What could the Nets get from the Cavaliers in a potential Cameron Johnson trade?

Mar 16, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Cameron Johnson (2) dribbles the ball while Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Many teams are rumored to be interested in Brooklyn Nets forward Cameron Johnson, but perhaps no team has been linked more often than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland should be motivated to make a deal, as they look to retool for a deeper playoff run now with Donovan Mitchell locked up with a three-year extension.

Every team in the league, especially in the East, is chasing the Boston Celtics, who just won a championship on the strength of their two fantastic wing players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That only puts a premium on players like Johnson who can function as secondary scorer in an offense while most importantly shutting down some of the game’s best on the wing.

Cleveland has limited draft capital to swing a deal

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers
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Cleveland’s 2025 through 2029 draft picks are tied up via the trade that brought Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland in 2022. That means the earliest first-rounder that can be sent to the Nets would be in 2030, and the Nets will absolutely be asking for at least one first-round pick.

Having draft compensation so far out into the future cuts both ways. Cleveland likely will be rebuilding at that point with Donovan Mitchell and the rest of their core aging out of productive player status. The Nets hopefully would be contenders which makes the asset intriguing. At that point in time they could either flip it for immediate help or reload their potential run with some high-end young talent.

That said, time brings uncertainty, and having an asset so far out into the future increases the volatility of potential outcomes. With the Nets allegedly looking at an accelerated timetable for their rebuild, it’s questionable how much a pick so far along in the future would entice them.

Cleveland also has a young player to deal

Isaac Okoro, Nets, Cavaliers
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

A first-round pick alone, especially one so far in the future, won’t be enough to get a Cam Johnson trade done. The Cavs do, however, have an intriguing young player they could throw into the deal as a sweetener. That player is Isaac Okoro who many believe will be traded in Cleveland’s pursuit of roster upgrades.

The fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, Okoro has failed to live up to his draft status. However, the 23-year-old wing has established himself as a tenacious defender, and after a ghastly performance from three as a rookie, has shown the ability to stretch the floor a bit in recent years.

Last season, Okoro averaged 9.4 points per game on 49.0% shooting from the field and 39.1% from three on just 3.1 attempts per game. To be a true 3-and-D threat, you’d like to see a bit more volume from deep, but still, at a very young age, there’s room for him to grow.

As a player, Okoro is at least intriguing enough to be a consideration, and with the Nets aggressively shopping their veteran wings there will be plenty of playing time to be had should Okoro come over via trade.

Okoro’s contract situation may hamper his value

Isaac Okoro, Nets, Cavaliers
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

While Okoro is an intriguing young player, his contract situation doesn’t help his trade value. Currently a restricted free-agent, Okoro could cash in with a big pay day next offseason. That would seem even more likely should he be traded and take on a larger role with his new team.

The question is whether or not the Nets would want to pay someone like Okoro with some believing the young swingman could command over $20 million per season. With the Nets projected to have up to $80 million in cap space next offseason they could certainly afford to pay Okoro, but will they want to?

A lot of that hinges on the development of the team’s young players during the 2024-2025 season, draft positioning, and what players could be on the market at that point. In what is supposed to be a loaded 2025 draft class the Nets have six total picks, including 5 that could be in the top 35 of the draft. That kind of capital provides a plethora of options.

The Nets could make all six picks, thus necessitating open roster spots to house all of the rookies. They could package picks to move around the draft board to target a couple of players they particularly like. They could trade some of the picks for an established star. Or they could do a combination of the above, especially if they believe Cooper Flagg or Ace Bailey will be in range of their picks and can immediately be a franchise cornerstone player.

On the other hand, the Nets will have to meet the salary floor, and given his youth Okoro should be a tradeable asset down the line. Still it’s hard to wonder if there isn’t a better trade package out there for the best remaining trade chip the Nets have left.

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