Cavaliers, WWW

Will Paul George be a Cavalier by Thursday? While We’re Waiting

While on my weekly radio spot with Canton’s 106.9 WRQK1 we did a bit of a post mortem on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016-17 season and discussed the possibility of the team adding yet another star in Indiana’s Paul George. I was asked to give my percentage likelihood of this happening, as it was deemed to be the move the Cavs had to make if they were to contend with the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. I considered salaries, and I considered assets, but mostly I considered George’s affinity for wanting to head west and the Pacers’ ability to pay him the most in free agency if it got to that point. I said five percent.

On Sunday night, however, George changed everything when his agent reportedly told Pacers decision makers that his client was not going to re-sign with the club, and that when they deal him, they should give the Los Angeles Lakers some preferential treatment. That sound you heard? All of Indiana’s dealing leverage flying out of window at sonic boom-creating speeds. And with the Los Angeles Lakers immediately weary of trading assets for a player whom they may be able to obtain in free agency a year later, this leaves one other team—your Cleveland Cavaliers, according to a variety of reports—currently in the mix on the trading front and that the Pacers want to get a deal done very, very quickly.

It has been widely considered that the Cavs would have to part ways with Kevin Love’s $22 million deal to obtain George’s $19.5 million version. For whatever reason, he’s the player where the perception of fans (and Twitter) and the perception of NBA general managers varies to a wild degree. To the league, he’s a 20-something multiple-time All-Star who provides a lethal combination of rebounding, three-point shooting, and outlet passing. To fools on Twitter, he’s the whipping boy for all things unfortunate. The craziest part? According to Brian Windhorst, given how quickly the Pacers want to make a deal (assumed to be before Thursday’s draft), they may be lucky to pry Love away in a deal for the 2K17 cover boy at this point. (20:00 mark)

“The Pacers will be lucky to get Kevin Love,” said Windhorst. “You’re not going to get an All-Star for a rental. His ask may be to get Kevin Love to try and flip him somewhere else. He’s not going to get those offers. Paul George is doing an honorable thing, but from a leverage standpoint, they’re out of position. The Pacers have no leverage if they want to trade. If the Cavs come to the deal with Kevin Love, the deal’s done. The team’s calling the Pacers are the teams in the positions of strength—that’s what makes this so interesting.”

According to Dave McMenamin, the Cavs are willing to talk about acquiring George without any assurance he will stay in Cleveland beyond one season. While Cavs fans may need to start coming to grips with the fact that this coming season could be the final one of this contention window given the contract status of a host of key members of the roster,2 the Cavs—led by David Griffin as he’s in the driver’s seat until June 30—are confident it may be a Kevin Love situation where a player spurns going west once he becomes part of a championship atmosphere.

What all of this means, of course, is that an offer for George would likely start with the combination of Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and an additional asset (either a draft pick or Cedi Osman), or could include a third team who would be willing to take on these players—say, Phoenix?—while sending something younger and more long term back to Indiana to pair with Myles Turner, who would suddenly become the Pacers’ building block of the future. This would be interesting for a variety of reasons, chief of which is LeBron James’ relationship with Tristan Thompson, but adding a player with a 20-plus PER would immediately give Cleveland a legitimate Big 4 rather than an improved Big 3.

Sure, the Cavs would an issue with post play and rim protection, but George (and LeBron for that matter) become your pick and roll defenders, while Griff (assuming he gets re-signed) simply turns his attention to using what assets he has left to fill out the paint. Meanwhile, while all this is unfolding, the Lakers may not sit on their hand and have another Kevin Love situation develop where they miss out on a player due to getting too cute while undervaluing a culture aided by winning.

A poetic turn, of course, would be if the Lakers dealt young talent—be it Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, or Brandon Ingrahm—for George, providing him even less to work with going forward. But that said, if George is going to L.A. now, he isn’t going there to win. He’ll have to play the Golden State Warriors more than twice per season, for starters, while still being the second-best team in his own building.

We still have a long way to go on this entire saga, but it looks like our deadline remains as approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday night. Five percent? Perhaps we should have listened to Evan Turner this entire time.

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  1. Much love to Dan Stansbury and Matt Fantone. []
  2. Seriously. We need to talk about this. This could be the last hurrah as a 34-year-old James could head west with PG to join a super young Lakers team. It’s not far-fetched. []
  3. It’s not too often we have an obit in this space, but here’s your reminder that these too can be well written. []
  4. Irony, yes? []