The recurring theme throughout Cleveland sports is waiting for the rookie to shine this year. On the gridiron, the Cleveland Browns had to wait for three games until rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield made his career debut against the New York Jets. It took veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor being knocked out for Mayfield to lead the Browns to their first win and taking over as the Browns full-time starting quarterback. Since then, the Browns have only won two more games with Mayfield at the helm but the team has stuck with their rookie and the future of the franchise instead of falling back on Taylor.
On the NBA hardwood, the Cleveland Cavaliers were facing a similar situation to the Browns. Over the summer, the Cavaliers drafted Collin Sexton eighth overall out of the University of Alabama. Instead of handing the keys immediately to Kyrie Irving’s heir apparent, the Cavaliers elected to bring along Sexton slowly, with veteran point guard George Hill getting the lion’s share of minutes. George has been solid for the Cavaliers with averages of 12.6 points, 3.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds all while holding off Sexton from taking his starting job. Unfortunately for Hill, a shoulder injury has sidelined the veteran for two weeks and Sexton has taken over as Cleveland’s starting point guard.
Two games into taking over for Hill, Sexton has been averaging 17.5 points on 50% shooting as well as 2.0 assists and 3.o rebounds. While the Cavaliers have lost both games, they were both close losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls. Sexton almost willed the team to victory against the Bulls and has quickly earned the attention and respect of both his teammates and the Cavaliers coaching staff.
When Hill does return from injury, it creates a dilemma though. With Sexton playing so well, it would not be 100% fair to remove him from the starting lineup in favor of Hill. Despite the team remaining adamant that they would make the playoffs earlier this year, it is clear that the Cavaliers are instead heading to the NBA Draft Lottery, hopefully getting one of Duke University’s coveted freshman trio. With the Cavaliers already circling rock bottom, why not stick with their rookie guard and allow him to grow and learn from his mistakes? Playing Hill over Sexton would be counter-intuitive to growing towards the future and playing Hill would only have a minuscule impact on their win total.
But, even with Hill now backing up Sexton that too would be foolish for Cleveland. This season Hill is expected to make $19 million and that is way too much to be paying a backup, especially one on a team that has no desire to win. Recently, the Cavaliers signed former Kentucky Wildcat Andrew Harrison to a two-way contract, and Harrison would make more sense financially and personnel-wise to have Harrison serve as Sexton’s backup. With that, the Cavaliers should look to try and trade Hill to any interested NBA team.
Even with Hill making $19 million this season, his contract comes with a caveat. If a team that trades for Hill they would be able to waive him the following summer and only have him count $1 million against their salary cap. This contract nugget, along with Hill’s solid stats would make him pretty attractive on the trade market to a team that is in need of stability at the point guard position. Whether it is a title contender or a rebuilding franchise, Cleveland will be able to get a few creative offers to obtain Hill’s services.
One trade that would logically make sense for both parties would be between the Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns. The trade would have Cleveland sending Hill to Phoenix for power forward Ryan Anderson and the 2019 Milwaukee Bucks first-round draft selection. For Phoenix, the Suns have been looking for stability at the point guard ever since Steve Nash left town. With Hill at the one, they have balance to allow their young duo of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton to continue to grow. That, and when next summer comes the Suns can waive Hill and then target Cleveland native Terry Rozier for their long-term point guard, someone the Suns have sought for a while. For Cleveland, they obtain an actual power forward in Anderson to play as the team is thin at the position with both Kevin Love and Sam Dekker sidelined with injuries. Cleveland also obtains another first-round pick to help continue their rebuild, which is always welcome. Sending Hill to Phoenix for Anderson and future picks would be a rare trade that benefits all parties involved.
If Hill asked Cleveland to not trade him to a rebuilding situation like in Phoenix, there would still be a market for him amongst playoff teams. The Houston Rockets could offer Brandon Knight, Isaiah Hartenstein, and a future second-round pick for Hill. The Milwaukee Bucks can send back Cleveland favorite Matthew Dellavedova, Jodie Meeks, D.J. Wilson and a future pick to add depth at the point guard position. Finally, if Cleveland wants to wait until January 15 they could send Hill to the Utah Jazz for Dante Exum and Thabo Sefolosha. All three of these trades for Cleveland would make perfect sense, and any of them would allow Hill to make another playoff run.
With Sexton making a name for himself as Cleveland’s point guard of the future, it would be remiss of the Cavaliers to punish Sexton upon Hill’s return from injury. With Hill putting up solid statistics despite Cleveland’s ghastly 1-11 start, the team should strike when the iron is hot and get the best possible trade package for Hill. Whether it is with the Suns, the Rockets, the Bucks or the Jazz, there are plenty of options out there for Cleveland to trade Hill to. Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman will likely have plenty of offers for Hill in the coming weeks, hopefully, the best possible scenario happens in the end.