the roster. Additionally, Cleveland added Ty Jerome and Damian Jones before eventually signing former Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson on a veteran minimum. All these moves ranked Cleveland's offseason as one of the best in the league (subscription required), building upon an already great team.

At the onset of the 2023-24 season, the Cavaliers have continually struggled to find their footing with injuries plaguing the entire roster. Entering the season, the long-term fit between frontcourt duo Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen was a primary point of emphasis for onlookers, as the two non-shooters could not overcome the Knicks' physical playstyle in the postseason. Unfortunately, Allen did not play until game six this season due to a left ankle bone bruise.

Due to Allen's untimely injury, the Cavs could not see how the two young bigs worked in a more perimeter-centric offense. Since his return, though, Allen and Mobley have not lost a step. They have not looked any better than last season as a tandem, however. While Mobley's offensive progression steadily improves, the long-term pairing next to Allen is still questionable. Neither player has developed an outside shot, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has often resorted to staggering both players' minutes with only one of them on the court at any given time.

Staggering Mobley and Allen can work for the regular season, but in a playoff series where they need their best five players on the court together as much as possible, it is hard to imagine Mobley and Allen resolving last year's concerns. The best option may prove to be splitting up the frontcourt in a trade.

For that reason, Allen may become the odd man out for Cleveland when the trade deadline draws near, as the Cavaliers will undoubtedly prioritize Mobley's growth above all else. Finding the right suitor for Allen is not perfectly straightforward. The 25-year-old center is a dominant defensive anchor and constant lob threat on offense. His playstyle and skillset would be relished by every team in the league; however, finding the right deal would be far from easy.

In return for Allen, the Cavaliers need a player who can maximize Mobley's potential as an offensive hub and put in strong rebounding effort every game. Although that type of player is far and few between (and coveted wherever found), the Cavs could consider revisiting a former trade partner once again.

Could the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz strike a deal this go-around, too?

In 2022, the Cavaliers traded for Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. If the Cavaliers are ready to break up the Mobley/Allen pairing, calling up Salt Lake City again could be the best move. Currently, the Jazz frontcourt is oversaturated with talent, as Walker Kessler, John Collins and former Cavalier Lauri Markkanen are all competing for minutes.

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