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Roundtable: Reacting to the Jarrett Allen trade

Let’s dive in.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Six Fear the Sword staffers answer questions about the Jarrett Allen trade. Let’s dive in!

When this trade came through, what was your instant reaction?

Nick Trizzino: You ever seen Doctor Strange? You know that scene when Tilda Swinton punches Benedict Cumberbatch’s soul out of his body, and he plummets through a million dimensions, each more brain-melting than the last? That’s what I was going through as Woj and Shams kept reporting more and more new pieces of this trade. And then the Cavs got in there somehow? I can’t figure out how this happened. It’s not like they pushed their way to the negotiation table with some unbelievable asset! Some people paint beautifully or write poetry, but deals—preferably big deals, like this one — are Koby Altman’s art form, I suppose. If he can swing Jarrett Allen for this, I can’t wait to see what he has in store with Andre Drummond.

Mark Schindler: To answer Nick, I have never seen Doctor Strange. However, I do know that Doctor Strange saves the MCU pretty much. Am I saying that’s Jarrett Allen? I’m NOT not saying that’s Jarrett Allen and the Cavs are the MCU. Who’s to say?

In reality though, I went bug-eyed. I cover the Pacers for Indy Cornrows, so the Victor Oladipo aspect was jarring. James Harden to Brooklyn recalculates a lot of my estimations of the East. Houston is….weird?? But hey, they’re under the tax so Tilman’s happy. I absolutely love that Koby Altman was able to bring the Cavaliers into this trade. This will be referred to by many as the book-end of the Harden trade, but, with time it could prove to be instrumental in Cleveland’s future.

Andrew Keiper: I was certainly surprised when it broke that the Cavaliers were involved in the trade, especially because we weren’t absorbing a bad contract or dealing Drummond (yet). I think the Cavs added a couple of young players, one of whom has star potential, to their already formidable core. I love this trade for the Cavs, it’s a sign that they’re ready to compete and push for the playoffs in the East.

Will Baptist: My instant reaction was pure disbelief. I didn’t think the Nets would be able to pull this trade off, and I think all the Kyrie Irving drama pushed the Nets to throw everything they possibly could on the table. More details kept coming out, and as soon as I saw the Cavaliers were involved, my heart skipped a beat. After reading all the details, I was extremely excited about what the Cavs got in return, especially due to what they had to give up. The 2022 first round pick from the Bucks will most likely be a pick at the end of the first round anyway. Losing Dante Exum isn’t ideal, but he’s currently injured and Jarrett Allen is a much better player overall.

Imari McPherson: My instant reaction to acquiring Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince in the Rockets-Nets trade was shock. Not only was there no previous word of the Cavaliers being involved in trade talks around James Harden’s move to Brooklyn, but to come away with a player of Allen’s caliber was huge. The trade speculation surrounding Harden has been persistent for some time now, so for it to finally be over was a bit of a relief while also being exciting for the futures of the teams involved.

Mike Anguilano: This is a case of the Cavaliers cashing in on a desperate team trying to maneuver around to take on a bigger piece. Rarely do the Cavs wind up on this side of those deals, but here we are. Speculation of Harden being moved built up slowly, but things ramped up very quickly and it was surprising to see Cleveland involved. Getting the 22-year-old Jarrett Allen is a tremendous move that sets up Darius Garland and Collin Sexton with a younger, better fitting center for the future. Taurean Prince fell out of favor in Brooklyn and Koby Altman snatched him up too. The best part of this deal is the price tag - Dante Exum, the Milwaukee first-round pick, and a bottom-of-the-pile second rounder. Not too shabby.

What is your take on Jarrett Allen?

Trizzino: Getting Allen as part of a package for Harden would have been a good pickup. Getting Allen for Exum and a late-first? That’s some Danny Ocean shit. Allen won’t offer much in the way of floor-spacing or shot-creation, but that shouldn’t be a problem with this roster, especially once Kevin Love returns to the lineup. Most everything else is good: Allen will dunk a lot, block shots a lot, and won’t demand a staggering number of touches. He should probably start over Andre Drummond, and should certainly be the Cavs’ long-term solution at center. Then again, he probably should’ve started over DeAndre Jordan, and almost certainly should’ve been Brooklyn’s long-term solution at center, so...

Mark Schindler: I’ve personally been extremely frustrated with the Brooklyn center rotation for quite some time; Jarrett Allen is a better player than DeAndre Jordan and has been for two years now. He’s a very good shot blocker, mobile on the perimeter, and doesn’t try to play outside his strengths. While he doesn’t space the floor, his vertical threat and ability as a screen and roll player is already good and will likely continue to get better. Let me grasp at straws for a sec; he shot 45 threes in his second year. He didn’t make a lot, but he’s also a good free throw shooter for his position. With some development and willingness, there may be some semblance of a jumper or outside game in Allen. Regardless, Allen is still only 22, has room to grow, and makes sense with the core moving forward. He also has a very enjoyable Twitter presence and seems like a really quality guy off-court.

Andrew Keiper: I love the addition of Jarrett Allen to this team. He’s young, he’s explosive, he can anchor a defense and he’s got a great haircut. I think he’s going to gel well with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton and become the recipient of many an alley-oop and dump off pass down low. The only real knock on his game is his inability to stretch the floor, and that’s easily mitigated if you play him with shooters.

Will Baptist: I love Jarrett Allen’s game and the signs of improvement that he’s shown every season. He is a great finisher around the rim and great rim protector. Allen is only 22 and will be a restricted free agent after the season, so all signs point to him being the big man of the future for the Cavs. He is actually solid from the free throw line, shooting at 75.4% on the season, so he has the ability to finish games for the Cavs. This makes Andre Drummond somewhat expendable, considering Allen is much younger and much cheaper. Hopefully the Cavs can get some value, for what seems to be an inevitable trade involving Drummond.

Imari McPherson: Allen is not a big scorer and has only started five games so far this season, but he will provide even more defense and rebounds for a Cavs team that ranks first in the league in defensive rating. Lead by Andre Drummond, the roster is still stacked with guys that can play below the rim and grab rebounds, and, in a way, Allen will still be sharing minutes at the center position as he did in Brooklyn. The upside, however, is that the Cavs will most likely not keep Drummond around past this season and can then focus on Allen being the top big man in the lineup. With Allen, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. leading the team, the future’s looking bright.

Mike Anguilano: Allen is a much better fit next to Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, not only on the court but in age too. Allen is 22 and a great rim runner and defender and slots in nicely at center. Young guards need a good rim-running big who can catch lops and set good screens, and Allen certainly fits the bill for that while being uber efficient. The interesting aspect is what Cleveland does with Andre Drummond, who most certainly will not be around much longer. The lineup of the future is becoming more and more clear with Sexton, Garland, Isacc Okoro, Kevin Porter Jr., and now Jarrett Allen leading the way.

What is your take on Taurean Prince?

Trizzino: Umm, sure! I mean, if you’re just, like, giving him away! Prince is an okay three-point shooter, okay rebounder (lest we forget he’s really nailed down the science of the whole affair), and okay defender at a position where, in the modern NBA, you can never have too much depth. With how hot-and-cold Cedi Osman is at times, Prince has a chance to provide a steadier wing presence behind Isaac Okoro. Allen is 1,000% the crown jewel of this trade, but as throw-ins go, you could do worse than to take a flyer on a 26-year-old who’s a career double-digit scorer.

Mark Schindler: Taurean Prince is an interesting flier on a guy who’s largely shipped to Cleveland in a salary dump. He’s a decent clip older than Allen (27 in March), but hasn’t quite found his place in the league. I remember talking to a few of my friends who cover the Hawks about Taurean and why he wasn’t retained in Atlanta and it was on display in Brooklyn as well. He has a lot of interesting tools and ability, but hasn’t quite put it together consistently, especially on the defensive end; his team has given up less points with him on the floor only once in his 5 year career per Cleaning the Glass. I still think he has something there and he’ll certainly get a shot on this team.

Andrew Keiper: This is the kind of piece that good teams acquire in trades. Taurean Prince is still only 26 years old, and offers a number of skills on the perimeter that the Cavs need. Prince doesn’t make your team worse when he’s on the floor. He may not be able to totally fill the role Dante Exum played (when healthy), but he’ll be able to guard bigger wings on the outside and hold his own inside against all but the most dominant power forwards.. If they hang onto him, however, I expect to see Dylan Windler or Cedi Osman edged out for minutes.

Will Baptist: Taurean Prince provides good depth, and he had some really productive seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. This season, he’s only played 18 minutes a game, due to the Brooklyn Nets being so deep. Overall, he’s a solid player, and he is under contract until 2022. Due to the amount of injuries the Cavs are dealing with right now, I love the idea of grabbing a player that can play right away. He is a good fit, because he brings energy every play and is a solid defender. He can play small forward or power forward, so he has some versatility.

Imari McPherson: Taurean Prince, on the other hand, is also not a big scorer but has career averages of 41.2% from the field and 36.6% from the perimeter and at 6 feet 7 inches tall, he’ll add versatility and depth to an already deep wing position. What the Cavs are not getting in players like Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Cedi Osman, at times, Prince can make his money by doing what he is already doing, shooting the ball at a consistent rate while Kevin Love is out with injury, Isaac Okoro continues to develop and Porter Jr, hopefully, makes his return to the team.

Mike Anguilano: I was surprised to see the Cavs pick up Taurean Prince in the process, but he fell out of favor in Brooklyn and did not really have a fit on the roster. He is under contract until 2022 and could find a role on a young Cavs team. Given that he will be a plug and play type of guy, he fills an immediate need.

Do you mind what the Cavs are losing Dante Exum?

Trizzino: In theory, yes. For a backcourt as defensively challenged as the Cavs’ was last year, Exum was a welcome sight as a guard-stopping specialist behind Darius Garland. Garland and Collin Sexton have improved on that end, but neither has the requisite size or instincts to fluster opposing ball-handlers the way Exum bothered Trae Young in the Cavs’ comeback win against the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season. The problem with Exum, though, has always been that his body has never held up well enough for him to put his gifts into practice for an extended period of time. I’ll always remember his magical night against the Timberwolves, though.

Mark Schindler: It doesn’t hurt the team, but man it hurts my heart. He was one of the first players I ever followed in the draft and I was so excited for him coming out with Utah. The way his career has played out has been really difficult to watch. He has always been talented, his body just has other plans. I was hopeful that Dante would stick in Cleveland, but the injury made him expendable given that he can’t play. He’s ultimately a replaceable player, but I feel for him and hope he actually can get a healthy stretch somewhere.

Andrew Keiper: Short answer, no. Exum, though tantalizing, never lived up to his potential as a basketball player or as an Australian, who are notoriously tough. It’s not his fault, and I really hope he puts it together, but I won’t be losing sleep about Exum’s departure.

Will Baptist: For what the Cavs got in return, no I don’t mind. Exum was an enticing player, and he was a great fit for the locker room. But at the end of the day, he was injury prone, and had trouble staying healthy for an extended period of time. He had some exciting moments as a Cavalier, and they need his versatility and depth now more than ever, but Jarrett Allen has much higher potential. He was perfect for Bickerstaff’s system, he guarded the best perimeter player when he was on the court numerous times, and he got lots of deflections and gave 110% at all times. But this is the nature of the NBA, players get moved around so much, it’s almost hard to keep track of it all.

Imari McPherson: I don’t mind that the Cavs are losing Dante Exum. It’s unfortunate for him because it was not long ago that the Cavs acquired him after seven average seasons with the Utah Jazz. Losing Exum will ultimately mean losing another playmaker, even if he was averaging only 2.2 assists per game this season, and with the Cavs current injury woes, the team is bringing in two healthy players that can contribute immediately while Exum continues to rehab his calf and work his way back to the court. Prince will be able to step in and contribute while also having better numbers than Exum did during his time in Cleveland.

Mike Anguilano: Considering the Cavaliers acquired a solid young center in return, I do not mind it from a roster perspective. But Dante Exum was having a nice season for the Cavs and proved to be a solid backup point guard who can distribute and play perimeter defense. I have no doubt that, once healthy, he will find the court in Houston. Considering all of the injuries Exum has dealt with, it was disappointing to see him get hurt again and then suddenly become expendable.

Who is the biggest loser? And who is the biggest winner?

Trizzino: The Rockets are the easy pick for biggest loser. As a rule of thumb, you’re almost certain to come out the biggest loser of any deal that involves you shipping out a player who once averaged north of 40 points for an entire month. Conversely, acquiring said player makes the Nets the big winner—there’s been plenty of hand-wringing about defense and play styles, but Brooklyn now employs two of the ~five best scorers in basketball history, and Kyrie Irving is certainly no slouch. There hasn’t been a collection of top-end talent like this since Durant’s previous squad in the Bay, and, well, look how that turned out.

Mark Schindler: The upper crust of the East that were hoping to compete for the Eastern Conference Title definitely lost in this trade. Brooklyn isn’t a lock, but they certainly have the most top end talent which while not synonymous, trends towards higher level championship ability. The East has been pretty balanced at the top, so I think this could cause a shift that will send ripples through to the trade deadline as teams assess where they’re at in the pecking order and decide their plan of action for the remainder of the season.

The biggest winner has to be Brooklyn. They got James Harden. He’s a top-3 player in the NBA. We overthink this sometimes; draft picks rarely equate to the caliber of player that Harden is and will probably be for a few more seasons. Brooklyn is trying to win a title(s) and they pushed all the chips in.

Andrew Keiper: This is tough for me to grade. I’ve never liked Harden’s game that much, and it’s easy to see there being problems in Brooklyn as the stars try and divvy up shots. I think, honestly, that Houston may have won this trade. They’ve retooled on the fly, restocked their draft shelves, and moved a disgruntled, unmotivated and out-of-shape star for a number of players that should be able to contribute right away. I’m not sure we’ll know the winner until we see who is bounced from the playoffs first this year. Either way, Cavs came in second in this trade.

Will Baptist: The biggest winner in this trade is the Brooklyn Nets, no question about it. Regardless of Harden’s unique play style, this league is built on superstars, and the Nets just got three of them in their prime. Historically, teams who land three superstars, win multiple championships. It may take a season for these players to get acclimated to each other, since they’re all so ball dominant, but they will be a powerhouse in the near future. The Houston Rockets are the biggest loser. Yes, they did fix their locker room by getting rid of a player who was blatantly sabotaging the chemistry. But if history has shown us anything, it’s that trading a transcendent talent like James Harden never works for the team losing the superstar player. Getting a ton of late first round draft picks and Victor Oladipo is a decent haul, but it simply doesn’t match the production they got from Harden.

Imari McPherson: Ultimately, I think the Houston Rockets are the winners of this trade due to acquiring a two-time All-Star in Victor Oladipo, who is still in his twenties, to pair with other newcomers in John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Both men are coming off of serious injuries to their Achilles and ACL, respectively, and even though Wall is the only one truly producing currently with 18.6 points per game and 5.1 assists per game, the Rockets still have P.J. Tucker, Christian Wood and Eric Gordon to keep them afloat post-Harden.

Believe it or not, the losers of the trade are the Brooklyn Nets. There have to be serious questions as to how the ball will be shared among three great isolation players that can get their own shot all while being coached by a rookie head coach and lacking depth due to Caris LaVert moving to the Indiana Pacers and a season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie. Sure, the Nets will be a monster on the offensive end, but can they keep up on the defensive end with offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni as an assistant coach and Harden and Kyrie Irving, not known for their defensive efforts, as two of their newly formed Big 3?

Mike Anguilano: To me, the team losing the best player in the trade is the loser - and that would be the Houston Rockets (in the interim for sure). Losing James Harden is crippling, no matter the off the court antics. The guy is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game. Yes, it ended in Houston on a sour note and there is some recency bias with regards to his impact. But at the end of the day, he is one of the top players in the sport right now. They did well to patch things up on the roster with Victor Oladipo and a huge trunk load of picks and pick swaps. But Oladipo is a terrible fit next to John Wall and is an expiring contract. The makeup of Houston is still really bizarre. But, they got rid of Harden, someone who clearly was rubbing his teammates the wrong way.

The Nets are clearly the winner getting Harden. I do have some questions with the Nets on how Harden will fit with Kevin Durant and AWOL Kyrie Irving, but they will have to smooth things out. At the end of the day, Brooklyn has three of the top-25 players in the league right now — you figure it out. Someone should probably get Steve Nash some aspirin in advance.