David Banks/Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protection, via Houston)
Houston Rockets Receive: Wade Baldwin, Iman Shumpert, Nik Stauskas
Sacramento Kings Receive: Alec Burks, second-round pick
Really, the Cavaliers could get an “A.” I took off a few points because this blowup-fest should’ve started over the offseason and not included a Kevin Love extension. And no, I’m still not over it.
Anyway, this marks the eighth draft pick the Cavaliers have acquired this season. Eighth! Until now, though, not one of those extra selections projected to convey this year. The Rockets’ first-round pick, while likely a bottom-10 joint, is definitely going to end up in Cleveland.
Swallowing Brandon Knight’s 2019-20 salary ($15.6 million) is a circumstantial hazard. Absorbing salary isn’t as lucrative as it used to be, something the Cavaliers themselves proved when they sponged up Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson without snagging a first-rounder that’ll convey before 2021—and probably not before 2022.
If anything, this trade comes as a comfort. The Cavaliers wouldn’t be adding Knight’s money if they had designs on competing for something special next season. This rebuild thingamajig of theirs seems legitimate.
Knight might even turn out to be useful as an expiring-contract anchor in another trade next season. The Cavs are going to have tons of salary-matching goodies this summer, with Delly, Henson, Jordan Clarkson, JR Smith ($3.9 million guaranteed) and Tristan Thompson all entering contract years.
And should the Cavs decide to keep Knight in service of 2020 cap flexibility, they at least added another tank commander. A rotation relying heavily on him, Clarkson and Collin Sexton has the potential to be the fun kind of positively awful.
Houston Rockets: B+
Just so we’re all clear: No team deserves an award-winning grade for using a first-round pick to pawn off a junky contract. With that in mind: Nicely done, Houston!
Knight-plus-a-first for Kent Bazemore felt fait accompli for months. This deal is better. Bazemore is a more impactful playmaker, but Iman Shumpert has out-defended him and shot a better percentage from three this year. His contract also comes off the books after this season, whereas Bazemore holds a $19.3 million player option he isn’t turning down.
Nostalgics should appreciate the reunion between Shumpert and Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Magic Mike tried grooming Shumpert into a three-and-D player who jump-started the offense back in New York. This marriage feels right.
Nik Stauskas is a sneaky-good add if he sticks in Houston. He’s shooting better than 40 percent on spot-up threes, making him a solid option on James Harden and Chris Paul kick-outs. Don’t be surprised if he ends up stealing some of Eric Gordon’s minutes. Houston has more than enough ball-handling in tow following Austin Rivers’ arrival, and Gordon’s three-point splits are rough.
Sacramento Kings: Incomplete
Let us take a moment to reflect on how far the Kings have come. They would be receiving a trashy grade if this were last season, but they’ve fared well enough this season to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, their rise has little to do with the front office, so maybe giving them a to-be-determined grace period is too generous.
General manager Vlade Divac really, actually, truthfully seems to hate wing defenders. Sacramento needed reinforcements on the perimeter as previously constructed. Turning Shumpert into Alec Burks only amplifies that need. He brings another layer of shot creation, but the Kings get enough of that from De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield—though, using Burks as a backup point guard makes all sorts of sense.
Perhaps this is the precursor to another move. The Kings missed the boat on Otto Porter Jr., but Harrison Barnes is still available. Get him, and this trade, with the benefit of hindsight, will earn a passing grade—not a gold star, but a nothing-to-despise-here “C.”
Let the roster stand without making another trade, and, well, Sacramento is looking at something in the “D-” to “F” to “#Kangzzz” range. Shumpert hasn’t fallen off as the season soldiers on, but this roster is too light on wings for his regression to be a viable excuse.