NBA trade grades: Caris LeVert, Ricky Rubio, Norman Powell jumpstart deadline deals

Caris LeVert Indiana Pacers

NBA trade action is starting to heat up. The Clippers and Blazers made a swap on Friday, and the Pacers and Cavs made another on Sunday. Let’s get into what happened for each team. 

Clippers-Blazers NBA trade details

  • Clippers receive: Norman Powell, Robert Covington
  • Blazers receive: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, future second-round pick

Clippers grade: A

This is a clear win for the Clippers.

Covington is a good help defender with size at the wing. He’s not as adept at defending on the ball as his reputation suggests, and he can’t do much offensively besides shoot 3’s. Still, he’s a positive overall defender that fits well with what the Clippers need as a 3-and-D wing. 

Powell has had a strong year for the Blazers, averaging 18.7 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent shooting from 3. At 28 years old and in the first year of a five-year, $90 million extension, he’s a solid rotation player that will be locked up through the rest of his productive years. 

With Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely and Paul George missing significant time, the Clippers were one of the teams rumored to have veteran pieces up for sale before this trade occurred. Now, it looks like they are pivoting back to being as competitive as possible. Owner Steve Ballmer is willing to pay an exorbitant luxury tax penalty in order to do so. Kudos to him. 

This also gives the Clippers an open roster spot to convert Amir Coffey’s two-way deal into a regular contract. That will make him eligible for the playoff roster. Coffey isn’t well-known, but he has been a solid rotation player amidst their slew of injuries. 

Blazers grade: D-

The Blazers did get an okay prospect in Johnson, who was taken with the 21st pick in last year’s draft. He’s got the athleticism to be an NBA player, but he’s still extremely raw and hasn’t impressed in the G-League this season. Still, at just 19 years old, he’s got time to figure it out. 

Even if you are high on Johnson, this was a pretty poor trade strictly in terms of value for the Blazers. They clearly gave up more from a talent perspective, so why would they ever agree to this deal? 

The answer is all about the luxury tax. The Blazers ducked under the tax and also increased the Clippers’ tax bill substantially. The Blazers will now receive around $11 million in tax disbursements at the end of the year, which is a massive payday for ownership but not much consolation to the fanbase. 

Cavaliers-Pacers NBA trade details

  • Cavaliers receive: Caris LeVert
  • Pacers receive: Ricky Rubio, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected), 2022 second-round pick (via Rockets), 2027 second-round pick (via Jazz)

Cavs grade: B

LeVert is a bucket-getter. He’s averaging 18.7 points and dropped 42 on the Bulls in his last official game as a Pacer. He’s been criticized for his lack of efficiency – He’s hitting 45 percent of his shots this year and only 32 percent of his 3’s. But the Cavs need some scoring punch to juice up an offense ranked no. 20 in the league. LeVert can provide that. 

With the way that the Eastern conference is jumbled up, this move makes sense for the Cavs. They have a real shot at one of the top seeds in the conference, and the opportunity cost was low. 

Pacers grade: B

The Pacers aren’t done here, so it’s difficult to judge this move in a vacuum. More trades are coming, and that’s a good thing for a team that clearly needs change. 

They’re not really missing much from dealing LeVert. He wasn’t a great fit in coach Rick Carlisle’s system, and he was prone to killing offensive possessions with his takeover of the ball. He was never going to be a part of the next great Pacers team. 

The first rounder from the Cavs will almost certainly convey immediately as an early-to-mid 20’s selection in this summer’s draft. The Pacers also have all of their own first-round picks going forward to rebuild their roster. 

This trade also positions the Pacers well for free agency. They cut almost $19 million off their books by getting rid of LeVert and will now be major players if they so choose. This summer doesn’t have a great free agent class and the Pacers haven’t exactly been a hotbed for free agents. But with only the Pistons, Spurs, Magic, and Grizzlies projected to have big cap space, maybe they attract some better targets than they would in a normal year. 

Rubio was thrown in solely for salary-matching purposes. He’s an expiring contract and his ACL injury will keep him out for the rest of the season. 
 

Author(s)
Stephen Noh is an NBA writer for Sporting News