The Jazz traded 24-year-old guard Dante Exum and a pair of second-round draft picks to the Cavaliers for veteran bench scorer Jordan Clarkson on Monday, bolstering their depth ahead of a grueling fight for Western Conference playoff seeding.
The move comes amid a five-game winning streak that has pushed Utah within a game of the Mavericks for the No. 5 seed. Clarkson should give coach Quin Snyder’s stretched rotation some added life with point guard Mike Conley on the shelf due to a hamstring injury.
Cleveland, meanwhile, gets a 2014 lottery pick in Exum, as well as much-needed draft ammunition. This could be the first of several midseason moves for the rebuilding team.
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#Cavs are getting a 2022 second from San Antonio and a 2023 second from Golden State in this Utah deal for Jordan Clarkson, sources say.
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) December 24, 2019
It’s only December, but NBA trade season is now officially underway. Here’s an in-depth look at how the Clarkson-for-Exum swap could shake up the Jazz and Cavaliers, as well as other teams in the league.
Why did the Jazz want Jordan Clarkson?
With Conley injured and no indication of when he will be 100 percent, Utah has reinserted Joe Ingles into its starting lineup. While Ingles is thriving in a distributor role alongside Donovan Mitchell, his previous duties as the team’s most assured bench weapon have been vacated. Enter Clarkson, a combo guard used to handling the ball and leading second units in scoring (14.7 career points per game).
Clarkson is not a complete player, and Utah won’t ask him to be one. He is notoriously wobbly on defense and streaky on the perimeter. But the Jazz have a strong group of defenders they’ll deploy in an attempt hide Clarkson from difficult matchups (or at least provide help). His lone objective is to get buckets, something he’s been able to do throughout his six years in the NBA.
Rather than wait until next month to add a bench option, the Jazz capitalized on the chance to bring in a known commodity without giving up much 2019-20 value.
How might Dante Exum fit into Cleveland’s rebuild?
There is a chance that Exum, the oft-injured No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 draft, will not be in Cleveland very long.
Around this time last year, the Jazz dealt another prospect, Alec Burks, to the Cavaliers in exchange for Kyle Korver and two second-round picks. Burks, who also struggled to stay healthy in Utah, used his time on the Cavaliers as an audition for playoff contenders, and was subsequently dealt to Sacramento later in the campaign. Should Exum perform well in his new home before the trade deadline, a fringe contender needing a backup point guard may look to buy low on him. He is signed through next season.
Cleveland, of course, would love to see Exum develop into its lead guard of the future rather than mere trade bait. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have not yet proven they are long-term backcourt answers for the Cavaliers, and Exum will get the playing time necessary to try and translate his long frame and basket-attacking instincts into consistent NBA production.
But similar to Burks, who has carved out a niche as a solid role player for Golden State this year, Exum may no longer possess the ceiling that once made him a high first-round draft pick. The Australia native has not played in more than 42 games since the 2016-17 season, and he averaged just 2.2 points in 11 games for the Jazz this year.
Does this mean the Cavaliers will trade Kevin Love soon?
While the Cavaliers are reportedly listening to trade offers for Kevin Love, moving Clarkson likely does not impact the decision-making process on their star forward. They have no need to rush what will probably go down as the most important transaction of their rebuild, one that must bring back either lottery draft picks or significant young talent.
Still, we can expect Love rumors to grow more intense as the Feb. 6 deadline draws nearer.