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Dealing with Denver

Wine & Gold Swap Big Men at the Deadline
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Dealing with Denver

Wine & Gold Swap Big Men at the Deadline

Time to exhale and move on the Western leg of the road trip.

The Cavaliers didn’t make a monster deal at the Deadline, but did make the anticipated move of trading veteran big man JaVale McGee – who parlayed a solid partial season in Cleveland into being one of the league’s most sought-after reserve bigs as Thursday’s cutoff approached.

The Wine & Gold sent the 13-year vet to Denver, where he spent two seasons in 2012-14, and received a seven-footer in return – 22-year-old Isaiah Hartenstein – along with a pair of picks, the Nuggets protected second-rounder in 2023 and their second-round pick in 2027.

Hartenstein is in his third season after being tabbed with the 43rd overall pick by Houston back in 2017. After spending his first couple years with the Rockets, he signed a free agent deal with Denver this past offseason. In 81 career games, the Eugene, Oregon native has posted modest numbers – averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 boards, shooting .559 from the floor.

Ironically, the three-year vet and McGee had a slight dust-up in an earlier matchup between yesterday’s trade partners this year in Denver.

Hartenstein has also spent parts of his first three seasons in the G-League and was named the league’s 2019 Finals MVP with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after scoring 33 points on eight three-pointers in the title game.

JaVale McGee combined a blue collar attitude with a West Coast flair during his 33-game stay in Cleveland.

David Liam Kyle/NBAE Getty Images

The presence of Hartenstein gives Cleveland another 22-year-old big man and gives that young player a chance to show his stuff after being buried beneath a deep Denver frontline that included arguably the league’s best center.

Cleveland also gets a pair of future assets for down the road. Second rounders are nothing to scoff at. The aforementioned “league’s best center,” who JaVale McGee will now back up in Denver, was the 41st overall pick in 2014.

McGee’s tenure in Northeast Ohio was a short-but-sweet stay – arriving not long after winning the NBA title with the Lakers and immediately making a positive impact on and off the floor.

The three-time Champion added some essential experience to a team that has four starters age 22-and-under. If anybody had been there and done that, it was McGee.

But he didn’t just talk the talk, the son of WNBA legend Pam McGee walked the walk – notching double-figure scoring in 11 games this year, averaging 8.0 points and 5.2 boards in 33 outings.

To top it off, McGee went out with a bang – showing up to his final home game, Monday’s loss to the Kings, in a pair of Carhartt coveralls then proceeding to lead the team in scoring, finishing with 18 points in 19 minutes of work, going 6-of-9 from the floor with nine boards, three assists and a pair of swats.

McGee will go down on a list of Cavaliers who didn’t stay long but made a positive impression in their tenure. He’ll always get a good ovation when he returns to town.

The Cavaliers won’t see McGee and the Nuggets again this season – dropping both meetings after sweeping Denver last year – but they do have business to take care of out West this weekend.

And they’ll have a new young big man wearing No. 55 when they do.

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