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Paul George or Jimmy Butler: Which All-Star makes sense for the Cavaliers?

Cleveland should trade for Paul George or Jimmy Butler?

Paul George or Jimmy Butler? This is the question asked by the entire NBA ahead of the June 22nd NBA Draft. Multiple reports surfaced indicated that the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have at least explored trading their All-Star forwards.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, adding George or Butler is an attempt to catch the Warriors in the quest for another NBA Championship.

If you ask LeBron James, he is not sure what it would take to beat Golden State.

“I need to sit down and figure this thing out. And so I don’t know as far as me personally right now,” James said at the conclusion of the NBA Finals. “But as far as that team [the Warriors], they’re going to be here for a while. They’re going to be around for a while.”

Thus, it makes sense that Cleveland is exploring the trade market which includes Butler and George. Still, choosing between the two forwards is very difficult. Both players are 27-years-old and they have seven All-Star games between them. Which player makes the most sense for Cleveland?

Either way, it appears both trade pitches revolve around Kevin Love, per ESPN. A third team would enter the conversation so Indiana or Chicago could get a lottery draft pick in return for their All-Star.

Jimmy Butler

For the Cavaliers, Butler offers more long-term upside as he has improved each year of his career. Last season, Jimmy Butler had the best season of his career. He averaged a career-high 23.9 points, 5.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game while registering his highest player efficiency rating.

Although Butler averages 1.5 rebounds and 2.5 points less than George over their careers, the Chicago forward has gotten better every season. Butler has also started about 100 fewer career games than George.

Moreover, Butler signed an extension in 2015, per Spotrac.com. This means Cleveland can keep Butler from free agency until 2020, and his $18.46 million average salary makes him a bargain under the new CBA.

Butler favored a trade a to the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to reports from the Chicago Sun-Times. However, the Vertical reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns also had interest. Now, there are reports from ESPN which say that Butler prefers to stay with Chicago.

Even if that were the case now, Butler could change his mind while the offseason and regular season continue. With Dwyane Wade set to pick up his option, there is no telling if Butler can get the supporting cast he needs. Not to mention, his name has been on the trading block for the past two seasons.

On the court, Butler would provide the Cavs with an athletic defender and shooter to matchup with the Warriors. He is a little smaller than George which makes him better for guarding more agile two-guards.

Offensively, imagine Butler running the fast break with Kyrie Irving and James? This would be much like the highlights we saw James register with Wade as a running mate with the Heat. Not to mention, Butler just finished playing with Wade and Rajon Rondo. This means he is prepared to play with ball-heavy starters like Irving and James.

Paul George

As for George, he offers more of the shooting touch that the Cavaliers needed versus the Warriors. However, he also offers a more complicated financial future.

Offensively, George shot .393 percent from behind the arc while posting a .586  true shooting percentage. Butler was .367 percent from three-point range and he shot .337 percent for his career.

George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season. He did not get the All-NBA third-team like Butler, but George does have more experience. Even though the Pacers forward missed almost an entire season with a gruesome leg injury, George still has 50 more appearances and almost 2,000 more career minutes. George has 30 more playoff games which make him the more decorated player for Cleveland’s deep postseason runs.

Contract-wise, George can become a free agent next year and there are reports that he wants to become a Laker. Moreover, ESPN reports that the Lakers are in on the George sweepstakes. The RocketsClippers and Wizards are inquiring about George too. Still, recent reports indicate that former Cavs GM David Griffin worked to complete a deal for George. Maybe, a deal with Indiana could get dpne even with Griffin out.

Nonetheless, Cleveland may pass on George too since he can leave them after only one season. On the other hand, this could also make George’s price less than Butler. The Pacers seem ready to trade George before they lose him for nothing in 2018 free agency. Maybe Indiana would settle for a straight-up Love for George swap? Love does have two more years on his deal. Not to mention, Cleveland would not have to find a third team in this scenario.

Regardless, George would give James and Irving a three-point shooter who could also defend the opposing teams best player. Further, George could spell James without the team taking a step back. Both players would be interchangeable to play the small or power forward positions. This would be critical for Cleveland defense of Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Overall, George’s size makes him a more versatile defender than Butler. His shooting touch would also space the floor for the Cavs better than Butler.

Ultimately, the Cavs may pass on Butler and George. There is no telling if either player makes the Cavaliers better than currently constructed. Neither George or Butler guarantees a victory over the Warriors. Plus, the Pacers or Bulls may find a better offer on the trade market than anything that Cleveland could offer.

Granted, it is difficult for any team to decide between Butler and George. The Cavs’ final decision will probably come down to which forward has the lower asking price. George seems to have the better asking price since he seems set for free agency in 2018. Cleveland may roll the dice on him if they think he can help them beat the Warriors. It would be a high-priced gamble but trading for Butler is not any safer.