Based on his own sources USA Today’s Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Paul George is now officially off the table, and with that maybe people can stop projecting the Cavs to trade the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick to the Thunder to acquire George. Besides, as mentioned before the Cavs should not even bother trying to land George or New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins.
But it’s understandable why Cavs fans were chomping at the bit to land George, as the perimeter defense between him, Jae Crowder, and LeBron James would have been legendary. While George was an intriguing acquisition for the Cavs they realistically had no shot to land him from the floundering Thunder as they simply lack the proper assets outside of the untouchable Nets draft pick.
The other reason so many fans wanted the Cavs to swing for the fences when acquiring George was the fact that this season their perimeter defense has been lackluster, currently ranking near the bottom of the league allowing 12 shots from beyond the arc on average. This is pretty alarming as the Cavs have played fairly average three-point shooting teams so far into the season but when they run into the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets, both three-point juggernauts, their porous perimeter defense will be quickly exposed.
Thankfully for the Cavs, all is not lost as they can shore up their perimeter defense all while not giving up the coveted 2018 Nets pick. They will not land a player like George or Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler, but they can still get players that can fix a problem that has been nagging their defense all season long.
Without further ado, here are three trades for players that should be on the Cavs’ radar that can help their perimeter defense:
1. Cavs send Channing Frye, Ante Zizic, Cleveland’s 2018 first round draft pick to San Antonio for Danny Green
Before we get started let me make it clear that while the Cavs should not trade away the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round draft pick but I have said before that they will more than likely end up trading away their own first-round draft choice. One team that they could try and entice with their pick are the San Antonio Spurs by combining Iman Shumpert with their draft selection for shooting guard Danny Green.
In life there are always three certainties: Death, Taxes, and the Spurs winning more than 50 games every season. So far this season, that certainty has been proven yet again all while superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has been sidelined thanks in part to stellar play by LaMarcus Aldridge. But with Leonard now back, they now are a complete team again and can be a major threat to the Golden State Warriors’ chances of repeating for the fourth time as Western Conference Champions.
Besides the Spurs being an elite team for more than my entire lifetime, they also are superb at drafting players with later-round selections. Players like Tony Parker (28th overall), Manu Ginobili (57th overall), Goran Dragic (45th overall), George Hill (29th overall), and Dejounte Murray (29th overall). The before mentioned list of players are a mix of future Hall of Famers and all are some of the best players at their position right now. As it stands right now the Cavs would select 27th in the upcoming NBA Draft and if the pick is traded to the Spurs they could yet again draft another diamond in the rough. The Spurs also get another diamond in the rough player in Zizic who they could develop into their franchise center of the future.
Also due to all the talent drafted recently, sans Dragic and Hill, are all on the team and other players like Bryn Forbes and Brandon Paul have made Danny Green expendable for the Spurs. They currently owe Green $20 million over the next two seasons and would be glad to acquire an expiring contract in Frye’s so they can be major players in the upcoming free agency to build around their dynamic duo of Aldridge and Leonard.
But for the Spurs, Frye would be more than just an expiring deal due to the fact that they currently use Rudy Gay as their backup power forward, which is out of position for him. If they were to acquire Frye they would be able to use Gay as their backup behind Leonard and would have a proper backup behind Aldridge as well.
For the Cavs, they would be able to get an immediate upgrade to put their perimeter defense in the “elite” category when they acquire Green from the Spurs. In the event that the Cavs do see the Warriors or the Rockets on their quest to win another NBA Championship, LeBron James is truly allowed to play his role of “free-safety” (something that helped them win their first title) as Green is able to lock down players like Stephen Curry, James Harden, or Chris Paul and Crowder can spend his time defending players like Kevin Durant or Harden.
It would also be fitting for Green’s career to come full circle by joining the Cavs, a team that cut him for his lack of overall effort nearly eight whole seasons ago. After being cut by the Cavs, it was considered a wakeup call for Green who fought hard and poured a ton of training into becoming one of the league’s premier defenders and he could be vital for the Cavs if they want to be able to hang with the Warriors or Rockets in their quest to win another NBA Title.
2. Cavs send Tristan Thompson, Cleveland’s 2018 first round draft pick, Miami’s 2018 second round draft pick, the Kardashian Kurse to Milwaukee for Khris Middleton
Another player that seems to be the odd man out with his own team is Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Khris Middleton. Heading into the season many NBA analysts believed that the Bucks would be a dark horse candidate to unseat the Cavs from the top of the NBA’s Central Division due to having an MVP-level player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a reliable sniper and distributor in Middleton, their point guard of the future and reigning Rookie of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon, and eventually Jabari Parker when he recovers from yet another knee injury. After a sluggish start to the season, mostly in part to Middleton struggling, the Bucks decided to shake things up by agreeing to a trade with the Phoenix Suns to land oft-injured point guard Eric Bledsoe.
After acquiring Bledsoe, Middleton, much like Green with the Spurs, is now the odd man out in Cream City with also having to deal with Brogdon, a natural shooting guard, nipping at his heels for minutes as well. The other problem with acquiring Bledsoe is that the Bucks had to trade away center Greg Monroe to make the trade happen and are now extremely thin at the center spot, having to rely on John Henson, a poor man’s Tristan Thompson, and Thon Maker, quite possibly the oldest second-year player in NBA history, to try and provide interior defense and rebounding.
Speaking of Thompson, he too is the odd man out currently in Cleveland, after being sidelined for over a month with a calf injury and has lost his starting center job to Kevin Love and has lost major minutes to veteran stretch-five Channing Frye off the bench as well. The Cavs and the Bucks should be sprinting to the phone to try and reach a deal to exchange odd-fitting pieces in order to better improve their respective squads. The most logical trade for this to happen would be for the Cavs to send Thompson, along with their 2018 first round pick and the Miami Heat’s 2018 second-round selection to Milwaukee for Khris Middleton.
At first, this trade seems near-imbalanced with the Cavs sending three assets for one player. The thing is, Middleton is worth that much for a team like the Cavs. He would provide everything the team needs on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
A reliable three-point shooter, Middleton would find some of the easiest and most open looks of his career playing alongside players like LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin Love. He can is also a ready and willing playmaker with a career average of 4.5 assists and those numbers will only rise after sharing the floor with the above-mentioned players.
On defense, the Cavs would be able to replicate something very similar to what Isaiah Thomas had last year with the Boston Celtics when he started in the backcourt alongside Avery Bradley. You see, Thomas had a pretty neutral defensive rating, despite the fact that he is a notorious defensive liability because Bradley was constantly covering for him in the event Thomas’s man blew past him. Well, the Cavs can now have the same situation by pairing Thomas (when healthy) alongside Middleton and will also have a reliable option to lock down players like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, and even Kevin Durant in the event the Cavs do see the Dubs or the Rockets in the NBA Finals.
With Thompson, it is really hard to say goodbye to a player that has been with the team for nearly seven seasons and has grown from a springy player with no offensive game to one of the best switch-defending, rebounding centers in the league. The Bucks would be able to immediately patch the hole at the center spot, as Henson and Maker are not reliable options for them, and being able to add some additional late-round picks, something the team has thrived drafting with, will only be icing on the cake.
3. The Cavs send Iman Shumpert, Cleveland’s 2018 first round draft pick to Charlotte for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Heading into the 2017-18 season, a lot of people thought the Charlotte Hornets would be a sneaky-good team that could possibly make it as far as the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after acquiring Dwight Howard and being led by a solid tandem of Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker. Instead, the Hornets have failed to bring the buzz and instead look like they have been swatted currently sitting with the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference, only ahead of the bottom-feeding Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.
Because of this, Hornets fans have encouraged the idea of the team beginning the process of bottoming out and landing a star player in an upcoming top-heavy NBA Draft by having a fire sale:
Jokes aside, the Hornets probably should start trading away players like Batum, Howard, Marvin Williams, and even Walker if the right offer comes along because they are comparable to the Josh Smith-era Atlanta Hawks, good enough to sometimes make the playoffs but still too mediocre to actually contend.
A common theme throughout this article is the fact that the Cavs should consider players that are the odd-man out of their current situation and the Hornets have yet another odd-man out with former Kentucky Wildcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This is because the NBA has made it a near-necessity to be able to shoot three-point shots at a near consistent clip, something MKG has failed to add to his game with a putrid career three-point percentage of 20.0%. This has pushed Kidd-Gilchrist to the wayside, and players like Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Dwayne Bacon, and Malik Monk, all with reliable three-point shots, to capitalize on Kidd-Gilchrist’s inability to shoot three-pointers.
Despite the fact that MKG cannot hit the blindside of a barn door from beyond the arc, the Hornets are looking to possibly bottom out and could easily reach an agreement with the Cavs to send MKG to Cleveland for Iman Shumpert and the Cavs 2018 first round draft selection.
For the Hornets, they would be able to get rid of a heavy contract that they do not rely on as much as the before-mentioned players in Kidd-Gilchrist and get an NBA veteran who can help mentor their younger talent in Shumpert. The real prize is the Cavs 2018 first round pick, which can then be packaged with a player like Batum or Walker to acquire an even better draft choice closer to the trade deadline.
For the Cavs, it almost seems like a mistake to land a player like MKG when they are yet-again one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. But, while MKG is not able to shoot the rock, mostly due to his horrendous form, he was touted as an elite-defensive stopper coming out of college and that is the biggest part of his game today. He would most likely play off the bench for the Cavs and serve as a lockdown defender in crunch-time situations and perhaps allow Cavs coach Ty Lue to rest LeBron James a bit more frequently with a more reliable small forward backing up James.
The other nice thing is the fact that MKG is not a totally lost cause on the offensive side of the ball as he attacks the basket to get his points and while his shot is totally wonky, he can connect on them from time-to-time like he did against the Cavs a few weeks ago:
While it would not be the sexiest pickup for the Cavs in acquiring MKG from the Hornets, it logically does make sense to the fact that they need serious help on the perimeter defending three-point shots. Kidd-Gilchrist was considered the second-best player, only behind Anthony Davis, on a Kentucky team that went down as one of the best in college history mostly because of his toughness and defensive ability. He can become a quick fan-favorite in The Land as he would complete a team that already has a fairly staunch defense.
In the end, it does suck that Paul George will probably never wear the Wine and Gold (and Black or Grey if Conrad Burry’s mockup of the Cavs’ city uniforms are correct). But, all is not lost for the Cavs who can still find amazing options throughout the league to help their porous perimeter defense. The top options that they should consider are San Antonio’s Danny Green, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, and Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. All three players can be available for the right price for the Cavs, and they would not have to give up the coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round draft pick in the process. All three players would be a major acquisition for the Cavs in their quest to win a second NBA Championship in three seasons.