NBA Trade Grades: Cavaliers, Jazz swap Jordan Clarkson for Dante Exum

In our first move of the holiday season, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz are swapping bench guards in Jordan Clarkson and Dante Exum. Here are NBA Trade Grades for both teams.

NBA trade fanatics, we have our first notable (kinda, sorta) move of the season!

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojanarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz have agreed to swap flawed bench guards, with the Cavs sending Jordan Clarkson to Salt Lake City in exchange for Dante Exum and two second-round draft picks.

As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported, the two second-rounders in the deal will be a 2022 pick via the San Antonio Spurs and a 2023 pick via the Golden State Warriors.

While the value of those future second-round selections is nearly impossible to project right now, we can certainly take a quick look at the two guards being exchanged, and the overall deal, in order to hand out NBA Trade Grades for both sides.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are making out like bandits in this trade, only if bandits robbed piggy banks instead of, you know, actual bank vaults.

It’s no secret that Exum has failed to live up to his lofty billing as a former No. 5 overall pick. Injuries have certainly played a role in holding him back, but now in his sixth year in the league, the 24-year-old combo guard has showed very little in terms of growth as a scorer, shooter or facilitator. Where he shines is on the defensive end, but thanks to all the injury woes over the years, he’s off to another slow start in 2019-20.

Averaging 2.2 points and 0.6 assists in a meager 7.5 minutes per game, Exum has only appeared in 11 games for the Jazz this season, In addition to the 18 games he’s missed this year, Exum was sidelined for 82, 16, 68 and 40 games over the next four full seasons after playing in all 82 contests as a rookie. He’s a career 30.5 percent 3-point shooter and has never averaged double digits in the scoring column.

However, because he’s only 24 years old and under contract through 2020-21, Cleveland will get a short-term look at a young player trying to prove he can have an impact and stay healthy. Turning Clarkson’s expiring contract into anything was the right move for the Cavs, who will probably try to do something similar with Tristan Thompson in the near future. Adding two second-rounders to the pile is never a bad thing, but in all honesty, the biggest win from this trade might simply be freeing up more opportunities for rookie Kevin Porter Jr.

Exum is only owed $9.6 million this season and next, so even with an additional year on the books compared to Clarkson, he’s plenty affordable and is the type of young project the Cavs might as well try and sculpt during their rebuild. Even if he gets hurt again or never amounts to anything but a pesky defender, turning Clarkson into two second-rounders and more minutes for KPJ is a small win.

Grade: B-

Utah Jazz

We don’t want to say the Jazz are desperate, per se, but with the team off to a so-so 18-11 start (which required five straight wins to get there), it’s clear this group needed some extra oomph, especially on offense. Time will tell if the ever erratic Jordan Clarkson is the answer.

As an expiring $13.4 million salary, Clarkson could have short-term value for a Jazz unit that ranks 21st in offensive rating, per NBA.com. Utah currently leads the league in 3-point percentage, so adding a guy who’s canning 37.1 percent of his 3s this year only bolsters the NBA’s most efficient long-range attack.

The key will be his volume, however, since Utah only ranks 21st in 3-point attempts per game. Clarkson is taking 5.5 triples per game and still making them at a high clip. He’s improved some of his sporadic tendencies with his shot selection and is quietly having a career year off the bench for a bad Cavaliers team, averaging a career-best 22.9 points per 36 minutes while boasting a career-high 58.1 true shooting percentage.

However, as is the case with any trade, this will come down to fit, especially for a player who’s been known to do his own thing at times. He was really finding himself in John Beilein’s offense, but what does that say about him, that he was thriving on a team devoid of purpose? Hopefully Quin Snyder will be able to harness this new and improved Clarkson into a bench weapon for a Jazz team that ranks 29th in bench scoring, but whether he can contribute to winning basketball on a good team remains to be seen.

Jordan Clarkson probably won’t be the move that bumps the Utah Jazz back into the contender category many hastily stuffed them into before the season began, but he’ll definitely help, especially if Mike Conley and that hamstring prove to be a problem. Getting out of the final year of Exum’s deal is a win in the sunk cost column; it’s just unfortunate it took two second-rounders — distant and insignificant though they may seem — to dump a 24-year-old former No. 5 pick whose $9.6 million salary somehow looks terrible now.

Grade: C+

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