The Trail Blazers are responding.
Portland is acquiring Larry Nance Jr. from the Cavaliers, who are getting Lauri Markkanen in a sign-and-trade with the Bulls. Derrick Jones Jr. will go from the Trail Blazers to Chicago in the three-team deal.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Bulls: Derrick Jones Jr., Portland protected first-rounder, Denver protected 2023 second-rounder
Cavaliers: Lauri Markkanen
Trail Blazers: Larry Nance Jr. https://t.co/slpHsB08cm
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2021
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Cleveland is acquiring Chicago restricted free agent F Lauri Markkanen on a four-year, $67M deal in a sign-and-trade, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 27, 2021
At 6-foot-7, Nance has the size and strength to defend the bigger wings Portland would inevitably face in a deeper playoff run. Acquired as a defensive upgrade last offseason, Robert Covington is a far better team than on-ball defender.
The other notable forward the Trail Blazers acquired last year, Jones didn’t work out in Portland. Sending a protected first-round pick and second-rounder to upgrade to Nance is a wise use of resources by the win-now Trail Blazers.
Nance is under contract for a reasonable $10,690,909 and $9,672,727 the next two seasons. That cost control is important, as Portland is locked into expensive contracts for Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Norman Powell.
An improved 3-point shooter and good screener, Nance should fit well with that perimeter firepower. Nance can also play center in small-ball lineups, a versatile threat behind Jusuf Nurkic.
Cleveland gets younger going from Nance (28) to Markkanen (24). That makes sense as the Cavs build around Darius Garland (21), Evan Mobley (20), Jarrett Allen (23), Isaac Okoro (20) and maybe Collin Sexton (22). Markkanen offers potential as a 7-footer who hits 3-pointers.
But $67 million is A LOT to pay the inconsistent Markkanen. Surrendering positive-value Nance adds to the sting. Markkanen also faces a complicated fit with bigs Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
Chicago gets nice return for a free agent who didn’t want to be there. The picks replenish the Bulls, who sent out first-rounders to get Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. Jones, 24, still has untapped upside with his incredible athleticism. His expiring contract also gives Chicago an out in a year.