After a ridiculously hectic start to the NBA offseason in which we saw superstars like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Chris Paul all be traded, things had begun to settle down. We were beginning to enter the twilight zone of NBA free agency. Far too many players demand money that most teams simply do not have. This standoff lasts till late august, in which the player eventually caves in and takes less than he would’ve liked. However, today everything went haywire. First reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst was that Cleveland Cavaliers superstar Kyrie Irving had requested a trade. Windhorst cited Irving’s desire to step out of Lebron James’ shadow and become the focal point of an offense as his main incentive to wanting out of Cleveland.
Later that day, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that Irving’s camp had given the Cavaliers four preferred landings spots: Minnesota, San Antonio, Miami, and New York. Irving’s friendship with Jimmy Butler is what most likely puts the Wolves on Irving’s radar, but outside of that, there isn’t much else that should attract Irving. The Wolves already have Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins which won’t allow Irving to be the focal point of the team and the market in Minny isn’t exactly appealing. San Antonio’s desire for a point guard should put Irving on their radar, but his ball dominant play style doesn’t mesh with what San Antonio typically likes to run. However, Irving to San Antonio makes a lot more sense than Irving to Minnesota. When looking at Miami, you for sure see Irving as an upgrade over Miami’s current point guard in Goran Dragic. However, Miami lacks any elite assets that they could offer Cleveland which will almost certainly hinder them in their pursuits. Finally, with New York, they fit Irving’s desire’s the best. They could allow him to be the focal point of the offense and also have a big enough market that Irving could finally escape Lebron’s shadow. However, Irving does not have a no trade clause thus meaning that the teams he desires to be traded to, will not necessarily be the team he is traded to. Lets look at the top 4 landing spots for Irving, and what the trades for him could look like.
4. Miami Heat
Cavaliers receive: Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Unprotected 2019 first round pick
Heat receive: Kyrie Irving
The Heat and Kyrie Irving make actually a better match than some of the other teams above the Heat on this list. However, as a previously stated, the Heat’s lack of truly elite assets hinders them in the race for Kyrie. This trade though, may just be enough to convince the Cavs to let go of Irving. Goran Dragic is obviously no Kyrie, but he isn’t a slouch either. Last year he averaged 20 points and 6 assists per game while shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three. He could play off or on ball, whatever LeBron prefers, and would slightly ease the pain of losing Irving. Richardson and Winslow are both lengthy wings who specialize in different things. Richardson, while struggling with injuries, has shown he’s a gifted scorer and can be a solid 6th man off the bench barring injuries. Winslow, while only 21, is already an elite talent on the defensive side. He could ease the Cavs struggles on D and can matchup well with any 2, 3, or 4. The unprotected 1st rounder gives the Cavs a little extra insurance as well. As for Irving, he would be 100% be the focal point of Spoelstra’s offense in Miami and would still be surrounded by talented players like Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson. He would be in a big market with fans that would no doubt embrace him the minute he put on a Heat jersey. However, the decision isn’t Irving’s to make, its Cleveland and Miami’s and with Miami’s lack of elite assets, they may have trouble striking a deal both teams deem fair
3. Denver Nuggets
Cavaliers receive: Kenneth Faried, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, 2018 Lottery protected first round pick
Nuggets receive: Kyrie Irving
Pretty every big name point guard was linked to Denver this offseason. Unfortunately for Denver, they struck out on all them. As it stands right now, Denver will either be starting Jameer Nelson or Emmanuel Mudiay at the start of the season. With a front court as loaded as Denver’s, they can’t risk wasting that talent by not being able to have a competent floor general in the back court. With this trade, Denver will be able to solve their point guard issue without having to get rid of either of their two best players. A trio of Irving, Jokic, and Millsap while still having players like Will Barton and Wilson Chandler is a scary one. Maybe it won’t be enough to beat the Warriors, but when you have a chance to get a player of Irving’s caliber without ripping apart your core, you take it. The Cavs will get two incredibly talented young players in the back court, both of whom can contribute right away, but will only get better. Harris is a 3 and D guy who can do more than just shoot threes on offense while Murray is an athletic combo guard who has an endless offensive arsenal. Faried provides good energy and defense for the Cavs second unit while providing occasional offensive sparks. The Cavs will also receive the Nuggets lottery protected first round pick this year. It won’t be a great pick, but will be better than nothing. It’s likely that the Cavs and their fans will not feel pleased with whatever they receive in return for Irving. However, there are certain trades that benefit the Cavs massively, this is one of them and should not be passed up on.
2. Phoenix Suns
Cavaliers receive: Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, Marquese Chriss, Miami’s 2018 1st round pick, Phoenix’s 2018 2nd round pick, Phoenix’s 2019 2nd round pick
Suns receive: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert
Sam Amico reported that Phoenix is one team involved in Irving trade talks, whether it’s as a third team or as the landing spot for Kyrie is still to be determined. While being the third team is a possibility, Phoenix is also a very suitable landing spot for the 25 year old superstar. They probably have the largest arrangements of assets in the NBA after Boston and Philadelphia and neither of those teams are in the market for a point guard. On top of that, Phoenix has multiple guys they want to get rid of that the Cavs could use. Both Bledsoe and Chandler are guys who have no use in the Suns’ rebuild but still are guys who can have an impact in the NBA. Bledsoe especially, is underrated in today’s NBA, but has struggled with injuries. Bledsoe would provide the Cavs with an adequate Irving replacement while Chandler would be a huge boost to the Cavs second unit in all aspects. Chriss is a guy who can contribute now, but whose value is in what he could be. Incredibly athletic with a fascinating build, playing alongside Lebron James could be just the boost he needs for him to reach his potential. Phoenix also gives Cleveland the 1st round pick Miami owes Phoenix from the Dragic trade as well as two Phoenix 2nd rounders. These picks are decent ones, but not ones that will scare Phoenix off. Regarding Kyrie’s fit in Phoenix, it’s a pretty one. He would immediately take over ball handling duties, and would no doubt be the main focus of the offense. Devin Booker would be forced to get more of his points playing off ball, but that is something he is very much capable of doing. The Suns would still have players like Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, and Dragan Bender as well, rounding out a very solid supporting cast for Irving. Phoenix would keep the majority of their core intact while acquiring a top 15 player. Cleveland would get multiple “win now” guys and multiple picks over the following years. A match made in heaven
1. New York Knicks
Cavaliers receive: Carmelo Anthony, Eric Bledsoe, and 2 future second round picks
Suns receive: Iman Shumpert, Frank Ntilikina, and Knicks top 7 protected 2018 first round pick
Knicks receive: Kyrie Irving, T.J. Warren, Channing Frye
Whether it’s the big market or the Melo-Lebron relationship, Kyrie to New York seems to hold the most weight at the moment. However, the Knicks don’t really have enough win now assets that the Cavs would desire to complete this trade. That’s where the Suns come into play. Giving the Cavs Bledsoe along with them finally pairing Lebron with Melo would allow the Cavs to remain in win-now mode while getting rid of Irving. The Suns would take on Shumpert’s not so friendly contract with the benefit of furthering their rebuild process. Acquiring the Knicks 8th overall pick of this draft, European point guard Frank Ntilikina and the Knicks first round pick in 2018 would give the Suns their point guard of the future and another solid pick. The Knicks could possibly come out the biggest winners in this trade. They could rid themselves of Carmelo Anthony while simultaneously acquiring a top 15 player in the NBA. Losing Ntilikina would be a blow, but he holds little value to the Knicks with Irving at the point. The Knicks would also be getting a very solid small forward replacement in T.J. Warren. He’s flown a little under the radar because of the situation in Phoenix, but those who watch him know the skill he has. He can contribute by scoring, rebounding, or defending and is still quite young. Adding Frye would be nothing more than a salary filler but he could hold some value for a Knicks team that has very few competent big men. The main hesitance for the Knicks would be parting with multiple picks. However, they would be acquiring a superstar in the NBA and another solid young player without getting rid of their prized possesion, Kristaps Porzingis. As long as they don’t go Brooklyn style when giving out picks they should be okay. Phoenix will have more guys to help their rebuild and the Cavs will continue to compete while uniting Lebron with Melo.