The three-week mark has passed since news broke that Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was seeking a trade from Cleveland and the opportunity to play outside of LeBron James‘ shadow.
Four teams; the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Miami Heat, all reportedly jumped to the top of Irving’s desired “trade list” as his preferred destinations, but Irving, without a trade clause, doesn’t hold much leverage throughout this process. Cavaliers’ general manager Koby Altman can garner as many assets, picks and players that he can out of teams and seek out the best overall offer from Irving — the same process Pacers’ management went through with Paul George earlier this summer. Irving has two years remaining on his contract and teams that plan to acquire Irving surely would feel confident that they can make enough of an impression on the 25-year-old to re-sign him in 2020.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavs remain “fixated” on acquiring a young star for Irving like the Nuggets’ Jamal Murray. The report also lists the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, the Suns’ Josh Jackson, and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum as other young stars at the center of Cleveland’s scope.
The process of building out the franchise’s roster long term has accelerated with Irving’s trade request. The Cavaliers have witnessed James’ exit strategy twice — once to leave Cleveland and once to return — and the Irving trade request has left them unwilling to squander the opportunity to replenish young assets on a roster that could be crippled in a post-James Cavaliers era that is stocked with high-priced veterans.
The Cavaliers find themselves far more fixated on a young star, including New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Denver’s Jamal Murray, league sources told ESPN.
The Cavaliers are seeking a package like what Denver got from the Knicks in 2012 for Carmelo Anthony. That deal included multiple young rotation players including Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, along with draft picks and pick swap rights, the latter of which allowed the Nuggets to draft Murray in 2016. Refer to the pu pu platter that Chicago received for Jimmy Butler (Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and a future lottery pick) as a reference point for what the Cavs would likely seek out from a team that wants to acquire Irving.
As Cleveland waits for the most enticing trade package to percolate, they’ll be patient. James’ uncertain future with the Cavs (he can leave as a free agent next summer) makes acquiring a future cornerstone to build around a necessity. Finding the right package is absolutely crucial to the organization’s future. And although a come-to-Jesus moment between Irving and James is still possible and could lead to a resolution, it doesn’t appear likely.
Denver has the assets to get a deal done if they want. They have the young players, the future pick and one or two veterans that would fit well alongside James. What the Nuggets have to determine, however, is if Irving’s shot-making, fit around their franchise cornerstone in Nikola Jokic, and fourth quarter savvy is enough to part with some of their core already entrenched in Denver.