It’s easy to imagine this sequence of events: It’s Game 7 of the 2017 NBA Finals. The Warriors lead 113–112 late in the fourth quarter. LeBron James rumbles down the lane, forcing Klay Thompson to help off Kyle Korver in the corner. James kicks the ball out to Korver … BANG! KORVER SINKS IT! THE CAVS TAKE THE LEAD WITH 31 SECONDS REMAINING!
The Cavaliers have agreed to a deal with the Hawks that would send Kyle Korver to Cleveland for the Cavs’ 2019 first-round pick and Mike Dunleavy Jr., according to The Vertical. Because the Cavs are well over the cap, we can assume they’re using the Anderson Varejão trade exception to absorb Korver’s deal.
There is no downside to this deal for the Cavaliers. Since 2013, Korver has shot 39.1 percent from 3 when he’s been tightly contested, per SportVU, which is fantastic. But Korver will be open a lot with the Cavaliers — including when he’s draining an absolutely ridiculous 47.9 percent of his 3s. Korver turns 36 in March, and he’s a free agent this summer who is beginning his decline. It doesn’t matter. The Cavaliers are in the empire business, and Korver is another piece that puts them that much closer to a repeat.
The Cavaliers are second in the league in attempted 3s (in fact, 38.7 percent of their shot attempts come from 3 — third all time behind only the 2016–17 and 2014–15 Rockets). Korver fits right into an offense that features LeBron and Kyrie Irving initiating the majority of sets, and puts lethal spot-up shooters all over the floor. The Cavs are already one of the best teams in the NBA at scoring after timeouts, but other than J.R. Smith, they don’t really have a reliable shooter adept at racing around screens, à la Ray Allen. But Smith had surgery on the thumb of his shooting hand and there are no guarantees he returns to form even if he’s technically healthy. Shooting isn’t easy after a long layoff, nevermind after surgery to the shooting hand.
Korver does everything Smith does off of screens and does it better. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens once said that while Korver scores 13 points per game, you need to defend him like he’s going to score 30. J.J. Redick told me Stan Van Gundy said the same thing to him earlier in his career. But the Cavs have three players who actually are a threat to score 30 on any given night. Simply by virtue of playing with LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love, the open looks will skyrocket for Korver.
It was just two seasons ago the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference finals, where they were swept by the Cavs. Atlanta quickly declined, and it appears the Korver trade is the first of possibly many moves. According to Yahoo’s Shams Charania, the Hawks are looking to move Paul Millsap “sooner rather than later,” and the Raptors, Nuggets, and Kings have expressed interest. Dealing Millsap off to the highest bidder would be the best choice. They’re about to enter a transition phase and they’re smart enough to know it. After losing Al Horford for nothing last summer, they’ve been proactive in organizing the destruction of their foundation instead of waiting for it to collapse on its own.
This piece was updated after publication with new information about the terms of the deal, the Cavaliers offense, and the Hawks future.