- Jeremy Freed
Trade Deadline Marathon: Day 4.3
CLE receives: SF Nic Batum, SG Malik Monk, 2019 2nd Round Pick (via OKC), 2020 2nd Round Pick (via CLE)
CHA receives: SG JR Smith, PG Jordan Clarkson
Good lord do the Hornets want to move Nic Batum. Other players may be getting paid more, but very few players get paid more to do less at this point than Batum. The Hornets do pay a price to get rid of him, including recent lottery pick Monk -- who isn't beloved by the current coaching staff -- and a couple of second rounders, including one that they'd simply be giving the Cavs back. They're not clearing their books outright, since Clarkson will be owed $13.4 million next year, and they'll need to buy JR Smith out for $3.87 million next season to forgo his full $15.7 million.
Still, they're taking on about $29.8 million in salary in order to get out from under $76.7 million just to Batum alone: well worth the picks and the player. And it's not unhelpful on the court either: Clarkson is averaging 17ppg off the bench, and would bring instant punch to the Hornets second unit, while Charlotte is just boring enough of a city to keep JR Smith in line.
Honestly, this might not really be enough for the Cavs to justify that much salary, but two factors make me think it might be. The first is Malik Monk, who has perhaps underwhelmed thus far, but is still a recent lottery pick -- the best sort of distressed asset -- who has the most important skill in the modern NBA: shooting.
This is a player who in his lone season at Kentucky in 2016-7 averaged almost 20ppg, shooting 40% from three, and perhaps more importantly in the eyes of many scouts who believe college free throw shooting to be a better predictor of professional shooting success, 82% from the line. All while winning SEC Player of the Year. He's been buried on the Hornets bench, but he would be given all the 2-guard minutes and then some with the Cavs, where he would definitely be scoring 20 points a game, and with Collin Sexton would give the Cavs a backcourt with some future.
The OKC second rounder doesn't have a ton of value, especially since the Thunder are playing so well, but every bit helps. Looking around the league and seeing the production second round picks are already putting forth in their rookie year -- Rodions Kurucs, Mitchell Robinson, De'Anthony Melton -- they might just find a diamond in the rough. Getting their own second rounder back is actually important: since the Cavs are rebuilding from the ground up, that pick is liable to be at the very top of the second round -- a virtual first rounder without the guaranteed contract structure, and a very valuable asset indeed.
It's a lot of Batum money to take on; no one doubts that. But to get a player of Monk's potential, as well as a few more picks to add to the war chest? It might just be worth it.
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