The Cleveland Cavaliers were closer to defending their championship than you think.
Yes, we know the Cavs just lost the 2017 NBA Finals in five games. We also know the Warriors cruised past the Cavaliers in those five games by a total margin of 34 points.
Yet if the Cavaliers had implemented their Game 4 strategy earlier in this series, they might still be playing rather than headed to an early vacation. So on that note, we should get one thing clear: Cleveland doesn't need to make a move this offseason, especially not a big trade.
Moving Kevin Love isn't going to improve the Cavs — not when you take a look at who's on the market.
With that said, a trade could prove the decisive margin in a fourth meeting against Golden State. You never know, right? More important, we know you want to read about potential trades to help LeBron James get over the top against those Warriors if for no other reason than to give you hope that someone can break Golden State's emerging stranglehold on the NBA.
So on that optimistic note, here are four deals Cleveland could consider this offseason to restock for next June.
Sam SharpeSam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Love for Paul George
How would it help? Love is a much improved defender at this point in his career, but he's not anywhere close to PG-13 as a two-way player. The Cavs would be sacrificing a little bit of size for a genuine All-NBA forward who can create his own shot, knock down 3s, and guard Kevin Durant for stretches of time.
The risk is twofold. First, George might not re-sign with the Cavaliers after next season if Cleveland fails to win a title and he decides he'd rather have his own team in Los Angeles.
Second, if George works out an extension with the Pacers contingent on a trade to the Cavs (which in itself would be contingent on LeBron pledging to stay in Cleveland), owner Dan Gilbert would be on the hook for an even more massive luxury tax bill moving forward.
Would it work? All of those aforementioned concerns are before we get to the potential basketball problem — does trading Love for George significantly improve Cleveland's chances against Golden State?
George is a better player in a vacuum, but he would have to learn how to play with two ball-dominant stars in Cleveland. That learning curve alone could force the Cavs to take a step back when they can least afford any hitch in their momentum.
This is a sexy move that will get a lot of attention over the next couple months, now that Cleveland's playoff run is over. Don't pay it much attention.
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Kyrie Irving and Edy Tavares for Chris Paul (sign-and-trade)
How would it help? Kyrie Irving is one of the best clutch players in the NBA. With the game on the line, you want the ball in his hands. He'll break down the defense and get buckets in isolation.
The problem? You have to make it to the final five minutes with the game still within reach to maximize Irving's contributions, and he doesn't help you get there.
Trading Irving for Paul would give LeBron one of his trusted "Banana Boat" friends at point guard, and the younger Irving would be more than sufficient trade fodder to get the Clippers to bite — assuming the other option is Paul leaving in free agency.
Would it work? This is my favorite Cavs trade idea. You get a point guard who wants to play the slower pace that's in Cleveland's favor and who wants to make the right play for teammates.
If the Cavaliers are going to make a move, bringing in the more experienced CP3 is the right deal, although even that trade would come with uncertainty — namely, with Cleveland's most-clutch scorer gone, who's going to get buckets with the game on the line?
Gary A. VasquezGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony
How would it help? That's a good question. If anyone can explain why Melo keeps getting linked in reported trade rumors to the Cavaliers, I'd be happy to hear it.
Sure, he's part of LeBron's Brotherhood. LeBron probably trusts Melo more than he does Love, and he'd probably love to play with such a close friend at some point in his career — but LeBron's also one of the smartest players in the NBA, and he's still chasing rings.
He knows that Love gives the Cavs a better chance to win than Melo. There's no way he's signing off on this one-for-one deal.
Would it work? Sure, assuming the Cavaliers can get Melo for less than the price of Love — and with Phil Jackson looking to get rid of his star player, that might be in play.
How would it help? Remember that whole, "When they go low, we go high" comment from this past election season? This would be a similar approach, with a slight tweak: "When they go small, we go massive."
Boogie isn't a Tristan Thompson replacement in this scenario; he's a Tristan Thompson complement, alongside LeBron in the front court. The Cavs would try to dominate the Dubs on the glass and in the paint, grinding the game to a glacial pace.
Cousins, meanwhile, could fit in Cleveland's offense; he's a solid perimeter shooter and ballhandler who can create off the dribble fairly well for a big guy. Plus, don't you want to see Boogie in the Finals?
Would it work? On paper, this seems like a fine idea — until you ask who guards Kevin Durant.
LeBron would have to take on that burden for the entire Finals, minus those few possessions where either KD sits or the King switches onto someone else to get a breather. You probably don't want a 33-year-old LeBron having to expend that much energy for 48 minutes. Then again, you might not have a choice against these Warriors.
Throw in concerns about whether Cousins would — or could — re-sign long-term, and this move is a pipe dream.