How do Lauri Markkanen and Larry Nance fit on their new teams?
The young Cavaliers trio on the front row could be successful, but is it worth the investment the team made to bring them together Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley?
It’s hard to understand why the Cavaliers gave Lauri Markkanen $ 67 million over the next four years, even before considering their other moves this offseason. With additional context, the decision seems downright misguided. Just days after taking big man Evan Mobley third in the overall draft, Cleveland re-signed center Jarrett Allen to a five-year, $ 100 million contract – a deal that seemed exorbitant at the time and has even less sense now that a clearer picture of the Cavs roster has taken shape.
On Saturday, the Cavs acquired Markkanen from the Bulls in a signing and trade that also sent Larry Nance Jr. to Portland and Derrick Jones Jr. and a pair of draft picks to Chicago. A partially guaranteed fourth year makes the contract slightly more palatable for Cleveland, but it’s confusing nonetheless given how much the Cavs have already invested in their frontcourt.
How does Lauri Markkanen fit in with the rest of the Cavs roster?
Cleveland drafted a potential franchise cornerstone in Mobley, and then made a massive commitment to Allen, which has already raised questions about how the team’s forwardcourt of the future would take shape. Adding a save-quality striker to the starting money that doesn’t protect the rim enough to play center or have the defensive agility to play real minutes on the wing only complicates this. to come up.
The issue here isn’t so much the fit between Allen, Mobley, and Markkanen, but the cost of bringing them together. Their skills aren’t completely redundant, but they don’t complement each other either, which could make it difficult for the trio to share the floor. Position overlap isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but the Cavs have devoted significant resources to a position where overlap is not often conducive to optimization. An NBA team could theoretically play five wings at a time with no one encroaching on another’s space, but playing multiple great men together usually presents more challenges due to a lower collective skill level. A forwardcourt rotation from Markkanen, Mobley and Allen isn’t untenable – it may even be effective – but it’s hard to see how this arrangement maximizes all three players in the long run or how the Cavaliers pivot elsewhere if it doesn’t work. .
There’s a chance Markkanen will grow into a more complete offensive player in the years to come, but he hasn’t established himself as much as a capable-4 stretch in his first four NBA seasons. The Cavaliers paid him off as the player they hope he will become rather than the player he currently is or plans to be. And while it’s true that not all young players on a developing team are likely to go through the rebuilding process, Cleveland has pretty much ensured that Markkanen, Mobley and Allen are there for the long haul by investing so much in them. These are not low risk bets; these are real commitments that will be very difficult to undo if they do not materialize.
For now, the Cavaliers will be tinkering with different ways to deploy the three together and in pairs. In theory, any two-man combination could at least stall at both ends of the pitch, although Mobley will surely take time to develop his shooting, passing and defense. Even a frontcourt with the three young players could be tenable on both sides of the ball, but it may never be worth the price the Cavs paid for it.
How much does Larry Nance Jr. move the needle for Portland?
While Markkanen may receive more buzz (and a section earlier in this column), the bigger part of Saturday’s deal involves Larry Nance Jr. heading to Portland, where he is expected to fit right into the rotation. It’s not exactly the kind of all-in move that will push the Blazers into the title chase or definitely convince Damian Lillard to stay, but it can help stabilize what has been one of the most volatile benches in the league. NBA during the last half. decade. Nance is a rock-solid all-rounder who can pretty much keep the wings and protect the rim – a rare combination even in a league full of increasingly versatile players – and his flexibility at both ends of the pitch should give Chauncey Billups more. options on the bench that Terry Stotts had last season.
Neither Nance nor Cody Zeller, whom the Blazers signed earlier this offseason, need to be more than passable to improve on what Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter gave the Blazers on defense last season, but Nance offers more than just basic skills. . He’s not a revolutionary defensive destroyer, but he’s an active, disruptive player with the instinct to identify threats and the athleticism to quell them. Offensively, he doesn’t space the floor as well as Anthony, but he exercises much better judgment and won’t regularly requisition goods to hoist a contested 16-footer. Nance isn’t an extraordinary passer, but he makes smart decisions that keep goods in circulation and should give Lillard and McCollum a dynamic pick-and-roll partner who can both finish over the edge and do Connection games when the Portland guards attract two defenders.
Nance is likely to be off the bench for most of next season, but that shouldn’t stop him from weaving his way through a myriad of roster combinations, including closing units on certain nights. There might not be a particular area of the game he’s the elite in, but in a team with a dynamic backcourt already in place, it’s Nance’s breadth of abilities that might make him indispensable. .