It’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted Paul George this summer. The team had pursued the former Indiana Pacers star in public fashion, looking to take a gamble that would help give them a better shot against the Golden State Warriors.
Who knows how different this summer would have turned out if the Pacers didn’t back out of their deal with the Cavs. It’s possible that not much would have changed, or that the implosion we’re seeing now could have at least been delayed.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, we now have more information on where exactly the deal fell apart:
Indiana had Irving on its board as the No. 1 target for George, league sources said. The Pacers had a willingness to do a deal straight-up, but Cleveland declined several times, league sources said. What did nearly come together was a three-way trade that would've sent Kevin Love to Denver, Gary Harris to Indiana and George to the Cavaliers.
Here's where the deal fell apart, league sources said: Indiana wanted no protections on a future Cavaliers first-round pick. Cleveland balked, insisting the pick have lottery protection -- and Indiana moved onto the Oklahoma City package of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
While it’s frustrating that the deal fell apart, I can see where the Cavs are coming from on this one. They already had a deal in place that was superior to the deal the Pacers ended up accepting and sweetening it with a pick that had fewer protections would be a risky move.
The Cavaliers currently owe the Atlanta Hawks their 2019 first round pick with top-10 protection. Meaning that the pick that was offered to the Pacers would need to be in the year 2021 at the earliest. To give up that pick without protecting themselves would have been far too risky a gamble, even if LeBron James returns after this upcoming season.
We don’t know how long James will remain with the franchise or what the future holds. The Cavs may be in a very different situation three years from now and could wind up like the Brooklyn Nets if they don’t protect their future to some degree.
If they made this move to swap Love for George and Irving still requested a trade, it would make the one year rental of George even more risky. So while it’s painful to think of what could have been, ultimately Koby Altman made the right decision in these negotiations.