Paul George to Cleveland
By Max Terfler
A year after coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of getting swept by the new-look Golden State Warriors with Kevin Durant leading the way.
This will be the second time in three years that the Cavs season will come to an end with a loss to the Warriors. The difference is this time around the Cavs are healthy and have no reason to be getting swept. Their only reason for losing is that they are playing against four perennial all-stars in Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
This year is the third consecutive year that Cleveland and Golden State have met in the finals and that doesn’t look to be changing any time in the near future. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are both unrestricted free agents after the Finals but they have both expressed interest in taking pay cuts to return to Golden State next season. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are both locked up for at least another two seasons. Assuming they retain all four all-stars the Warriors will be heavy favorites to win the Finals for the next couple of seasons, unless LeBron James and co. are looking to change that. If the Cavs want any shot at taking down the Golden State juggernaut here is what they have to do. After the Finals are over, LeBron and Kyrie need to call up Paul George and they need to tell him that they need him in Cleveland to beat the Warriors next season and for seasons to come. Paul George then needs to sit down with Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers GM, and Paul George needs tell him that he is going to leave in free agency after the 2017–18 season so he has two options here. Option one, keep George for the 2017–18 season and once the season is over George leaves in free agency and the Pacers get nothing in return for him. Option two, trade George to Cleveland and get something in return for him that they can keep long term because George is leaving after the season anyway, and we all know something is better than nothing.
Here is where Cavs GM, David Griffin, comes in. The Cavs are over 13 million dollars above the luxury tax and have no room to bring in George’s 19.5 million dollar contract for the 2017–18 season without getting rid of one of the contracts on their team. Let alone, they have no valuable draft picks to trade for George, so their only option is to trade a player. Their best available option to be able to afford George’s contract and bring enough interest from the Pacers is to offer Kevin Love for Paul George. This deal makes perfect sense for both sides.
On Indiana’s side of the deal, they are giving up George who has informed them he wants to leave and only has one season left before he is a free agent. In return they are receiving Kevin Love, who has proven in Minnesota he can be a go to scorer, they will also retain him for, at least, another three seasons after the 2016–17 season.
On Cleveland’s side of the deal, they are giving up Love who has not shown up for them when it has mattered most in the Finals. His first season in Cleveland he suffered a season ending injury in the first round of the playoffs, not allowing him to play any minutes in the finals. In his second season, he played in 6 games of the Finals, averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, both well below his season average. He also missed a game that year due to a concussion. In his third season, his current season with the team, he scored 15 and 27 respectively in games 1 and 2 but he slowed down in game 3 only scoring 9 points on shooting 1 of 9 from the field. Love has also been a defensive liability, not being able to guard any elite scorers such as Kevin Durant. Love is set to earn 22.6 million for the 2017–18 season while George is only set to earn 19.5 million. This would clear up a few million dollars in cap space for the Cavs to spend else where to improve the team. George has also proven to be an elite two way player in the NBA. George’s defense would come in handy when it comes to guarding Kevin Durant. It would take a lot of stress off of LeBron’s body if he didn’t have to match up with Durant every night.
The only downside of this deal for the Cavs is that George is an unrestricted free agent after the 2017–18 season. George would have to decide if winning or money is more important to him. If he chose to stay in Cleveland, one possible way the Cavs could work this out is that LeBron could opt out of his player option so that he could take a pay cut so they could keep George in Cleveland.
I’m not saying that George moving to Cleveland would dethrone the Warriors as the NBA’s most elite team but it would be a lot taller of a task for them if they had to guard LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Paul George.