Grade the Trade: Cavaliers go all-in for veteran star wing in brash new proposal

Should the Cavaliers complete a missed 2017 trade opportunity this summer?
Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers
Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers / Harry How/GettyImages
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Do the Cavaliers say yes?

A title contender is not built overnight, but the Cavaliers have already accelerated their rebuild once with the 2022 Mitchell blockbuster trade. If they hope to become a legitimate threat to the Boston Celtics next season, nothing can be off the table. Over his career, Paul George has stood alone as one of the league's greatest two-way wings of this generation. In his early years with the Indiana Pacers, George was one of the few players who could go toe-to-toe with James during the playoffs.

To put it simply, there is no better hypothetical match for Donovan Mitchell's second star than Paul George. However, reality is not the same. George is 34 years old and has had injury concerns for a long time. Last season, though, was a different story. George managed his health without missing games constantly, playing 74 games in the regular season and still looking at his best in the playoffs. With Donovan Mitchell shouldering the lion's share of usage on offense, George could rest on the court and avoid injuries as best he can.

The Cavaliers may not be in a position to hold injuries as a major downside, either. Their lack of true depth or offensive rhythm over the past few years has forced them to overplay their starters into the ground, leading to critical players injured in the postseason. If the Cavaliers trade for George, his defensive versatility and size can take a lot of pressure off his teammates in situations where they would have typically had to cover for Garland's physical limitations.

Of any hypothetical trade yet this offseason, Swartz's idea may be the hardest to grade yet. At his best, George would make himself and Mitchell the greatest star duo in the Eastern Conference. Adding Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen into the defensive mix could put the Cavs at the number one spot in defensive rating next season. If the Cavaliers can fill out their depth in the draft, other trades and free agency, they could enter opening night as the favorite to win the East after this trade.

On the inverse, George may regress with age and face another tough bout with injuries. Garland is far from immune from devastating injuries himself, but the risk factor is vastly different with the age gap.

B-. . . Final Trade Grade. PG to CLE trade grade 2

Since joining the Clippers, George has only had two seasons in which he played at least 55 games, but they have been his last two years. As time goes on, George has seemingly learned to manage the load he bears, especially when playing alongside a dominant backcourt star. Mitchell would be by far the best guard George has ever played with.

It would be unfair to dismiss George's potential impact to make the Cavaliers a title favorite immediately based on an issue that is resolving by the season. But, the Cavs would have to be willing to guarantee George upwards of $50 million per season to keep him for the long term. If the Cleveland Cavaliers are willing to leap into the luxury tax for the first time since 2018 in order to compete in June, then George might be worth the homerun swing. He is not a guarantee, though.

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