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The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a tumultuous offseason following their third straight Finals appearance.
Shortly after losing the Finals, the Cavs did not renew the contract of general manager David Griffin, the executive who shaped the Cavs’ championship-winning roster in 2016. The Cavs then struck out on landing their top choice to replace Griffin, Chauncey Billups, who withdrew his name from the search.
On Friday, things took a turn for the worse when it was reported that Kyrie Irving asked the team for a trade so that he could become the face of a franchise elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the team has had an underwhelming offseason that has reportedly “frustrated” and “concerned” James, who saw the team fail to make any major moves to the roster.
However, according to reports, the outlook on the Cavs’ offseason nearly looked much different when they had a deal in place to land Paul George that fell apart at the last minute.
According to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin, and Brian Windhorst, the Cavs, Denver Nuggets, and Indiana Pacers had agreed to a trade that would have sent Kevin Love to the Nuggets, Nuggets guard Gary Harris and the 2017 13th overall pick to the Pacers, and George to the Cavs. However, suddenly, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard texted the Cavs that he was backing out, and the deal fell apart.
According to ESPN, the deal lives in “infamy” within the Cavs.
Additionally, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast, “The Lowe Post,” that the Cavs are still “smarting” from the deal.
“The story of Cleveland’s offseason… it’s getting right up to the goal-line with Paul George and having the deal fall away from them for reasons that nobody has really explained to me. I mean, that deal was … the other teams in that deal were like, ‘This is happening. This is done.’ [George] is a better fit than Love to face the Warriors, and that was, Cleveland is still smarting from that deal falling through.”
George was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis
Of course, landing George wouldn’t guarantee the Cavs would be in a much better place than they are now, but it may have altered some things. George will be a free agent in 2018, so the Cavs would have been risking (as the Thunder are now) giving up assets for a one-year rental of George. The deal also probably wouldn’t have appeased Irving, who yearned to be the focus point of a team and offense elsewhere. If anything, with George in tow, Irving probably would have moved to third fiddle on the team.
But like Lowe mentioned, George would be a better fit for the Cavs in a potential Finals rematch and would give them more lineup versatility and perimeter defense. Landing an All-Star forward like George would have changed the optics around the team’s offseason and perhaps even swayed James about the team’s future or their willingness to improve heading into the final year of his contract.
Instead, after missing on George, the Cavs have signed veteran forward Jeff Green, veteran guard Jose Calderon, and Turkish big man Cedi Osman. They missed on Jamal Crawford (who took more money and a different culture in Minnesota) and are reportedly weighing signing Derrick Rose.
Now, as the Cavs’ super-team seems destined to fall apart, it seems as though they were this close to building a super-team that may have made the Warriors a little nervous.