Atlanta did not look like a team capable of contending with Cleveland for the Eastern belt, and the Hawks feared losing their free agents for nothing like they did with Al Horford last summer.
There are several ripple effects worth examining from the Korver trade, but for now, it’s time to take a look at the two teams directly impacted by it — including a third team that helped the Cavs facilitate their move.
As for the first round pick being sent Atlanta’s way, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that it will be top-10 protected in 2019, top-10 protected in 2020 and then after that, will convert into two second-rounders (2021 and 2022).
In the interest of breaking it all down, here’s a look at NBA Trade Grades for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers.
Jan 5, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) sits on the bench during the first quarter of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
On the one hand, the Hawks can’t feel particularly “good” about this deal. It signals the beginning of the end, with only one starter — Millsap — remaining from the 2014-15 team that won 60 games, made it to the conference finals and whose starting five was awarded with Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors.
With Korver gone, plus Millsap and Sefolosha being made available prior to their upcoming free agencies (Millsap will most likely opt out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent), the Hawks are ready to blow things up just months after signing hometown star Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal.
Gotta think the Hawks are gonna really tear down now. You don’t go “Oh, the Cavs are the one team we can’t get past. I know, give ‘em Kyle"
Considering that came just weeks after losing Al Hoford to the Boston Celtics, trading Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers and being swept in the playoffs by the Cavaliers for the second straight year, it’s safe to say the outlook in Atlanta has gotten awfully dreary, awfully fast.
That being said, it’s probably the most prudent course of action for a team that no longer had a chance of competing with Cleveland, Toronto or Boston in the East. Though the Hawks currently occupy the fourth playoff spot in the East, their 20-16 record isn’t particularly inspiring, especially after a 1-10 stretch followed their promising 9-2 start.
The Korver move signifies an inevitable fire sale to ensure the Hawks cash in on their current assets and jumpstart a much-needed rebuild. It’s the smartest path for a franchise that’s straddled this line for years now, but it’s not exactly an enjoyable one for fans either.
At 35 years old, Korver is clearly in his twilight years. He was moved to bench duty for Mike Budenholzer this season, and was averaging 9.5 points per game on .441/.409/.889 shooting splits — efficient numbers, but a far cry from his All-Star season in 2014-15, when he averaged 12.1 points per game on scorching hot .487/.492/.898 shooting.
To that end, getting a future first round pick of any kind — even from a team projected to finish near the top of the East for the foreseeable future — is a win. Mo Williams isn’t expected to be a part of Atlanta’s future despite their need for a backup point guard, and the Hawks can take or leave Dunleavy either way since his 2017-18 salary is non-guaranteed.
The Hawks had to waive Ryan Kelly to make room for this trade, but they could release Williams and sign Kelly back on if they so choose. This deal sending away Korver also frees up more time for rookies DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince on the wing.
The real gain here is the top-10 protected pick in 2019, when LeBron James will be 34 years old and the Cavs might start showing signs of weakness. It won’t be a lottery pick, but a first-rounder for a 35-year-old like Korver is a solid gain.
The problem will be what comes next. Woj has already reported Millsap is next on the Hawks’ trade docket, and there will be plenty of suitors for him. Dwight Howard’s reaction to the Korver trade wasn’t exactly encouraging, and it’s entirely possible he’s put on the trade market as well for a full-blown rebuild.
The next few weeks will be painful for the Hawks faithful, especially after dealing Korver to the team that Atlanta put so much energy into trying to beat. But this was the first, necessary step that the franchise needed, and getting a first for Korver is also a victory even if it’s not until 2019.
Apr 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) shoots the ball over Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Cavaliers are clearly the big winners of this deal. Not only did they eliminate the Hawks in eight total games over the last two seasons, but now they’ve poached a dangerous spot-up shooter who will only bolster Cleveland’s three-point onslaught from them.
Entering Saturday’s action, the Cavs ranked second in three-point attempts per game, second in three-point makes and third in three-point percentage. Korver, a career 42.9 percent three-point shooter, could very easily be a Ray Allen type even at this stage…and we all remember what happened the last time LeBron James played with Ray Allen.
Even with J.R. Smith sidelined, the Cavs won’t need Korver to do too much. He might start at the 2 for now, but either way he’ll play manageable minutes and hugely benefit from the kind of wide open looks LeBron James provides.
Cleveland’s offense is already unstoppable when James is flanked by any combination of Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson, Kevin Love and Channing Frye. Now add a smart off-the-ball cutter and deadly spot-up shooter like Korver to that equation and the Cavs have a new cheat code to play with.
Even in a “down year,” Korver is still converting 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s nearly automatic on wide open shots, and you can be guaranteed he’ll be getting plenty of those playing for one of the most dangerous offenses in the NBA.
Seriously, the Cavs could put Irving, Korver, Frye and Love around LeBron on the perimeter, flanking him with FOUR players shooting at least 39 percent from downtown.
We’ll put it this way: The 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers have been a more dangerous three-point shooting team than the Golden State Warriors, and they just added one of the most dangerous spot-up shooters in the NBA’s modern era.
On the defensive end is where the Cavs might have trouble playing him, especially in a seven-game series against Golden State, but to be fair, we said the same thing about Kevin Love — and we all remember “The Stop” in Game 7 that helped the Cavs clinch their title. Korver is still a solid team defender, even if he could be exploited in one-on-one matchups.
By getting Mo Williams and Mike Dunleavy off the books, the Cavs also drastically reduced their luxury tax bill:
General manager David Griffin deserves major props for this deal, and for the separate deal he worked out with Portland that allow him to Step-ien around the Ted Stepien Rule, which disallows teams from trading away their first round draft pick in consecutive seasons.
It took a deft bit a maneuvering, but Korver could give the Cavs an edge in a Finals rematch with the Dubs. Even if he doesn’t, all they really need from him is depth to help clinch the No. 1 seed in the East and return to the NBA Finals. From there, the heavy lifters should be able to do their jobs.
Jan 8, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers president Chris McGowan (left), owner Paul Allen (center) and general manager Neil Olshey (right) watch the game against the Miami Heat during the second quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers
This wasn’t a three-team trade, because technically the Cavs made a separate deal with the Trail Blazers, but since they’re all related, we’ll just include a quick Rip City blurb in here anyway.
With the Cavs owing the Blazers their protected 2018 first round pick via the Anderson Varejao trade, they would have been unable to offer Atlanta a 2019 first rounder because of the Ted Stepien Rule.
By trading their 2017 first-rounder (top-10 protected) to the Blazers in exchange for their own 2018 first-rounder back, the Cavaliers avoided the Stepien rule and were able to give Atlanta a 2019 first-rounder.
Cavaliers get Cavs’ 2018 first round pick (originally sent to Blazers in Anderson Varejao deal)
Trailblazers get 2017 first round pick (top-10 protected)
The rationale is easy to see for the Cavaliers, but it’s a bit curious why Portland would help Cleveland facilitate such a move.
The Blazers are nowhere near title contention, so none of this really affects them, but choosing to accept a pick that will likely be in the bottom five of this year’s draft, rather than waiting until 2018 for another top-10 protected pick when it might be slightly more valuable, is a curious move.
The Cavs will still be a great team in 2017-18, but another year of age for LeBron and Love might have made the pick a bit higher up than the No. 27 or No. 28 selection it will probably be this year.
We’re nitpicking on this one, and we’re still giving Portland a passing grade, but unless the Blazers really want to stock up on rookies from this year’s draft class, it is a bit odd for a team wanting to develop its current set of youngsters to add another first-rounder, a year sooner, to the equation.
Then again, Portland could very easily package those picks to move up in a deeper 2017 draft, so the merit of this deal will really come down to what GM Neil Olshey manages to do with his extra first-rounder.