Cavaliers Trade For Spurs’ Keldon Johnson In Proposal

Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The value of traditional big men is a hotly debated topic in the NBA. What is a traditional big man’s trade value? We’re talking about non-shooting big men whose primary value is on the defensive end of the floor. What are they worth? 

Realistically, it depends on your philosophy. Some will argue that in a three-point heavy NBA, rim protection is overrated. Perhaps. On the other hand, having a reliable last line of defense makes it easier for perimeter defenders to aggressively close out three-point attempts. 

It’s a question that the Cleveland Cavaliers must be wrestling with. Their frontcourt duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley was elite on the defensive end last year. With that said, they struggled offensively in the playoffs. Perhaps that’s why the Cavaliers are allegedly considering moving Allen. Could they send him to the San Antonio Spurs? 

The Trade Proposal 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: G/F Keldon Johnson 
San Antonio Spurs Receive: C Jarrett Allen 

Let’s agree on this much – defensive big men are still valuable in the NBA. You can debate whether drop coverage is the best defensive scheme. Here’s what’s not debatable – if you’ve got an elite drop coverage rim protector, you can build a good defense around them. 

Are big so valuable that a team should have two starting caliber big men? That depends on the big men. Recently, it’s been trending to have a drop coverage big at the 5, and a versatile, switch big at the 4. The Memphis Grizzlies’ duo of Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. may be the best example.

NBA TRADES, NEWS & RUMORS: Keldon Johnson, Cleveland Cavaliers & San Antonio Spurs Updates      

Presumably, the Cavaliers have been trying to follow that route. Defensively, it makes sense. Evan Mobley’s ability to handle any defensive assignment is what made him a special prospect. With that said, his poor shooting made him a questionable fit with Allen in the playoffs. Should the Cavaliers move him to the 5? 

Why The Cleveland Cavaliers Do The Deal 

Again, it’s a matter of philosophy. Would you prefer to double down on rim protection, or switch ability? The Cavaliers could justify either direction. 

Let’s shift the focus. There’s no question that Allen and Mobley work on the defensive end. In all likelihood, there are no concerns about Mobley at the 5 on that end of the floor either. In fact, his ability to defend the rim and survive switches will give the Cavaliers ample freedom to experiment with different coverages.

NBA TRADES, NEWS & RUMORS: Keldon Johnson, Cleveland Cavaliers & San Antonio Spurs Updates       

This is about the offense. Mobley is not a strong floor spacer at the 4, but he does provide sufficient spacing at the 5. Meanwhile, Johnson is a versatile 3-and-D wing who can create his own shot. This deal would help the Cavaliers diversify their attack. It should make them a better team. What does it do for the Spurs? 

Why The San Antonio Spurs Do The Deal 

Some Spurs fans will have questions here. If the Cavaliers are giving up on an Allen/Mobley pairing, why would the Spurs pair Allen with Wembanyama? 

It’s a fair question. There’s also a clear answer. Wembanyama may struggle with his jumper as a rookie, but he projects to be a better shooter than Mobley. The Spurs could enjoy the same defensive advantages that the Cavaliers did, only with a better-functioning offense. This may look messy next year, but if Wembanyama makes good on his projection as a shooter, it should iron itself out over the next couple of seasons.

NBA TRADES, NEWS & RUMORS: Keldon Johnson, Cleveland Cavaliers & San Antonio Spurs Updates      

That’s critical here. Does it really matter how this looks next year? The Spurs won’t enter 2022-23 with play-in ambitions. This organization surely realizes that its young roster will need time to develop. Meanwhile, Wembanyama reportedly prefers to play the 4. Landing a rim-protecting 5 to wrestle with the league’s giants should be a priority for the Spurs – no matter what the value of such a player is.

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