The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly interested in trading for guard George Hill, which is interesting because they have Isaiah Thomas.
Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye would be enough for salaries to match in a trade with the Sacramento Kings. Cleveland will have to include a future draft pick to persuade Sacramento to make the move. It’s possible Derrick Rose is included as well.
Hill, 31, would play an interesting role for the Cavaliers considering they made a splash move to acquire Thomas during the offseason. How would the two guards blend in the backcourt? Perhaps the most noticeable decision would be who plays alongside Kevin Love.
Chris Broussard recently discussed the impact the return of Thomas has had on Love (via Yahoo Sports NBA):
“He was the definitive second option. He knew his role. He liked his role. He was excelling in his role. Now if you look at the games where Isaiah has played, Isaiah probably thinks of himself as at least the second option … Now Love has not been nearly as productive when Isaiah has been on the court.”
The duo has so far been outscored by 17.3 points per 100 possessions in the 101 minutes they have played together. Regardless of the small sample size, the results are concerning and the front office will have a serious decision to make before the upcoming trade deadline.
The issue is absolutely not Love and Thomas playing together. They have had just seven games together, and one player is recovering from injury. But with the starting unit struggling, a change may help them in their pursuit of a title.
With the addition of Hill, however, the Cavaliers could stagger the playing time so that he plays alongside Love. He would step into the role that Jose Calderon had for the team before Thomas returned, which allows Love to be the clear No. 2 option.
The defensive presence of Hill, though his defensive rating is a career-worst this year, would be more impactful than Thomas or Calderon. The 6-foot-2 player has a 7-foot wingspan, which is an entire foot larger than what is offered by Thomas.
Kevin Pelton recently wrote about what Hill would bring to Cleveland (via ESPN):
“[Hill is] big for a point guard, with long arms that allow him to defend bigger players on switches and block passing lanes. Hill can play either guard spot, which would allow him to play alongside Thomas or replace him in bigger lineups.”
Meanwhile, Hill would allow the team to spread the floor on the other side of the ball because he is an accurate three-point shooter. The 31-year-old ranks fourth-best in the NBA from long range among those with at least as many opportunities.
He ranked as the fourth-most efficient players (1.40 points per possession) among those with as many opportunities when running a transition offense last season. Cleveland runs transition plays more often than all but four teams in the league.
With the Cavs, he could also help them run their pick-and-roll offense as a ballhandler. He was the seventh-most efficient player (1.00 PPP) among all high-volume players on this play type during his sole season in Utah.
Hill was also the third-most efficient player when scoring off screens (1.16 PPP) during his final campaign in Indiana. Hill is an above average spot-up scorer as well, which is an area where players next to James can thrive.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is what he could add to their offense. He was the most efficient player in the league when scoring off handoffs (1.29 PPP) last season. Only one team has run fewer handoff plays than Cleveland so far this year.
This proves he can slide into the team as a secondary player and become an effective spot-up shooter playing alongside LeBron James. Or they could have him create his own offense in the second unit playing with Dwyane Wade.
He is a dynamic option because he would not necessarily take away touches from Love, which is a concern of the offense when Thomas is on the court. Or he could play a secondary role providing a scoring threat paired next to Wade, who does not have a capable jump shot.
But he has a longer contract, which means they have a capable guard and depth to the backcourt in case they do not get what they want from Thomas.
Let’s be clear that acquiring Hill does not mean Thomas is destined to get traded before February 8 — nor does it mean that he will not re-sign during the offseason. But it does provide insurance for Cleveland in either scenario.
His salary is not cheap, but if he can provide the value to help the team return to the NBA Finals and persuade James to stay another season, that might be enough to call this trade a small victory for the front office.