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How Lauri Markkanen deal shifts Celtics trade exception possibilities

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., left, goes up for a dunk against Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A pair of potential trade exception targets for the Celtics were on the move Friday as the Cavaliers, Bulls and Trail Blazers agreed to a three-team deal highlighted by Lauri Markkanen being sign-and-traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland gave the Markkanen a four-year, $67 million deal according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com but did not have the cap space to sign outright, leading to the sign-and-trade with Chicago. The deal was expanded to three teams to add to the number of moving parts involved. Here’s a full breakdown of the compensation

Bulls get: Derrick Jones Jr (from POR), 2022 first round pick (top-14 protected from POR), 2023 second-round pick (from CLE)

Cavs get: Lauri Markannen (from CHI)

Blazers get: Larry Nance Jr. (from CLE)

Evaluating the deal

The Blazers are in win-now mode so they gave up the most draft capital here for a player in Nance Jr. they believe can help them win now to appease Damian Lillard. Nance Jr. is a big upgrade on Jones Jr. but whether that is enough to make a difference in the Western Conference playoff picture for Portland remains to be seen.

The Bulls take back an unattractive contract in Jones Jr. at $9.7 million but he’s young enough where he could have a nice bounceback year off Chicago’s bench. They also replenish some of their draft assets after giving up multiple picks to land Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan in separate sign-and-trade deals.

The Cavs take the biggest gamble here investing a host of money in Markkanen despite his awkward fit in Cleveland’s revamped frontline. Kevin Love will likely be moved to a back burner role now as the team prioritizes it’s younger pieces in Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Markkanen. How that group meshes together from a defensive standpoint will be a tough thing for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to figure out but Markkanen will provide some perimeter shooting and scoring upside.

Does it impact the Celtics TPE possibilities at all?

The main area of note here from the Celtics’ perspective is losing out on a potential affordable power forward that would have fit nicely into their TPE in Larry Nance Jr. to Portland. The Blazers are looking to contend right away so he no longer looks like an available target for Boston in-season any longer barring the Blazers having a disastrous year and selling off Lillard and other assets at the trade deadline. Nance Jr. is under contract for two more seasons for a total of $20 million. He averaged 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season but his defensive versatility should make him a valuable fit in Portland. The Celtics showed trade interest in Nance Jr. last season according to league sources.

The other moving parts here shouldn’t interest the Celtics much at all. The C’s were linked to Markkanen far earlier this offseason but their subsequent moves made any potential pursuit highly unlikely. The other name that could become more readily available in the short-term future here is Kevin Love. The veteran big man is still under contract for two more seasons but could be headed towards a buyout if the Cavs want to go with younger players over him. The guess here is the Celtics wouldn’t have much interest in a 32-year-old Love even after his buyout but he would obviously be worth a look for the veteran’s minimum. It’s also likely that he would try to play for a top-tier contender if those teams have interest in him if/when he is bought out.


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