The Cleveland Cavaliers are acquiring veteran guard Caris LeVert from the Indiana Pacers, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This appears to be the second big trade of the deadline season; the first being Trail Blazers-Clippers a few days ago. The NBA Trade Deadline is this week on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Cavaliers are sending PG Ricky Rubio’s expiring contract, a 2022 protected first-round pick and two second-round picks in exchange for LeVert, per Woj. Rubio is out for the season after tearing his ACL, so that’s a straight salary dump. The Pacers are also sending a second-round pick back in the deal via the Miami Heat.
This was the big move the Cavaliers always had to make after Rubio went down. Cleveland is already without Collin Sexton. The team lacked depth at guard behind All-Star Darius Garland. Now, the Cavaliers have two legit combo guards at the top of the rotation with LeVert on the roster. Rajon Rondo was brought in a minor deal from the Los Angeles Lakers to add depth. Rondo can be relied on a bit more off the bench.
Now the real question: Does this move make the Cavs legit contenders? The Eastern Conference is very much wide open. There are a handful of teams at the top who can feasibly come out of the conference and advance to the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Cavaliers all have a shot in the playoffs.
A lineup of Garland, LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen is pretty formidable. That would mean the Cavaliers can bring Rondo, Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love and Cedi Osman in off the bench. Dean Wade wouldn’t need to play big minutes. The Cavs would only be at a disadvantage given their lack of experience in the postseason.
We’ll see what Cleveland’s futures look like on DraftKings Sportsbook once the lines get back up after the news. It’s a stretch to bet on the Cavaliers to win it all. It’s more realistic for them to surprise people and make it out of the East or steal the Central division title from Chicago or Milwaukee.
Update — The Cavaliers are now 25/1 to win the Eastern Conference. Those are the sixth-best odds, which makes sense. Cleveland is behind those teams mentioned above as well as the Brooklyn Nets, who have been struggling lately and could deal James Harden.