The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz on Monday in return for Donte Exum and two second-round draft picks in a move that surprised many around the NBA.
Clarkson has been a prolific bench scorer for the Cavaliers this season, while Exum is having the worst year of his career and has never come close to the expectations set by being the fifth overall pick in 2014.
The move proved three things to us:
1) The Jazz are serious and gearing up to be a real postseason threat.
2) The Cavs have let the first domino fall, showing their intent to go into full sell mode.
3) If the Blazers hope to make the postseason and go on a run, they need to make moves. The teams around them are, and they can't afford to be left behind.
One potential move for Portland may have had the door open just a little wider. That is to say, with the Cavs dealing Clarkson, have they opened the door for Kevin Love to come home?
Love has long been linked to the Blazers, and Portland is in desperate need of help at power forward. The one hangup we have been hearing is that the asking price for Love is too high. But the Clarkson trade hints that Cleveland may be willing to give up some players for less than their actual value.
Exum is nowhere near the talent of Clarkson, and him coupled with second-round picks was all it took to snatch Clarkson from Cleveland. The move didn't even offer Cleveland that much financial relief. Clarkson has a $13.4 million expiring deal, while Exum is making $9.6 million and is under contract through next season as well.
To sum it up: Cleveland sent 14.6 points per game Utah for $3.8 million in cap relief and some picks. Those in pursuit of Love have to be salivating.
Kevin Love is making $28.9 million this season, so the only financial way you pull the trade off is by using Hassan Whiteside's $27.1 million contract. That would give the Cavs a big expiring deal, and if you throw in a pick it could be enough to grab Love. But given how well Whiteside has been playing, it might be Cleveland that has to throw a pick to Portland.
Love may not be the player fans want, but Cleveland has shown he is there for the taking. Portland needs to do something to help salvage the season and keep hopes alive for a deep playoff run. That something could be a former Oregonian looking to come home.