The Cleveland Cavaliers are getting desperate.
Following the team’s five-game NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors, Griffin quickly went to work on deals that could add either Jimmy Butler or Paul George as reinforcements, before abruptly being let go a week before the draft. Cleveland’s GM-less front office then watched as the Minnesota Timberwolves swindled the Chicago Bulls out of Butler in a package centered around the No. 7 pick.
Now that George informed the Indiana Pacers he does not intend to re-sign, essentially forcing a trade to the highest bidder amid rumors he will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, another All-Star may be had at a bargain basement price. So, a Cavs contingent led by assistant GM Koby Altman scrambled, reportedly enlisting the Denver Nuggets as the third team in their effort to land George.
League sources: Cavs, Pacers and Nuggets have discussed a three-way deal that would land Paul George in Cleveland and Kevin Love in Denver
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 25, 2017
One version of potential 3-team trade involving Cleveland, Indiana, Denver, Kenneth Faried would be Cavalier-bound, league sources tell ESPN
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 25, 2017
I can confirm the Cavs did hold discussions to send Love to DEN and get PG from Indiana, on draft night. Source says "nothing serious"
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) June 25, 2017
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) June 26, 2017
That effort, which reportedly would have sent All-Star forward Kevin Love to Denver and a package of picks and young players to Indiana, failed on draft night. Instead, the Nuggets traded their late lottery pick, Donovan Mitchell, to the Utah Jazz for third-year forward Trey Lyles and No. 24 pick Tyler Lydon. And while multiple reports indicated the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Pacers could revisit a three-team swap, but Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon cited a source who described the deal as “very unlikely” now.
The Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs are also among teams interested in dealing for George, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes — the hope being that their culture and contending status is enough to prevent George from fleeing for L.A. a year from now.
Barring assurance George would sign an extension, none of those teams will give equal value for the four-time All-Star, given his rather public preference to return home to L.A. in free agency. But the Cavs might be both more desperate for George and more convinced they can keep him long-term, which makes them the most likely destination for the 27-year-old’s services, outside of Los Angeles.
Cleveland got its doors blown off in the Finals, and if the franchise wants to show James they can challenge the Warriors, the new front office has a year to prove it before the four-time MVP becomes a free agent himself. The Cavaliers are clearly willing to part with Love — a 28-year-old All-Star working on a max contract — either straight-up for George or via a third team (Nuggets or not) that can provide the draft picks and young talent that the Pacers more likely covet and Cleveland is sorely lacking.
Indiana isn’t likely to find a more attractive offer than that, unless Boston adding Gordon Hayward to a core that already includes Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford would be enough to convince George that they can rule the Eastern Conference for years to come. With a wealth of top-end draft picks and young talent, the Celtics can top anybody’s offer. It’s just a matter of whether they’re open to the risk.
The Cavs, on the other hand, have laid their cards on the table. In addition to pursuing George, they’re hoping Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade become available on the buyout market, per ESPN.com. Melo is due more than $54 million from the New York Knicks through 2019, and Wade has already picked up his $24 million player option to remain with the Chicago Bulls for 2017-18, so that plan requires two East foes willing to gift the three-time defending conference champions a pair of stars.
From the players’ perspective, the chance to work with their friend James on a title contender while drawing a max paycheck from another team is beyond attractive, even it means signing a minimum contract with the cap-strapped Cavs. Adding George to that mix would give Cleveland the offensive firepower to match Golden State’s offense, but it still might not be enough to compete defensively.
That’s how good the Warriors are, and that’s how much of a challenge they pose to would-be rivals.
A coup like adding George, Anthony and/or Wade to a mix that already features Kyrie Irving and a slew of talented offensive players could be enough to convince James that a Griffin-less front office has the wherewithal to surround him with enough talent to compete. And if they fall short — on the trade market or the court — Cleveland may be left in ruin again, with Love then gone and every other star but Irving able to sign elsewhere in 2018, when James, Anthony and Wade will all be in their mid-30s.
Yup, the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting desperate.
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