We shouldn’t be surprised when the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off dynamic-changing trades. They’ve been doing in for two years now, and have done so again.
The Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks have agreed in principle to a trade that will send veteran guard Kyle Korver to the reigning NBA champion Cavaliers, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
While the complete terms of the deal have yet to be finalised by both teams, in principle, the Cavaliers will send Mike Dunleavy and 2019 first-round pick to the Hawks in exchange for Korver.
It’s unclear if Mo Williams will also be included in the deal, but his salary could also be attached to this transaction, moving from Cleveland to Atlanta’s books. One would also assume there would be protections attached to the future first-round picks, though those details have yet to be released.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A
Irrespective of Williams’ presence in the deal, the Cavaliers have made the gap between themselves and the rest of the Eastern Conference even greater. Essentially, the Cavs replaced Dunleavy, who only appeared in 23 games playing 15.9 minutes and averaging 4.6 points, with Korver, one the league’s most prolific three-point shooters.
Korver, a career 42.9 percent 3-point shooter, will be a natural fit into Cleveland’s rotation. After losing J.R. Smith for several months after surgery was required to correct an injured thumb, the depth of the Cavs’ rotation had been tested. While Smith remains out for the foreseeable future, gaining Korver will allow the Cavaliers to continue to space the floor for stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Though Korver’s shooting has regressed slightly from his career best numbers, importantly, he remains an elite three-point shooter, knocking down 43.3 percent of his catch and shoot attempts and 49 percent of shots considered wide open, per NBA.com. These numbers are relevant, as all Korver will be expected to do in Cleveland is to run off screens and get to his spots behind the arc.
With Korver, the Cavaliers now have a ready-made replacement for the injured Smith, who can slot in nicely into the starting unit. Or, he could provide yet another shooting option in second units, such is Korver’s flexibility and professionalism.
Stylistically, the Cavaliers have adopted the heavy use of the three-point shot, ranking second in both points scored and attempted from three. Surrounding James, arguably the best passer in the league, with catch and shoot threats at every position on the court has been general manager David Griffen’s masterstroke. Adding Korver only enhances that reputation.
The fit between team and player will be seamless, and if Mo Williams is to be included in the deal, the Cavaliers stand to reduce their luxury tax bill, all while adding Korver. That, in itself, is incredible.
Atlanta Hawks: B
This trade for the Hawks signals an end of an era is fast approaching. This reality hurts more than the return itself, as the 2015 Hawks squad, which won 60 games and played an incredible brand of team-first basketball, was one of the most enjoyable teams to watch over the past decade. Further to moving Korver, a key pillar to those brilliant Atlanta teams, it may be a precursor to further moves, namely a deal centred around All-Star Paul Millsap.
Korver, who turns 36 in March, is on the verge of becoming a free agent. It’s unlikely that the guard would have re-signed with the Hawks should the team have decided to rebuild, and keeping Korver through a rebuilding period didn’t make much sense, either. Moving him now and collecting several pieces is the right move from an asset management perspective, even if it pulls on the heart strings.
Dunleavy — and Williams should he be included — are factors in this trade purely to match contracts. Dunleavy, who had a series of back injuries in his final year with the Chicago Bulls, has regressed and is looking his age. The twilight of his career is upon us, and it’s not clear the Hawks want to him around, instead looking for a third team to take on his deal.
That being so, the trade entirely hinges on the future first-round pick. Though the Cavaliers still may be an elite team in 2019, meaning the pick likely conveys into a late first-rounder, it’s still something to keep in the war chest for a player who was likely gone at season’s end, anyway, one who no longer fit the franchise’s timeline.