- The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz for Dante Exum and two second-round picks.
- Although Clarkson has been productive, he’s on an expiring contract.
- The 24-year-old Exum is the type of player Cleveland should be targeting in trades this season.
At 9-21, the Cleveland Cavaliers are barreling straight toward the NBA draft lottery. As such, they began their inevitable teardown Monday by trading Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz for Dante Exum and a pair of second-round picks via San Antonio in 2022 and Golden State in 2023, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Clarkson, who’s in the midst of a career year, will be difficult to replace for Cleveland. In all likelihood, this trade will make the Cavs even worse for the rest of the year, as Clarkson was their third-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game.
It was also the objectively correct decision for this rebuilding Cavaliers squad.
Why trade Jordan Clarkson?
Although Clarkson is setting career-best marks in a host of advanced metrics, he’ll turn 28 in June and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Had the Cavaliers held on to him past the trade deadline, they would have risked losing him for nothing in free agency.
Since the Cavs just spent a pair of lottery picks on Collin Sexton (No. 8 in 2018) and Darius Garland (No. 5 in 2019), Clarkson had no realistic pathway to a starting gig in Cleveland. The Cavs could have re-signed him as their version of Lou Williams—a microwave-scoring super-sub—but he doesn’t align age-wise with the rest of their developing young core.
Fresh off his season-high 33-point performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 20, the Cavaliers effectively sold high on Clarkson.
They’ll badly miss his floor-spacing ability, as he’s second on the team in made three-pointers per game (2.0), trailing only big man Kevin Love (2.3). However, Clarkson wasn’t an impactful defender, so it’s fair to question whether he’ll be a…