The Story: The Cleveland Cavaliers have emerged as an “interesting suitor” in the trade market for Sacramento Kings point guard George Hill, according to Yahoo Sports. The New York Times’ Marc Stein also reported later on Friday that the Cavs are simultaneously talking with the Clippers about DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams.
The Importance: On Monday night, following a loss to the Thunder — one of six straight, for what it’s worth — Kings coach Dave Joerger said in his postgame presser that the team would be shifting toward a youth movement. That meant sitting veterans like Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph more often in favor of getting longer looks for some of the younger players that haven’t cracked the rotation this season, like Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson, and so on. (Finally!) Indirectly, the Kings had made their vets expendable.
Hill has not been shy about voicing his discontent with the team’s poor record this season (13–31). And though the 31-year-old’s production has fallen off (his shooting efficiency is just shy of his career best, but his 10.5 points per game are his fewest in a season when he’s been a regular starter), he’d still offer two-way value for a team motivated to, say, capitalize on LeBron James’s MVP-caliber season.
In Los Angeles, the Clippers are on a six-game winning streak (even though Jordan has been absent for the past three games) fueled by Williams’s hot shooting, and are suddenly back in the playoff hunt. That creates an interesting crossroads for the Clippers: deal the free-agents-to-be (assuming that Jordan will opt out of his final year, as expected) before losing them for nothing, or keep the core together and ride it out? Also complicating matters is the recent strong play of Montrezl Harrell, a 23-year-old who has ably filled Jordan’s role at a fraction of the cost.
The Takeaway: Cleveland needs to make a move, if only to appease the “prominent” players who went to the local media this week and said they were worried about the current state of the team. Nobody is beating the Warriors, but especially not this iteration of the Cavs. Given reports of a shrinking trade market, Hill is an option that makes sense. (Or at least one that will presumably cost less in assets than Kemba Walker.)
Derrick Rose recently returned from another leg injury, but the former MVP is not going to help the Cavs contend. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers may have overestimated how much Isaiah Thomas, still working his way back from a hip injury, could help. His first game, against the Blazers, looked promising, but it’s been rough going ever since, especially for a defense forced to work around both Thomas and Kevin Love. With Thomas struggling to fit in (don’t fit out!), Hill could bolster Cleveland’s backcourt if the price is right.
What could the Cavs offer in return? Hill isn’t worth anything close to the 2018 first-round pick Cleveland is owed from Brooklyn, so that’s off the table. Dealing Hill would open up cap space for the Kings (he is owed $19 million next season, but just $1 million of the following year’s $18 million is guaranteed).
That leaves young players. Cedi Osman, 22, has gotten some minutes in the rotation this season, and he’s shown flashes that could grow into more on a team where he’s asked to do more. Ante Zizic and London Perrantes are the two other young players on the otherwise older Cavs roster who could still have some untapped potential and draw interest. But do the Kings, a team so full of young players that it’s looking to downgrade Hill for them, have room for more?
The potential acquisition of Jordan could help add some much-needed support to the Cavs’ 28th-ranked defense, while Williams, who is averaging 23 points at career-high scoring efficiency, could add another go-to scorer next to LeBron.
However, though the Times indicated that Cleveland is attempting to complete separate deals for Jordan and Hill, it seems impossible that it could do so without surrendering the Nets pick. In fact, NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that though the Cavs have asked about Williams, the talks “stalled” after the Clippers started asking about Brooklyn’s first (acquired by the Cavs in the Kyrie Irving trade). If Cleveland was somehow able to get away with the pick still in hand and two of Jordan, Williams, and Hill, the team should think about erecting a Koby Altman statue before LeBron gets one of his own.
This piece was updated after publication with additional information.