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When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday it was safe to say that most in the NBA world were shocked. Just over a year ago the former no.1 pick had just played a starring role in the Cavaliers drought breaking championship. Now for various reasons Uncle Drew wants to leave for either the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks or Miami Heat with the Boston Celtics recently added to the destination list. The reasons behind the attempted exit range from a strained relationship with LeBron James to him feeling not wanted after being involved in trade talks for both Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Regardless of the reasons, where does Kyrie land? Does he even leave the Land at all? We analyse the potential options and trades that follow with it before providing a verdict.
STAYING IN THE LAND?
We’ve been here before. Back in 2007 the legendary Kobe Bryant requested a trade away from the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time the Lakers weren’t going along as well as they had in the early 2000s and weren’t making any major deals to change things. In the end Bryant stayed in Los Angeles, the Lakers refused to trade him, brought in Pau Gasol among others and went on to win two more titles with Bryant.
Maybe the same thing will happen here. The Cavaliers hold all the cards really, Irving is contracted through at least next season so he can’t threaten to walk if there is no trade. By trading him now they can get something in return, maybe some different pieces that could help keep the King in Cleveland. Plus having a disgruntled star on the roster usually leads to more troubles and can seriously fracture the culture of an entire organisation.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND?
Kyrie Irving is from the state of New York so it would be somewhat of a homecoming if he was to end up with the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony wants out and has his eyes on Cleveland with his good buddy LeBron. Plus pairing Irving with budding superstar Kristaps Porzingis could very well return the Knicks to the post season for years to come. This scenario could not be written better. It all works but there would likely need to be a third team to get involved in order for a deal to happen.
Enter the Phoenix Suns. They have a piece to off-load in Eric Bledsoe that would fit well in Cleveland and they aren’t in a win-mode now so they will happily accept picks plus salary dump type players. Things that the Cavaliers and Knicks can offer up to get what they want.
Throw in a 2018 first rounder from the Knicks to the Suns and that seems pretty fair for all parties concerned. Phoenix add another first round pick, the Knicks get a second star and the Cavaliers get a solid point guard replacement plus another offensive weapon in Carmelo Anthony. The Suns may have the raw end of the deal here so the Knicks will need to come to the party with more to offer as Cleveland hold all the cards with Irving the most valuable piece in the entire deal. Another pick could be thrown in as a sweetener, maybe even a promising young talent.
In short the Knicks desperately need a player like Kyrie Irving. A player who is a proven star that can be the face of a franchise with championship winning credentials, all at the age of 25. So they need to be willing to overpay a little in order to get what they want in return. Carmelo Anthony is a great start, throw in Frank Ntilikana to the Suns and suddenly things start to get moving for all parties involved.
SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON?
It was reported on Tuesday that the Boston Celtics could be entering the race for the smooth moving point guard. But what would they give up? They have an abundance of high draft picks that may tempt Cleveland management to look past the LeBron era. They would also need to offer up some players to make the caps balance, problem being that outside of Al Horford and Gordon Hayward they don’t have any large contracts on the books. Try this on for size:
Add in a swap of first round choices in next year’s draft, e.g. Brooklyn’s top pick for the Cavaliers late first round pick and this could work. However I don’t think anyone really wins out of this deal. Next.
HUNTING WITH THE WOLVES?
The Timberwolves have already been extremely busy in the off-season by trading for Jimmy Butler plus bringing in free agent veterans Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague. Now could they be in line to bring Kyrie Irving into the frame and really put some credentials beside their name?
But unless the Wolves want to part with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins or Jimmy Butler this deal will not happen. Cleveland is in win-now mode. They want players who can play alongside LeBron James and Kevin Love in the immediate season in order to compete for a championship. The three players just mentioned fit the mold but I’ve got a feeling that they are all off the table. Having said that, don’t expect Irving to land in Minnesota in the coming weeks.
A NEW COG IN THE SPURS SYSTEM?
Comparing San Antonio to the Knicks is like comparing chalk and cheese. Right now the Knicks are a rabble. They have been for quite some time due to poor draft & free agency choices plus unrest within senior management (see James Dolan & Phil Jackson). On the other hand the Spurs are a model organization within the league. 20 years straight in the playoffs, five titles included, a hall of fame coach with an ability to get the best out of every single player while making them fit into a system.
So why would Kyrie Irving not want to be in San Antonio? Well because it isn’t his choice, the Cavaliers will decide his fate dependent on what offer they get. Problem is, the Spurs don’t have any great assets that they would be willing to part with or any assets that the Cavaliers want. LaMarcus Aldridge is a potential option but do Cleveland really want him? An ageing power forward who can’t defend much, would be a terrible fit on the current Cavs roster. The Spurs would need to buddy up with other teams in a blockbuster deal to bring Kyrie to San Antonio.
Verdict: The relationship between Lebron and Kyrie is too fractured now for the All-Star point guard to return to the land. No other team really has assets that they would be willing to part with to make a deal happen besides the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. Expect Irving to return to his childhood home in New York where the Cavaliers receive Eric Bledsoe plus Carmelo Anthony, New York get Kyrie Irving and the Suns get role players + picks or Frank Ntilikana. This makes the Cavaliers a better team and places Kyrie at one of his preferred destinations. Phoenix add some young talent while having to deal with a couple of overpaid contracts for a year or two. The nuts and bolts of the deal can be re-arranged to make things work but the structure of the deal should already be in place.
Cleveland get a more defensively minded point guard who can provide even value in rebounding, scoring and passing. They lose a tremendous scorer with the best handles in the league but get another offensive gun in Carmelo to off-set some of what they have lost. Don’t get me wrong, Kyrie Irving is a stud and a much better player than both Anthony and Bledsoe but the way the roster in currently constructed around LeBron, the two players they are getting will add more value than what Kyrie can in the immediate future. Plus both players are tight with James, enhancing the probability that they will gel on the court whilst also increasing the franchise’s chances of keeping him beyond the next season.
However Cleveland’s top brass may look past the LeBron era and try to add assets that will help the team develop once the King has left. Teams like the Spurs, Wolves and Celtics could conjure up deals that involve emerging young players paired with first round draft picks to make it happen. The Suns could also engage in a straight swap where Bledsoe and Josh Jackson find their way to the Land. New York have a raw talent in Frank Ntilikana with picks to also offer up a straight swap.
The possbilities are endless. One thing is for sure though, Kyrie Irving will not be in Cleveland next year. If I were to put a bet on it I’d say he ends up in New York and the Cavaliers become a better team with the pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Carmelo Anthony, even if for just one season.