By: Drew King (drewking0222)
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been very busy this summer.
Unfortunately, they have very little to show for it. They replaced their championship-winning general manager, David Griffin, with his assistant, Koby Altman, while also re-signing sharpshooter Kyle Korver and bringing in point guards Jose Calderon and Cedi Osman.
But for a team looking to beat Golden State, none of these moves push them over the top.
Cleveland’s ho-hum offseason has rubbed some of their players the wrong way. On Wednesday, Kyrie Irving told Sports Illustrated that he felt the Cavs were in a “peculiar place” when asked about how the team might look a few years down the road.
“The best thing we can do is handle things with class and professionalism,” Irving said. “Obviously we have a great owner that’s willing to spend a little money on guys that he believes in. At this point, we just see what happens throughout the summer.”
If you’re a Cleveland fan, those are not the words you want to hear, especially with rumors of LeBron James possibly bolting—again. You also certainly don’t want to hear this:
That meeting was last week! LAST. WEEK. That’s some serious foreshadowing on Irving’s part. In an instant, one of the wildest NBA offseasons of recent history became even more unruly.
In the meeting, Irving stated he preferred to be traded to the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves. Here are trade scenarios for each of these teams, from least to most likely to happen.
Never happening: Minnesota Timberwolves
Cleveland would also receive Minnesota’s 2019 first-round pick in this deal, not that it makes much of a difference.
The Cavaliers likely wouldn’t accept any trade that didn’t include Andrew Wiggins, but Minnesota likely wants to see if he can work alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler. Aside from Wiggins, the Timberwolves just don’t have that much to offer.
Gorgui Dieng is a strong rebounder and defender who has been an inconsistent starter for Tom Thibodeau. He’s just hitting his prime at 27 years old, but his fit is questionable next to Towns at the four spot.
Coming out of the draft Adrien Payne was advertised as an NBA-ready stretch-four, though he hasn’t lived up to the hype. He’s a career .232 percent three-point shooter who could use a change in scenery.
Tyus Jones hasn’t gotten much run in his first two seasons, but he’s only 21 years old and has plenty of upside. He makes great decisions as a playmaker and tracks the ball well on defense, despite his athletic limitations.
A high-end role player, two projects and draft pick that will probably land in the high 20’s does not equal a perennial all-star point guard. The math just doesn’t make sense.
Slim chance: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs lost out on the Chris Paul sweepstakes, and seemingly will roll with the trio of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray and, if he’s healthy, Tony Parker. If the Spurs really wanted to upgrade at the point guard spot, this would likely be their last chance.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a horrendous postseason, but he can still bang inside with the best of them. He would benefit tremendously from having playing with an elite facilitator like LeBron James.
Danny Green would be a huge upgrade over Iman Shumpert, providing the same amount of defensive toughness and an improved outside shot.
Kyle Anderson has had trouble maintaining a spot in San Antonio’s rotation, but has solid playmaking skills for his position and could be a possable backup to LeBron.
Still, Aldridge would be awkward next to Kevin Love, and the salaries would be hard for Cleveland to swallow over the next two years. Even if San Antonio threw in a pick, the deal just wouldn’t be worth the financial commitments.
Not impossible: Miami Heat
The Heat want to make the playoffs more than anything, and adding Irving would definitely get them there.
Dragic belongs to the Mike Conley class of point guards just outside the all-star bubble. He’s fantastic as a scorer and unafraid to do the dirty, grinding work of a bulldog.
Josh Richardson has been one of the bigger surprises in the league, flashing the skills of a legitimate 3-and-D threat. His development has been slowed by injuries, but a career average of .374 from deep is nothing to scoff at, especially for a 23 year old.
If Miami throws in a pick, the Cavaliers should seriously consider this trade. The drop off from Irving to Dragic wouldn’t be as steep as Derrick Rose, and Richardson could even earn the starting job as the two guard. It’s not the greatest trade in the world, but it’s better than what most teams could offer.
Worth a shot: New York Knicks
The Knicks haven’t had an all-star on their roster since Carmelo Anthony’s prime years, and Irving seems like the perfect fit for New York. He’d be well worth eating Shumpert’s $10 million-plus per year, especially since he already has a history with the team.
Adding Anthony and Eric Bledsoe would increase Cleveland’s chances of keeping James next year. Anthony has been designated as a “Banana Boat Brother” and Bledsoe maintains a close relationship through their shared agent, Rich Paul. Both would be good fits next to James as well and would push the Cavs a lot closer to competing with the Warriors.
The toughest challenge in this trade is convincing Phoenix to accept the deal. Frank Ntilikina would be another lottery pick for the Suns deep, deep crop of young talent, though he’s a complete question mark. Shedding the contracts of Bledsoe and Channing Frye would save them about $15 million in cap room, but Phoenix has failed time and time again to land guys in free agency.
Three-team trades are hard to accomplish, but the Cavs should mull it over if something similar is proposed.
Cleveland sits on its hands and does nothing. Irving is locked up for at least the next two seasons, and he has no power in choosing where he goes. Even if the Cavs do trade him, they have no incentive to send him to any of his preferred destinations.
As long as Kyrie and LeBron are on the team, Cleveland will contend for championships. And nothing Irving says is going to change that.