In the week since the NBA world learned that Kyrie Irving had requested a trade away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, we’ve wondered which path the Cavs will take, which teams might throw their hats into the ring for the 25-year-old All-Star’s services, and whether it makes sense for Cleveland to grant Irving’s wish when they don’t have to do it. We’ve wondered what the request says about the relationship between Irving and LeBron James, about LeBron’s future in Cleveland, and about whether or not Irving is equipped to shine as an unquestioned No. 1 option away from the right hand of the King.
While we’ve been doing all that wondering, though, there hasn’t been much in the way of actual movement on the Irving story. Despite two-thirds of the league “inquiring” about Irving’s services after news of his request hit the wire, only a half-dozen are known to have made Cleveland an offer, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
So far, these are among the teams who’ve made offers to the Cavaliers for Irving, league sources tell ESPN: The San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. There were approximately 20 teams that inquired with Cleveland upon the news of Irving’s trade request, league sources said, but far fewer have registered legitimate proposals. More loom in the shadows, and many interested simply don’t have the assets to make a deal happen.
Irving’s a four-time All-Star who stands as one of the best ball-handlers and one-on-one scorers in the sport, a player with a proven track record of being able to elevate his offensive game in the season’s highest-leverage moments. (Like, say, the final minute of Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road.) At age 25, he’s either just entered or is just about to enter his athletic prime.
He also has two years left on his current contract, at an average annual value of just under $20 million per season, giving a prospective suitor a relative bargain price for a player of his gifts and more time to convince him to stick around for the long haul than, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder got when they pulled the trigger on a deal to import Paul George. (For a package, you’ll recall, that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert didn’t think was all that impressive.) It makes sense that the Cavs would be looking for a major haul; they’re “projecting confidence they can snare a king’s ransom,” as ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe reported earlier this week, and Woj says they’re looking for “young players, win-now veterans and draft picks” in exchange for Irving.
The market doesn’t necessarily care if what you want makes sense, though. Remember, we’re barely a month removed from the Chicago Bulls trading Jimmy Butler — a three-time All-Star and All-NBA selection in his athletic prime — for a restricted-free-agent-to-be coming off an ACL tear, a 23-year-old second-year point guard who struggled mightily on offense as a rookie, and a 7-foot shooter whose rebounding and defensive work have frequently been described as uninspiring and/or concerning. Perhaps in time we’ll view the trio of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen as great value for Butler and Justin Patton. In the here and now, though, it’s an uninspiring return, and it’s the model that “most Irving suitors are using” as they put together packages for the Cavs to review, according to Woj.
One intriguing offer that our Henry Bushnell floated last week might actually be on the table, per Woj:
The Miami Heat are willing to part with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow as centerpieces for an Irving trade, league sources said. With the Cleveland-Miami history, there’s little chance for a deal unless the Heat offered an overwhelming package.
Lowe noted earlier this week that a deal centered around Dragic (31, but fresh off his best season in three years, with two guaranteed seasons left on his deal) and Winslow (coming back from season-scuttling injury, but 21 with tremendous physical tools and massive defensive potential on the perimeter) could be constructed to save Cleveland some money in the short-term, keep the Cavs title-competitive now and give them another chip for the next several years. That prior deals prevent the Heat from including a first-round pick until 2023, however, could prove a sticking point … as could the possibility that there’s not actually a deal on the table:
While we wait for clarity on what has or hasn’t been proposed by Pat Riley — who, obviously, would seem like a pretty unlikely deal partner for the Cavs, considering their history — we turn our attention to other potential Kyrie destinations … including the one located about a 40-minute drive from where he played his high school ball in Elizabeth, N.J. From Thursday’s edition of ESPN’s “First Take”:
“I got a phone call, and the voice on the other end of that phone call is a trustworthy person,” said ESPN writer, host and contributor Pablo Torre. “And he was saying to me that Kyrie Irving very badly wants to be a New York Knick. Kyrie Irving wants to come home.”
So that’s what he was trying to say!
As much as Irving might like the idea of being the man in Manhattan, and as much as the idea of adding a flashy point guard of Irving’s caliber might stir the loins of Knicks fans eager for a do-over after Stephon Marbury’s homecoming went all the way sideways, it’s difficult to see how New York could put together a deal that would satisfy Cleveland’s win-now and win-later desires. The Knicks still have the Carmelo Anthony saga to sort through, and he reportedly only has eyes for the Houston Rockets … which makes finding a workable deal that lands Irving in NYC awfully tough. From Ian Begley of ESPN.com:
[…] the best offer the Knicks can make in a trade for Irving is a package centered around Anthony. As was reported on Saturday, New York is not interested at this point in including Kristaps Porzingis in any trade for Irving. Some in the Knicks organization would trade Anthony and multiple first-round picks for Irving (though there is not uniform agreement on the idea of dealing multiple first-round picks in any trade at the moment, according to people familiar with the Knicks’ thinking).
All of this is, of course, meaningless until one of two things happen:
1. The Knicks decide to include Porzingis in a deal for Irving (unlikely).
2. Anthony decides to move on from the possibility of being traded to Houston and strongly considers playing for a Cavs team without Irving.
Until and unless ‘Melo decides that’s a play he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause to make, it’s unlikely that Kyrie can find his way to New York. That doesn’t mean certain interested parties can’t still enjoy thinking about the possibility, though:
Shouts to Kristaps for finding a way to break up the monotony of training for his appearance with the Latvian national team at this summer’s EuroBasket tournament. Well, another way.
And so, a week after the bombshell that shook the NBA world, we’re right back where we started: all we really know is that Kyrie’s not happy in (and not communicating with) Cleveland. The Cavs, for their part, are moving forward as if they’re comfortable entering training camp with this situation unresolved, which seems insane and unlikely … which, given the way the Cavaliers’ offseason has unfolded to this point, probably means that’s exactly what’s about to happen.
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