Pelicans three-team trade options for Larry Nance Jr.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline is looming, just 18 days away. The suspense and excitement are building with each and every mock trade for fans of the league everywhere. 

One player that doesn’t want to be thrown into these mock trades? Larry Nance Jr., power forward with the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Names like Nance get thrown into trade talks constantly around this time, though. He’s a talented player that isn’t vital to the operation of a team out of playoff contention and could use picks or other young assets going forward. 

Teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks have interest in the former Wyoming Cowboy. Nance is known as a talented defender, high-flying lob threat and guy who can get boards for your team — all the while being halfway through the second year of a 4-year, $44 million bargain deal

It’s not just those on the edge of contention that made trades at the deadline, though. The New Orleans Pelicans have been included in rumors surrounding a package deal for the former Los Angeles Laker. The Pels could use a defensive-minded big who’s also a lob-threat — that’d immediately complement Zion and would make Billy Hernangomez’s more-or-less evaporate. 

Money-wise, it shouldn’t take much to acquire Nance. In terms of fit with the current Pelicans roster and what the Cavaliers would want in exchange, though? Not so easy. 

On a squad like the Cavs that is starved for wings, the Pels don’t have much to offer. We know Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart are off limits, and the remainder of the roster holds just Wenyen Gabriel and Naji Marshall — two players that are currently in the NBA G-League bubble

In all likelihood, this will have to be a multi-team deal that involves some of the Pelicans’ treasure-trove of draft picks and J.J. Redick or Eric Bledsoe.

Option 1

Pelicans receive: Larry Nance Jr.

Cavaliers receive: Josh Richardson, Their 2021 second round pick (from the Pelicans), Lakers 2021 first round pick

Mavericks receive: JJ Redick

Multi-team trade deals are hard — making the money work, finding two or three extra teams that are in the market to get a deal done and involving picks is a lot. This one was easy. 

For the Cavaliers, Josh Richardson adds a defensive-minded veteran to their young backcourt of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro. While the young trio has earned the majority of starts this season for positions one through three, Richardson can step into the starting role of Okoro or come off the bench in relief for the Auburn product.

Along with additions of Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen, Richardson immediately improves the defense, and assuming he can return to his Miami form, his scoring and play-making ability add to the fact that he can mentor along one of your cornerstones of the franchise in Okoro.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rekEuvmSMCk

The picks are needed to get this deal done. While the Cavs are loaded at the power forward and center positions, Nance is a highly-coveted talent league-wide. It’ll take more than Richardson to get him out of Cleveland. The 2021 draft class is known to be full of talent and adding to their arsenal of chances to grab another star incentivizes the Cavs to take this deal. Cleveland may want the Pelicans first round pick rather than the Lakers’, but if David Griffin can hold onto New Orleans’ pick, he should. 

Sending Redick to the Mavericks gives them one of the things they desperately need to surround Luka Doncic with — more shooting. While Dallas has begun to get their feet under them after starting off the season slow with COVID-19 protocol issues along with injuries, they still need some help beyond the arc. 

After sending Seth Curry to the 76ers in exchange for Richardson and the No. 36 pick in the 2020 draft, the Mavericks are currently ranked 25th in the league in three-point percentage (35 percent), while simultaneously ranking ninth league-wide in three-pointers attempted per game — not ideal. Redick, while averaging the fewest amount of points per game in his career since third season in the league and his lowest three-point percentage since 2012-2013, is given much more room to work and benefits from the scoring capability and passing of Doncic. 

Win, win, win. 

Option 2

Pelicans receive: Larry Nance Jr., Denzel Valentine

Cavaliers receive: Lauri Markannen, Garrett Temple, Lakers 2023 first round pick

Chicago Bulls receive: Eric Bledsoe, Nicolo Melli, Lakers 2021 first round pick, Cavaliers 2022 second round pick

At first glance of this trade, one might ask, ‘Lauri Makannen and Garrett Temple are both on expiring contracts, why would the Cavs want them?’ One word: flexibility. 

In losing Nance, Cleveland no longer has a defensive stalwart on a cheap deal. But what they gain is the ability to bring back Jarrett Allen after his half season with the team on the lucrative contract he wants and deserves, plus the chance to offer a hefty extension to Sexton before he hits the open market. Along with that first round pick from the Lakers, this sets up the Cavaliers to look pretty solid once they’re rid of Andre Drummond and Kevin Love’s contracts. They’ll be able to go into the free agency with money to spend and have their cornerstones locked in. 

For Chicago, the Bulls obviously have plenty of talent in their backcourt with Coby White and Zach Lavine tearing up the league this year. Lavine is a first time All-Star and White has improved in nearly every statistical category in his sophomore season. This team is lacking defensively, though. They rank 25th in points allowed per game (115.2), 19th in defensive efficiency (1.095 points per possession) and 25th in opponent shooting percentage (47.6 percent. 

While Bledsoe isn’t an immediate fix to the problem, nor has he shown he can help improve a young defense this season in New Orleans, the trade works based on his reputation as a defender, the two picks the Bulls acquire, adding a spacing big to replace Markannen for the remainder of the season and the aforementioned flexibility going forward. The three players they moved in this trade were on expiring contracts — not only do they get something out of them, they will still have cap room to maneuver this off season. 

New Orleans gets Nance of course, but also adds a bit of depth to the backcourt as well in Denzel Valentine. Valentine, while highly regarded coming out of Michigan State in the 2016 draft, hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. However, his career has been more or less resurrected under Billy Donovan. He’s averaging eight points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.7 minutes a game this season. He’s a nice addition and adds minutes from a trusted, fourth-year vet. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb6aJ6gJ0y8

Sure, the Pelicans part with two of their first round picks they acquired from the Lakers , but they get rid of Bledsoe — who has been horrible for them this season — and his contract. Nance’s value on his extreme bargain of a contract is valuable enough to get this deal done. 

Option 3

Pelicans receive: Larry Nance Jr.,

Cavaliers receive: Landry Shamet, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Spencer Dinwiddie, their 2021 second round pick (from the Pelicans), Washington’s 2021 second round pick

Brooklyn Nets receive: JJ Redick, Javale McGee

The Nets finally get their big to complement DeAndre Jordan for a playoff run (although Nic Claxton is starting to look solid, despite his youth), and they add the shooter they’ve been rumored to be interested in in Redick. In return Redick gets to head home to Brooklyn to spend the latter years of his career with his family as well as getting a shot at the ever-elusive NBA title he has yet to earn. 

Brooklyn not only goes for this move based on the fact that they get what they need, but they could also have the opportunity to bring these two vets back on short-term, team-friendly deals in that they’ll be constantly chasing titles with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving on their roser. 

On Cleveland’s side of things — yes, they lose Nance. But, as for McGee, he’s played minimal minutes on a roster chock-full of big men. The Cavaliers still retain Allen for the remainder of the season, Kevin Love (should he ever become healthy) and they still have Andre Drummond on the books. Even if they decide to buy out Drummond , assuming they can’t find a trade partner, they’re more than likely going to miss the playoffs this season anyway. They can go the rest of the year with only Allen. They’ll be okay.

The Cavs also get Dinwiddie, Shamet and Luwawu-Cabarrot in exchange. If Shamet can return to his sharp-shooting days of 2018-2019, his value instantly sky rockets. Dinwiddie is out the remainder of the season with an ACL injury and will be entering a player option year next season. However, should he decide not to pick it up, the Cavaliers will retain his bird rights. Luwawu-Cabarrot is an expiring contract added to the deal to make the money work. He’s also a 6-7 wing — can’t have too many of those in the NBA.

In exchange for losing two bigs, Cleveland also receives two 2021 second round picks from the Pelicans for Nance. As previously mentioned, the 2021 class is loaded. Having two seconds offers the chance for them to move into the bottom of the first round — an opportunity to continue to build around Sexton and Garland for their future.  

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