The Cavaliers are looking to clear cap space for a run at LeBron James, and the Celtics turned out to be beneficiaries.
ESPN reports the Cavs, Nets and Celtics have agreed to a three-team deal, though it cannot be made official until Thursday when free agent signing begin.
The Celtics will receive center Tyler Zeller and a first-round draft pick from Cleveland and guard Marcus Thornton from the Nets. The 2016 first-round pick is top-10 protected in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Starting with 2019 it would not be protected.
The Nets add point guard Jarrett Jack and forward Sergey Karasev from Cleveland, while the Cavs will receive European prospects Edin Bavcic, Christian Drejer and Ilkan Karaman.
More importantly for Cleveland, it will free up cap space in order to pursue free agents, most notably James.
Zeller was the N0. 17 overall pick in 2012 out of North Carolina. The 7-foot-1, 253-pound center has been solid if not spectacular in his first two seasons. He averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a rookie, including 55 starts. But he was a bench player last season, and averaged just 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. But he’s never played more than limited minutes (21 per game in his first two seasons). His per-48 minute averages are 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
The Celtics often played with an undersized post last season. Jared Sullinger or Kris Humphries, both 6-foot-9, were regularly starting. Though 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, last year’s first-round pick from Gonzaga, also got plenty of time in the post.
Thornton is a five-year pro who split time between Sacramento and Brooklyn last season. He was a nice addition for the Nets last season, averaging 12.3 points per game off the bench and shooting 38 percent from behind the arc.
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