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February 24, 2011, 02:04 PM ET
Making Sense of Baron Davis to Cleveland

by Kevin Pelton

When David Aldridge first reported on Twitter than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers were considering swapping their point guards, it seemed like a bad joke, one of those silly trade conversations that are forgotten within two weeks of the deadline. Instead, within the hour, the deal had been confirmed. Eventually, the full picture of the deal came out, making it more sensible for Cleveland with the addition of the Clippers’ first-round pick. But the initial deal–and Baron Davis‘ reputation for lackadaisical play–tainted the whole thing.

Clearly, the Cavaliers’ motivation was adding a pick that currently would be eighth entering the lottery. The Clippers could move a fair bit in either direction depending on how well they play with Mo Williams and how quickly Eric Gordon returns, but eighth is a reasonable guess at the pick Cleveland is getting. So what is that pick worth? According to the research I did last year as part of the Summer 2010 Preview series, an eighth pick can be expected to produce about $25 million of value in wins on average during his rookie contract. Over the same period, based on the current CBA, he’d be paid $10 million. That implies a value of $15 million for the eighth pick, were teams able to pay that much for it in actual cash.

The Cavaliers couldn’t do that, but they could swallow the difference between Davis’ and Williams’ contracts, both of which run through the 2012-13 season. Over that span, Davis will be paid $15.4 million more than Williams (per ShamSports.com). Because Jamario Moon was included in the deal, this year’s money is about a wash, so call it $12.4 million.

According to Chad Ford, part of the reason the Clippers were willing to make this trade is their pessimism about this year’s draft, which could be weakened by players who don’t want to come out early only to get locked out. In that case, the pick might be worth less than usual. Still, when you pencil this out on paper, it looks like a decent gamble on young talent for Cleveland at worst.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

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