If You Can’t Beat Them…
Whether you like it or not, there’s only one way the Cavs can compete with the Warriors over the next few years — Aquire free-agent-to-be, Paul George.
Flashback to January 23, 2017. Playing in New Orleans against a bad Pelicans team missing injured All-World forward Anthony Davis, the Cavaliers allowed 70 first-half points en route to a 124–122 loss in a game where Kyrie Irving scored 49 points in 42 minutes and LeBron James finished with a triple-double in 44 minutes. After the game, a frustrated LeBron made the rest of the sports-world aware of his concern pertaining to the Cavs’ championship potential.
“We need a f — king playmaker. Obviously, in the playoffs, you go down to what, eight [players] max? And, if somebody gets in foul trouble, you go to nine. You’re not playing back-to-backs. You have two days in between. You’re able to lock in. It’s like when you don’t have bodies, it’s tough . . . the f — ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We’re top-heavy as s — . It’s me, [Irving], [Love]. It’s top-heavy. We got to figure it out. It’s been a s — ty 2017 so far.” — LeBron James, (January 23, 2017).
Over the next week, the rant became the leading topic on every debate-desk, podcast, radio show, and blog post. The majority of fans reached a consensus — Put up or shut up! While many argued that LeBron was simply trying to light a fire under the complacent Cavs, it was hard to ignore the “woe is me” position he was speaking from. For a guy who had basically hand-picked his teammates — orchestrating the acquisitions and/or re-signings of Love, Smith, Shumpert, Thompson, and Jefferson, amongst others — who was he to argue?
While it was hard to justify LeBron’s whining at the time, in retrospect, it’s clear that he had already begun to accept the seemingly impossible obstacle ahead — as the Warriors began to transform into the juggernaut that would prove to be head and shoulders above the Cavs, after stringing together a 3–0 lead in the NBA Finals.
After getting blown out in the NBA Finals’ first two games — despite LeBron averaging 28.5 points, 11 assists, 13 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, & 1.5 steals — it wasn’t a question whether LeBron could lead the Cavs to the title, rather, if he could push the series to six games a la 2015. In Game 3, the Cavs finally resembled the team that dug themselves out of a 3–1 hole in last year’s series — as LeBron and Kyrie combined for 77 points, 12 rebounds, & 17 assists; Love filled the stat-sheet with 9 points, 13 rebounds, & 6 steals; And JR Smith added 5 three-pointers.
Last year, exceptiobal production from those four guys would’ve been enough. But this isn’t last year. While “holding” the Splash Bros. to 56 points combined and keeping Draymond below a triple-double, the Cavs had no answer for Kevin Durant, as the Warriors newest star dropped 31 points, to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. After the Warriors Game 3 win, even the biggest LeBron stans have moved past the stage of denial, toward one of previously unfathomable acceptance — the Warriors are unbeatable.
In the post-game presser, LeBron wouldn’t shy away from their superiority.
“It’s probably the most, most firepower I’ve played in my career,” James said. “I played against some great teams, but I don’t think no team has had this type of firepower. So even when you’re playing well, you got to play like A plus plus.”
LeBron, like the rest of us, knows that A plus plus isn’t sustainable. And so, we’d be naive to think that he, along with his GM and Owner, aren’t already thinking about ways to capitalize on his ever-closing championship window. It’s evident that there’s only one way to do it — assemble a super-team that can hang with GS. With that said, the Cavs should be targeting one player — Paul George.
Although PG13 has tried to publicly downplay his wandering eye, it’s common knowledge that he wants out of Indiana, with many sources stating he is dead-set on signing with the Lakers next summer. This puts the Pacers in the same position as the 2011 Nuggets — when Denver smartly traded ‘Melo to the Knicks before the trade deadline, instead of risking losing him for nothing.
Which brings us to the Cavs. While most teams wouldn’t risk renting out George considering the overwhelming likelihood that he re-signs elsewhere at the end of the season, the Cavs serve as a destination that George would be ignorant to pass up. With Golden State proving that even the NBA’s next-best teams — Spurs, Celtics, Rockets — wouldn’t be able to win a title by adding George, the Cavs may represent the Pacers’ only option at obtaining something for PG13 — by offering Kevin Love and future first-round picks.
As fantastical as it may seem, we only find ourselves in this position because of two aquisitions that were considered even more incomprehensible — LeBron to Miami and Durant to Golden State. In actuality, PG13 to Cleveland is probably more realistic than it sounds. And so, if it were to happen, does he give the Cavs enough firepower to beat the Warriors? Yes.
By swapping Love for George, the Cavs would trot out a crunch-time five of — Kyrie, Korver, JR, George, & LeBron. In PG13, the Cavs not only would possess a third scorer who can create his own shot, but more importantly, an above-average defender who could guard Durant, thereby relieving LeBron of his duties on the defensive-end. With that said, PG3 has enough talent to give the Cavs a Big-3 that could go toe-to-toe with the Warriors’ Big-4.
When it comes down to it — aside from the Warriors’ pace and the Cavs’ abysmal defense — the Warriors will be crowned champions simply because they always have four of the top-six players on the court; while in key moments, three of the top-four, and four of the top-five. Put simply, PG13 would give the Cavs a chance at matching the Warriors punch-for-punch. While recently overlooked, George has shown he can still be the best player on the court on any given night — even when sharing the same floor as LeBron, Durant, Curry, Kyrie, Klay, and Draymond.
If there is any chance the Warriors don’t win the next two, three, or four titles — it lies in the hands of the Cavs’ front office, and Paul George.
The ball is in your court, Cleveland.