The Cavaliers’ haul in the Kyrie Irving blockbuster included one of the NBA’s top scorers, a solid two-way wing on one of the league’s most affordable contracts, and a young big man with legit upside. Nonetheless, the crown jewel of the deal from Cleveland’s perspective may have been the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which is unprotected.
While that first-rounder will prove very useful if the Cavs need to retool their roster following the 2017/18 season, GM Koby Altman tells Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net that the team will consider every option for the pick — including trading it.
“When we acquired it, we had every intention of keeping it and using it,” Altman said of the Nets’ pick. “But I also think we have a responsibility to see to what’s out there. I think there will be tremendous interest. We have a responsibility to listen to calls.”
Even if the Cavaliers decide to hang onto the Nets’ pick, having it available gives the club more flexibility when it comes to making other trades. As we discussed earlier this week, the Cavs have traded their 2019 first-round pick, so normally they’d be prohibited from trading their 2018 first-rounder due to the Ted Stepien Rule. But with a pair of first-round picks now in hand for ’18, Cleveland has the freedom to move one of the two.
“A big thing we really valued when making the trade is the fact that it is unprotected,” senior director of basketball operations Brock Aller told Amico. “So looking at it, we have the flexibility to trade our own pick, or the pick we received (via the Nets).”
As Aller notes, that lack of protection is crucial — if the Celtics had placed even top-one protection on that Nets pick, the Cavs would have had trouble trading their own first-rounder, since there would have been a chance of being left without a first-rounder for two consecutive future years in that scenario, violating the Stepien Rule.
Ultimately, I’d expect the Cavs to hang onto the Nets’ pick and dangle their own first-rounder in trade talks as the deadline nears. However, if a star player becomes available or if LeBron James commits to staying in Cleveland beyond this season, the idea of trading that Brooklyn first-rounder would likely become more feasible.