Why didn’t Cleveland make the trade?
A recap of where everyone stood in June 2017:
- Irving had long been unhappy in Cleveland and was again making noise about his discontent.
- George told Indiana he planned to leave in free agency the following summer, preferably for the Lakers.
- Cavs general manager David Griffin was nearing his contract expiring.
In June 2017, suspecting that Irving wanted out of Cleveland, Griffin had the framework of a deal done that not only would have brought Paul George to Cleveland from Indiana, but additional pieces from at least one other team in exchange for Irving and other Cavs.
But Griffin wanted to talk to Irving and his agent, Jeff Wechsler, before making the trade, and Irving’s camp wouldn’t take the meeting until Griffin had a new contract from the Cavs. When Griffin’s deal expired and he couldn’t come to an agreement with Gilbert, the deal he’d outlined for Irving died.
That was a failure by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Running an NBA team is a 365-day-a-year job. Opportunities can arise at any time, and Cleveland missed this one because Gilbert left Griffin as a lame duck.
At this time, Irving (locked in two more years) was more valuable than George (locked in one more year) because of their contract statuses. But it sounds as if the Cavs could have gotten more positive value than just George.
In hindsight, Griffin should have probably just made the trade without consulting Irving. Though we don’t know every aspect on that potential Pacers trade, we know the actual Irving trade the Cavaliers made turned out terribly for them. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder flopped in Cleveland, and a draft pick that became Collin Sexton isn’t nearly enough of a prize for Irving.
It can be scary to trade a star like Irving without hearing directly from him. But a couple weeks later, Irving made his desires known.
Meanwhile, after the Cavaliers let his contract expire, Griffin is now running the Pelicans and dealing with another star who wants to leave. At least this time, Griffin has the strong backing of ownership.