Nearly one year ago today, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a improbable and historic comeback from a 3-1 deficit to upset the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
This year, they are trying to add another piece in the hopes of reclaiming their stolen crown.
Thanks to losing to the Warriors in five games, 4-1 in the 2017 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now looking to add what they hope will be either a missing piece or another weapon to combat the Warriors seemingly invincible four-headed juggernaut of a superteam of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
If there was one thing that the just-concluded Finals exposed about the fleet-footed Cavs is their lack of elite two-way athleticism on the wing and an aging roster unable to keep up with the high-tempo, younger and faster Warriors.
With the Cavaliers now reportedly engaged with two division rivals in the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers for either shooting guard Jimmy Butler and/or swingman Paul George, their Finals loss could be seen as a blessing to retool if they hope to compete in the New Age Of Durant.
The questions that begs to be answered is which player would be a better fit to play alongside a soon-to-be 33-year-old LeBron James and an up and coming elite guard in Kyrie Irving.
When news first broke early Monday afternoon of Indiana reaching out to Cleveland, following George’s announcement that he will leave the Pacers for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers next year, I have to say that I was thrilled.
I’ve seen enough of George up close as a Cavaliers fan to know what he would bring to the Cavaliers. An elite two-way defense who can “three-and-D”, get and create his shot, and guard the one, two and three, would be a much-need injection of athleticism and defense that the Cavs lacked vs. Golden State.
Additionally, at 6’9 and 220 pounds, PG-13 can spell LeBron, thus saving him from over-exerting himself through—what will be—another long season and inevitable playoff push. The additional bonus that no one is looking at here is that it’ll prevent George from going to perhaps Cleveland’s biggest rival in the East in the Boston Celtics.
Thanks to averaging 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists, George would likely cause LBJ to shift over to PF, forming a lethal one-two forward combination down low.
Sadly, any move would require either Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson being moved, along with a couple of additional players and draft picks, but if these are the last days of The King’s reign in Cleveland, Cavs outgoing general manager, David Griffin—who deserved a serious contract extension, like YESTERDAY—has to go all in.
In the case of Mr. Jimmy Buckets, a.k.a. Jimmy Butler, he is one of the smoothest and most versatile players in the whole league, and would be an excellent 1B, if the Cavs decide to not go with 1A in George.
Considered one of the elite shooting guards in the NBA today, Butler would be a great—if not a better fit—in head coach Tyrone Lue’s pace-and-space offense. Like George, Butler can guard the one, two and three positions as well as play shooting guard and small forward, but at 6’7 and 230 pounds is two inches shorter and ten pounds heavier than George.
While Butler averages more points per game (23.9) than George, his field goal percentage of .455 during the regular season and .426 during the playoffs is lower than George’s .461 regular-season mark.
Butler’s three-point shooting mark of .367/.261 during the regular season and playoffs is lower than George’s .393/.429 which is a key component in the Cavs style of play.
George is also better career long-rage shooter in making 37.0 percent compared to Butler’s 33.7 percentage from three-point range.
Personally, it comes down to what Cleveland feels is key. In Butler, you get a better on-the-ball defender who can score, shoot and get buckets, or a taller, lighter and more aggressive bigger player in George who can back down low, stretch out to three and take over when necessary.
If I were to personally choose, I’d swing a deal with George based on the above reasons mentioned, but in all honesty, it’s almost like splitting proverbial hairs.
Hopefully, Cleveland raises the stakes in getting either one, so that they can take care of some unfinished business in Cavs-Warriors: Part IV.