Where Might Kyrie Irving End Up?
The NBA was shaken to its core Friday night when word got out that Kyrie Irving wants a trade out of Cleveland. The Cavaliers have been to the past three NBA Finals and took home the championship just last year after Irving hit a game-winning 3-point shot over Steph Curry in Game 7 with under a minute left.
It's head-scratching for a player on a three time defending conference championship team to want a trade. Irving's numbers have only improved since LeBron James rejoined the Cavaliers in 2014. This past season Irving averaged a career-high 25 points per game on a career-best 47 percent clip.
Irving's reasoning for leaving goes against the grain. After winning in the shadow of a once in a generation talent like James, Irving wants to be the man on his own team. Superstars have been joining forces to win a championship in this super team era. Irving is leaving a star studded Cavs team to do the opposite.
We can speculate on the issues the James-Irving pairing has had in the past few seasons. The Cavaliers always seemed to be embroiled in some type of controversy and Irving may have wanted to grow slowly instead of being thrust into a win-now situation.
Winning tends to cure all, though. Perhaps back-to-back championships could have prolonged, or even eliminated these problems. Instead, we now face the reality that Irving will leave the only team he has ever known.
Where might he end up though? Irving did give the Cavaliers front office a list of teams he would prefer to be traded to. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't mean much given the fact that he doesn't own a no-trade clause and is under contract for two more seasons.
Of the teams he wants, only a few of them make sense. San Antonio, which some have reported to be his main target, already has four guards on its roster. The team just invested $50 million into Patty Mills and owes Tony Parker over $16 million next season. Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, who are both on rookie scale contracts, sit behind them on the bench. The Spurs guard situation makes it unlikely for an Irving trade to come to fruition.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are another team that Irving desires that may not make sense for the Duke product. The Timberwolves also just inked a point guard by investing $57 million to Jeff Teague for the next three years , which means he can't be traded until Dec. 15th. A team like a Minnesota isn't likely to have a backup point guard make close to $20 million a year. They are also unlikely to play the two guards together considering how weak of a defensive backcourt they would be.
The other two teams on Irving's wishlist have the pieces to get a deal done. Interestingly enough, the Miami Heat are one of them.
Cleveland fans are likely already sick of seeing their star players take their talents to South Beach. Though this would not equal LeBron's departure, seeing Miami take away a superstar of there's will likely bring on painful memories.
Fortunately for Cleveland fans, the Heat have assets that may peak the interest of the Cavs front office. For one, they have a replacement for Irving in the form of Goran Dragic.
Dragic was once considered a top 25 talent in the league not long ago. During the 2013-14 season, Dragic averaged 20 points, six assists and four rebounds a game for a 48-win Suns team that failed to make the playoffs. This past season, he put up identical numbers on a Heat team that missed the playoffs by one game after winning 30 of their last 41 games.
Regardless of his bad luck, Dragic has proven to be a very capable starting point guard in this league. His 3-point shooting percentage is actually identical to Irving, but he doesn't have the benefit of playing alongside LeBron. Who knows how well the dragon would do beside the King.
To make the deal work, though, the Heat would need to include more. Perhaps versatile wing Justise Winslow could be added to the mix. Draft picks would almost certainly have to come Cleveland's way, which could be problem since they can't trade a first-round pick until 2023.
A Dragic/Winslow plus picks package is one that might actually be beneficial for Cleveland in the short term and long term. Winslow could be LeBron's replacement should he decide to bolt next summer while Dragic is under team control for three more seasons.
The New York Knicks are another intriguing option for an Irving deal. New York also has a disgruntled superstar in Carmelo Anthony. The Cavs are one of two teams Anthony would consider being traded to, though Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that Irving's absence on the Cavaliers would deter him from a Cleveland move. Anthony seems set on Houston, but the Knicks don't have to respect his demands if they don't like the Rockets' offer.
If LeBron is able to convince Anthony to waive his no trade clause for Cleveland, there is the potential for a blockbuster deal in place. Rumors have surfaced that have the Cavaliers landing several impact players in a deal centered around Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. One has the team nabbing another starting point guard who has the ability to thrive alongside James.
This deal, which has been talked about in different forms, would see several draft picks get sent Phoenix's way since the team would be losing Bledsoe and taking on the contracts of Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye. The Suns would be able to replace Chandler with the young Hernangomez and the Knicks would acquire the pick-and-roll combo of Tyson Chandler and Irving to complement the shooting prowess of Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks would be able to keep its rookie Frank Kilikina and develop him behind Irving to form one of the more intriguing point guard duos in the league.
The Cavaliers actually stand to get better with this deal. Getting rid of the Frye and Shumpert contracts to acquire Bledsoe, who averaged 21 points on a bad Suns team, and Anthony, who when paired with other superstars has proven to be almost unstoppable as a scorer. Though the front court would be a bit crowded, Anthony's presence would allow the Cavs to have more offensive potency with a Melo-LeBron-Love trifecta that is able to space the floor.
Other teams can't offer the packages the Knicks and Heat can come up with. Though a team like the 76ers can throw a godfather offer to Cleveland, it is more likely the team would allow its young guns to grow alongside each other. They don't need to mess with a core that can be lethal in a few years after playing together for years.
The Utah Jazz can offer some intriguing wing players, but the team cannot give the Cavs a top flight point guard in return. Ricky Rubio, as talented as he is, isn't the answer to the Golden State Warriors problem.
It will likely come down to New York and Miami. Both offer intriguing packages with different goals. The Knicks' offer makes the team better for next season, but the Heat's offer helps the Cavs prepare for a post-LeBron world. Either way, both deals would satisfy Cleveland and Irving, who appear ready to be headed towards a break up.