The NBA’s First Trade Domino

    • The Pacers and Cavaliers executed the first trade before Thursday's deadline.
    • Indiana saved $26 million and Cleveland acquired a starter in Caris LeVert.

On Sunday, Indiana sent Caris LeVert and a second-round pick to Cleveland for Ricky Rubio, a first-rounder, and two future second-round picks. 

In an otherwise quiet trade deadline season, the first big move was made by teams moving in different directions: The Pacers could be headed for a rebuild, and the Cavaliers are one game out of the East’s 1-seed.

LeVert is the first domino to fall in what looks like the Pacers’ desire to clear up cap space, while Cleveland adds a complementary backcourt playmaker for All-Star Darius Garland.

  • Ricky Rubio’s $17.8 million contract expires this summer, putting Indy $26 million below the cap ($94M payroll).
  • LeVert (18.7 PPG) is a capable scorer who played his first four seasons with Cavs’ star big man Jarrett Allen.
  • He also fills a need: Since Rubio’s injury on Dec. 30, the Cavs averaged the fifth-fewest drives per 100 possessions. LeVert’s 20.9 drives are fifth-most in the NBA. 

LeVert — who grew up in Ohio — is in the second season of a three-year, $52.5 million contract but is expected to sign a long-term extension this upcoming summer, according to ESPN.

Allen and LeVert were part of the four-team blockbuster in November 2020 which sent James Harden to the Nets. Considering how things are playing out in Brooklyn, it looks like the Cavs won that trade.