CLEVELAND — While the Cavaliers failed to make the playoffs, they do receive a bit of a consolation prize. That would be none other than the first-round pick they sent to the Pacers as part of the Ricky Rubio–Caris LeVert trade.
On the downside, the Cavs expected to qualify for the Eastern Conference postseason back when they made the trade in early February. But losing both play-in games (not to mention countless injuries) ended that idea.
Anyway, the bottom line is the Cavs still own their first-rounder this year. That pick is slated for the No. 14 overall slot — unless, of course, the Cavs have the good fortune of moving up to the top four in the lottery. That’s probably not real likely, but hey, you never know.
ESPN currently ranks prospects such as Baylor power forward Jeremy Sochan, Kentucky point guard Ty Ty Washington, LSU small forward Tari Eason and Ohio State shooting guard Malachi Branham in the Nos. 13-16 range.
Of course, the Pacers aren’t necessarily a huge loser in all this. They still have a shot at the Cavs’ pick if the Cavs take the next step and reach the playoffs next season, as relayed by James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star.
“The trade, however, is not over. The cycle repeats itself next season with Indiana receiving Cleveland’s 2023 first-round pick if the Cavs reach the playoffs,” Boyd wrote. “The catch next year, though, is if Cleveland misses the playoffs for a second straight season, then its 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick gets converted and sent to the Pacers as a 2025 second-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick via the Lakers that the Cavaliers currently own.”
Now, there’s no sense yet what the Cavs’ plans are for the pick. You can be certain president of basketball operations Koby Altman will do some offseason maneuvering. Odds are, the Cavs keep the pick, draft someone and hope that rookie can become part of the rotation in 2022-23. But they could also draft someone and trade him as part of a package.
But the nice thing is, the Cavs will have options. And for a franchise that’s seemingly on the rise, that’s the next best thing to making the playoffs.