Whether it’s the fact that they no longer have Kyrie Irving or something else, this January’s downfall was different than the previous three January lulls for the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, perhaps with more urgency than previous seasons, the Cavs are looking to improve their squad heading into the trade deadline. While plenty of names have reportedly been on the team’s radar, Sacramento Kings point guard George Hill has made the most murmurs over the past week or two.
It all started when ESPN’s Brian Windhorst mentioned that a deal that would bring Hill to Cleveland was “on the one-yard line” while talking to Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post last week. On the podcast, Windhorst seemed to think that Cleveland would send Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye to Sacramento for Hill, with a second deal immediately following that would bring the Cavs a new backup big man, due to Frye currently being the team’s lone backup big man behind Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.1 It wouldn’t be a trade that would make a big splash across the NBA, but it would have been one that would improve the Cavs.
So far this season, Hill is averaging just 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 27 minutes per game, all of which are his lowest in at least five years. While playing in 38 games (36 starts) this season, the 31-year-old is shooting 46 percent from the floor and a career-high 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Comparatively speaking, Hill could be an upgraded version of Jose Calderon for the Cavs. Calderon did well with the Cavs when he started earlier in the season because, although he isn’t much of a playmaker, the point guard knocked down shots when he was open and rarely made mistakes. Hill would do that and then some.
Let’s take a look at his shot chart so far in 2017-18:
Once considered to be a defense-first point guard, Hill has just a 113.4 defensive rating so far this season. Obviously, if the Cavs want to upgrade, it seems as though they should acquire a player that is good defensively, along with bringing plenty of offense. Although the point guard has struggled mightily on defense so far this season, plenty of the struggles can be blamed on the fact that the Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, almost as bad as the wine and gold.
Although Windhorst seemed to think that the deal was very, very close last week, so close that even the players were somewhat notified that they would be changing teams, things seemed to have taken a turn, one that makes it seem as though Hill will not be a Cav.
After signing a three-year, $57 million deal with Sacramento this past offseason, Hill is owed plenty of money before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020. With $20 million on the table this season, $19 million next season, and $18 million in 2019-20, the Cavs would take on plenty of salary if they were to acquire the point guard. It’s part of the reason why, according to Windhorst on ESPN Radio on Sunday, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert seems to have nixed the Hill-to-Cavs deal after the veteran would not agree that, if LeBron James were to leave the wine and gold this summer, Hill would agree to a buyout. He didn’t agree, which is why Hill will no longer be a Cavalier, at least for now.
With this season potentially being James’ last with the wine and gold, Gilbert seems to be protecting his future, while putting anything that would improve the team’s success for only this season on the backburner. While it has been known that Cleveland would likely not trade the Brooklyn first-round pick that the acquired for Kyrie Irving, this Hill trade has fallen apart because of Gilbert as well.
What makes all of this strange is the fact that, according to NBA TV’s Eric Pincus, just $1 million of the $18 million owed to Hill in 2019-20 is guaranteed, which would essentially make him an expiring contract next season. So, even if No. 23 moved on from the Cavs, Cleveland could trade Hill next season, rather than asking him for a buyout. This seems to be yet another way for Gilbert to want to have an upper-hand over James, but it may just be another reason for the King to leave this summer.
When James took his talents to South Beach, the Cavs were left with little in return for the best basketball player in the world leaving. With James having a no-trade clause, it seems as though Gilbert is once again trying to stand his ground over his biggest star, since No. 23 would not commit to Gilbert and the Cavs following this season. Then again, it may just be another move that will backfire on Gilbert—again.
- Sorry, I’m not counting Ante Zizic as a legitimate backup big right now. There’s a reason why he goes back and forth from Cleveland to the Canton Charge just to get some playing time. [↩]