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Bigger is Better

Cavaliers Land Allen, Prince from Nets in Part of Three-Team Deal
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Bigger is Better

Cavaliers Land Allen, Prince from Nets in Part of Three-Team Deal

Well, this changes everything.

… both around the league and certainly in CavalierLand, where the Wine & Gold got into the deep end of a three-team megadeal that shook the Association and immediately made J.B. Bickerstaff’s squad bigger, better and younger.

What’s not to love?

Late Wednesday night, the Cavaliers finalized a deal that sent guard Dante Exum and an unprotected 2022 first rounder (via Milwaukee) to Houston and a 2024 second rounder to Brooklyn in exchange for center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince from the Nets.

The Cavaliers also acquired the draft rights to forward Aleksandar Vezenkov – who the Nets tabbed with the 57th overall pick in 2017.

The crown jewel of the deal – eight-time All-Star James Harden – was moved from Houston to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, three first round draft picks and the rights to swap four first rounders from Brooklyn.

To make room on the roster, the Cavaliers released Yogi Ferrell and Thon Maker.

As happy as the Nets – who almost certainly are the new favorites in the East – must be to acquire the most lethal scorer in the game, it’s hard to see how the Wine & Gold aren't big winners in this deal, snagging one of the Conference’s most promising young centers and an underrated wing to stretch the floor. Prince is just 26 years old; Allen is 22.

The 6-11, 243-pound Allen had been steadily improving through his first three full seasons in Brooklyn after being selected with the 22nd overall pick in 2017 – and he comes to Cleveland averaging a double-double in his fourth.

Taurean Prince has canned at least 120 triples in each of his last three seasons.

Nathaniel Butler via NBAE/Getty Images

Through 12 games this season, the former Longhorn is averaging a career-best 11.2 points on 68 percent shooting, with 10.4 boards and 1.6 blocks per. His field goal percentage (.677) is the league’s 3rd-best mark.

The durable Austin, TX native – who’s been equally effective as a starter or off the bench – has already played in 234 games, with career averages of 10.1ppg, 7.9rpg and 1.4bpg and leaves the Nets as their all-time leader in field goal percentage at .612.

Cavaliers GM Koby Altman acknowledged that Allen had actually been on the team’s radar for some time. When the Cavs saw the opportunity, they were ready to pounce – but it hasn’t been a quick, easy process to get here.

”When we set out on this mission, from the post-Championship years, we weren’t really gifted anything; it wasn’t like we had a plethora of assets,” said Altman. “We had to make a monumental trade and so that was our sole, big asset that we had, in terms of a draft pick. And we had to go down a path of asset acquisition. And it was a lot of singles – hitting singles, singles, singles.

”So, what you’re seeing over the last few transactions is really just cashing in on those singles. Using trade exceptions, using picks, using second round picks to get you into different conversations. And when an opportunity like this happens, you’re overjoyed because you put yourself in a position to strike. And we’ll see where it goes from here. But it puts us in a wonderful position to play competitive basketball this year and bring a long-term piece to the team who’s the right age with our core.”

One thing that the current Cavaliers have is size, already boasting one of the best big man combos in the East – with Andre Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, Larry Nance Jr., the NBA’s steals leader, and JaVale McGee, who’s been the squad’s most effective reserve all year.

The Cavaliers were the league’s lowest-rated defensive squad over the last two seasons, also finishing dead-last in blocks over that span.

Suddenly, J.B. Bickerstaff’s young squad looks to be one of the Association’s toughest on the defensive end – bolstered by the immediate contribution of Isaac Okoro and now, Jarrett Allen.

”What is clearly and advantage for (Allen) is he knows who he is – and he knows what his game is,” said Bickerstaff. “And I think those are the guys who’ve had the most success the quickest is when they don’t have to figure out exactly who they are. They know who they are from the jump – and then we can go and develop from there.”

Cleveland’s newfound size and skill around the rim is also a huge boon for the young backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, who’ll have more flexibility guarding the perimeter.

The perimeter is where Taurean Prince will make his mark for the Cavaliers. The fifth-year man from Baylor has been very solid flying under the radar over the past three seasons – piling up 445 three-pointers while averaging 13.2ppg over that span.

Like Allen, a fellow Texas native, Prince is a durable player who’s equally effective off the bench or in the starting lineup.

”Our job is finding (Prince) clean looks, because he’s capable of knocking down open shots,” said Coach Bickerstaff. “And then I think there’s two-way potential with him as well. You think about guys who can be solid 3-and-D players, and they make everybody’s job easier. And I think he has that ability.”

The Cavaliers say goodbye to guard Dante Exum in the deal. The sixth-year man from Australia appeared in 30 games with the Wine and Gold, averaging 5.3 points, 2.4 boards and 1.5 assists over that span.

The veteran guard – acquired in a midseason deal with the Jazz last year – got off to a solid start, especially in a defensive effort against Atlanta’s Trae Young. But he’d been sidelined over the past five games with a calf injury.

The young Cavaliers have undergone a complete facelift over the past two seasons – and they now have a young core that, when healthy, will feature Collin Sexton (22), Darius Garland (20), Isaac Okoro (19), Kevin Porter Jr. (20), Dylan Windler (24), Cedi Osman (25), Taurean Prince (26), Andre Drummond (27) and Larry Nance Jr. (28). The dean, Kevin Love, is 32 – but still a “walking double-double” and future Hall of Famer.

Wednesday’s deal shook up the entire Association and could signal a power shift in the East. The Nets will be the squad under the microscope after the trade, the Rockets will get a new lease on life and Cleveland quietly made its team much better.

The Cavaliers won’t have to wait long to see how the deal is working out for two of the three clubs. Next week, the Wine and Gold welcome James Harden, Kevin Durant (and maybe Kyrie Irving) for a two-game set with the new-look Nets next week.

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