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Three-Way Trade About What’s Next

The three-team trade between Brooklyn, Cleveland and Boston was more about what’s next than the actual players involved in it.

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We’re one day away from the end of the NBA’s moratorium period and there’s now another transaction to add to the list of deals that will be completed once it’s lifted. Earlier today, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets agreed to a three-team trade that looks as follows:

Celtics receive: Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers that is top-10 protected from 2016-18 and unprotected in 2019.

Nets receive: Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev.

Cavaliers receive: Draft rights to Ilkan Karaman, Christian Drejer and Edin Bavcic.

While Thornton, Zeller, Jack and Karasev are all capable of being solid rotation players next year, this deal is not about them. It’s about two All-Stars: LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Let’s start with LeBron, who the Cavaliers now have room to offer a full max contract. The deal actually gives them about $24 million in cap space, a few million more than LeBron is eligible to receive. The extra space could be used on Ray Allen, who ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported the Cavaliers have already reached out to in attempts to sign (although Allen is strongly considering retirement, according to Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy).

By all accounts, LeBron is deciding between the HEAT and Cavaliers. One of the things that was working against the Cavaliers was their lack of a max slot for him, but now they’re as in the game as they have ever been to get him back. LeBron is set to meet with HEAT president Pat Riley, owner Micky Arison and Dwyane Wade today in Las Vegas. While no decision is expected, we’re likely a day or two away from knowing where James will play next year.

For the sake of being thorough, Karaman is a 24-year-old Turkish small forward, who last played for Fenerbahce Ulker. He averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13.8 minutes of action a night in 39 contests. He was the 57th pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2012 NBA Draft. Drejer, a Florida Gator from 2002-2004, was the 51st pick by the Nets in the 2004 NBA Draft, but has not played professionally since 2008. Foot injuries were the cause for his premature retirement. Bavcic was a 2006 second-round pick (56th overall) of the Toronto Raptors. His rights have bounced around from Toronto, to Philadelphia, to New Orleans, to Brooklyn and now to Cleveland. He’s been with K.A.O.D. in Greece since 2012 and averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds this past season. At 30 years of age, his window to play in the NBA has come and gone, as have Karaman and Drejer’s. The Cavaliers acquired their rights simply to get under the cap.

The Celtics’ became a willing trade partner thanks to the first-round pick the Cavaliers threw in, more so than to acquire Thornton or Zeller. Zeller could provide some depth up front, but Thornton’s going to have some trouble cracking the rotation with how guard-heavy their backcourt is – if he stays with the team. Anyone not named Rajon Rondo could be included in part of the Celtics’ offer for Kevin Love, who they have steadily been trying to acquire for over a month now. Their offer is going to center around young talent and multiple first-round picks. They have five first-round picks now through 2018 that they can trade, not including their own first rounders – all of which they still have. The Celtics obviously have competition for Love, including the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers among others, but their assets certainly have them in the mix for the star forward.

With the departure of Shaun Livingston, the Nets needed some help at the backup point guard position. Jack, while coming off of a down year, has long been regarded as one of the premier reserve lead guards in the league. He’ll help add depth, and Karasev is a nice prospect to add as well. He wasn’t a world changer as a rookie, but has a lot of upside and the ability to help them on the offensive end right away with his ability to space the floor.

Unfortunately for the Nets, this is more about getting deeper and younger. This isn’t a potential precursor to landing an All-Star like it could be for the Cavaliers and Celtics.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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