The Cleveland Cavaliers have made a move to strengthen their chance for a playoff spot thanks to a trade with the Indiana Pacers. In the deal, the Pacers will send Caris LeVert to the Cavs for Ricky Rubio and future Draft picks.
- Caris LeVert
- 2022 second-round pick (via Miami)
- Ricky Rubio
- 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)
- 2022 second-round pick (via Houston)
- 2027 second-round pick (via Utah)
“We are very excited to add a dynamic young player of this caliber and experience,” Cavs GM Koby Altman said in a statement Monday. “Caris LeVert fits uniquely into our culture and his Ohio roots brings an immediate connection to our community. We look forward to seeing what type of impact he can make on this roster. We also want to send our best wishes to Ricky Rubio and his family. Ricky has been the consummate professional and his leadership both on and off the court was invaluable and we respect everything he brought to this franchise.”
LeVert exited the bus with his Indiana teammates and walked into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Sunday as a visitor.
He can make himself at home.
Pulling off a major move ahead of this week’s NBA trade deadline, Cleveland added another talented player to its young core by acquiring LeVert, a talented swingman who can score from the Pacers.
OFFICIAL: #Cavs acquire F Caris LeVert.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 7, 2022
“He can help put the ball in the hole,” Cavs guard Rajon Rondo said. “He can erupt for 40 or 50 a night.”
The Cavs, who won just 22 games last season, have moved into playoff position and believe they can win the Eastern Conference title. They’ve been aggressively shopping for more backcourt help and a wing player after losing guards Collin Sexton and Rubio to season-ending injuries.
LeVert should more than help. The 27-year-old Ohio native averaged 18.7 points and 4.4 assists for the disappointing Pacers, who are 19-36 and already thinking about their future. LeVert scored 42 points Friday night against Chicago.
“He’ll become a brother very quickly with those guys,” said Pacers forward Justin Holiday, who rode to the arena with LeVert. “A serious competitor who wants to win.”
The trade was essentially completed about 90 minutes before the Cavs and Pacers tipped off. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle confirmed the agreement during his pregame news conference, which was slightly delayed so he could tell LeVert he’d been moved.
“Cleveland is in a great position, and adding a guy like Caris LeVert very well could push them to the top,” Carlisle said. ”Caris has been a tremendous young man to work with here.
“He’s a very special person and a very special player. He’s a first-class human being and a first-class pro and a tremendous player. I’m going to miss him.”
The league’s trading deadline is Thursday, and it’s not out of the question that the Cavs and Pacers may each made another move. In the short-term, the LeVert deal is a potential season-changer for Cleveland.
The Cavs rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Pacers on Sunday, 98-85, and improve to 33-21. The win moved the Cavs 1/2 game behind the No. 3-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and No. 2-seeded (and Central Division-leading) Chicago Bulls. It has been a stunning ascent for a young Cleveland team that wasn’t expected to do much this season but has overcome injuries and developed quickly.
“Guys understand this is a really good team and don’t take this opportunity for granted,” said Rondo, a two-time NBA champion. “We’ve got a chance to do something special.”
LeVert will likely slide into the starting backcourt alongside All-Star Darius Garland, who has been slowed by a sore lower back lately. He’ll also give coach J.B. Bickerstaff another scoring option and a perimeter player capable of driving to the rim — something the Cavs have long needed.
“He and Garland in the backcourt is really dynamic,” Carlisle said. “These guys have improved a great deal today.”
After losing Rubio to a season-ending knee injury, the Cavs acquired Rondo but have always had their eyes on LeVert, a proven scorer and playmaker. LeVert signed a thee-year, $52 million contract with Brooklyn in 2020.
While he’s been the subject of trade rumors for weeks, LeVert arrived for Sunday’s game unaware the he would soon by changing jerseys, taking a huge jump in the standings and likely headed to the playoffs.
“We have a unique understanding here with our front office and players, where if a deal gets close, we will talk to the player so he doesn’t see it on social media or somewhere else,” Carlisle said. “We did that with Caris in my office, and (general manager) Chad (Buchanan) on a speaker with us.”
In Cleveland, LeVert will be reunited with former Brooklyn teammate Jarrett Allen, who has developed into one of the league’s best young centers since being acquired in the deal that sent James Harden from Houston to the Nets. LeVert was also part of that trade.
The Pacers appear to be in the early stages of a major roster overhaul. Forwards Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner could possibly move on in the coming days.
“This is league is a business,” Holiday said, “and right now it’s that time.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.