- Almost every team could use a talent as unique as Kyrie Irving. But which team needs him the most? And which one can offer the best package? The Crossover's writers debate.
It's been a whirlwind of a summer, but there's a late submission for the craziest move of the offseason: Kyrie Irving's trade demand.
The Cavaliers star has reportedly asked team brass to move him, stunning everyone from his teammates to outside observers. The relationship between Irving and the Cavs has grown so toxic that the team reportedly can't even get him on the phone.
With one of the NBA's biggest stars on the trading block, there's been no shortage of suitors. What team can't use a superstar point guard in his prime? With that in mind, The Crossover asked its writers: Which team should trade for Kyrie? While most teams have already made their "big move" this summer, there's plenty of teams with assets and point-guard needs to make a deal. Let's take a look at five of the most plausible scenarios.
Celtics acquire: Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers acquire: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, filler salary and a lottery-protected first-round pick
The Earth, no matter what shape it might be, will collapse in on itself if this completely insane but also completely perfect trade happens.
The Celtics do this because Irving is younger than Thomas, because he’s more famous than Thomas, because he’s bigger than Thomas, because his offensive ceiling as The Man in a Brad Stevens system is higher than Thomas, and because he’s under contract for a year longer than Thomas. Danny Ainge would have an answer to skeptics suggesting he is too conservative in trade talks, he would sell high on Thomas and pass any potential injury issues to Cleveland, he would buy himself another year before needing to shell out true max money to his point guard, and he would theoretically ease the transition to his next generation core by preparing to build around Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and company.
The Cavaliers do this because they need to maximize their short-term return to chase the 2018 title and appease LeBron James, Thomas is the only All-NBA level point guard who is marginally available, Crowder is a playoff-tested wing defender who could give quality minutes in a Finals match-up against Golden State, and the first-round pick is a chip to soften the blow if James and/or Thomas leave next summer. First-time GM Koby Altman could salvage Cleveland’s rocky summer by selling this deal as his organization’s best shot to keep up with Golden State, by giving James the creative and dependable secondary playmaker who he desperately needs if Irving exits, and by adding a hard-nosed veteran stopper to an aging bench that provided little during the 2017 Finals.
The real winners, however, would be the thousands of Twitter uses who spent last season debating whether Irving or Thomas was better as this trade would immediately pay off with a series of must-see head-to-head match-ups and a possible Eastern Conference finals showdown. Thomas is entering a contract year with a shot at his first big payday. Irving is clearly thirsting for his own stage. Let’s make this happen and marvel at the insanity that will inevitably unfold.
Or, Ainge can sit tight and play killjoy yet again. — Ben Golliver
Heat acquire: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert
Cavaliers acquire: Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellingon
The Heat are one of Irving’s preferred destinations, and there would be something extremely fun (and ironic) about Kyrie taking his talents to South Beach. Irving would be a prized whale for Pat Riley, who likes to make big splashes and figure out the rest later. If anyone could turn around Irving defensively, it's Erik Spoelstra, who’s proven himself to be one of the better developmental coaches in the NBA.
Shumpert is a salary throw-in, but he would probably see some decent minutes. For the Cavs, Dragic is an extremely capable point guard to replace Irving, and he’s a very tradeable chip if the team is rebuilding a year from now. WInslow needs to work on his shooting, but he gives the Cavs the young wing they desperately crave, and his game should still evolve. Ellington is a dead-eye shooter on a cheap contract for one year. Maybe the Heat throw in a 2026 first-round draft pick as well or something. I don’t know. But let’s get Kyrie to Miami where he belongs. Superstars shouldn’t play in freezing weather. — Rohan Nadkarni
Suns Receive: Kyrie Irving
Cavs Receive: Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson, 2018 first-round pick
If Cleveland decides to pull the trigger, Phoenix’s haul gives them the best of both worlds. In the immediate future, the Cavs can stay in Finals contention by betting on Bledsoe to replace roughly 80% of Irving’s production. The Kentucky product had a career year in 2016-17, averaging 21.1 points per game. He doesn’t shoot it as well from deep as Irving, nor is he as effective at the tin. But Bledsoe can create his own shot, and will serve as a quality pick-and-roll partner with LeBron James.
Jackson and the pick won’t drastically alter Cleveland’s title hopes next season, but they do provide legitimate insurance if James bolts in the summer of 2018. The Cavs’ nightmare scenario moving forward is being stuck with no Irving, no James and no future building blocks. Jackson and a future first rounder serve as a hedge against that. If Cleveland is forced into a rebuild in the near future, this deal allows them to start with some pieces post-LeBron.
Phoenix has signaled that it won’t give up Jackson to acquire Irving, but it would be a small price to pay to acquire one of the league’s premiere scoring guards. Pairing Uncle Drew with Devin Booker would create a lethal backcourt, one that could compete with the dynamic duos in Golden State and Houston. The Suns ranked No. 22 in offensive rating in 2016-17, and were the fourth-worst team in the NBA from beyond the arc. Adding Irving would address both of those issues immediately. — Michael Shapiro
New York Knicks
Knicks receive: Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye
Bulls receive: JR Smith, Iman Shumpert
Cavs receive: Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade
"Who doesn't want to play with LeBron James?" That's the question that's relentlessly rattled inside my skull ever since we learned Kyrie asked for a trade. I can't understand this person. I can't relate to them. I can't get inside their heads. And I certainly have no idea what they're thinking.
Which is why, there's no team that makes more sense for Kyrie Irving than the Knicks. They're basically the opposite of LeBron.
In this three-team trade, the Knicks get a franchise point guard (which they don't really deserve) to pair with Kristaps Porzingis, the Bulls get two younger wings in exchange for a high-priced veteran that doesn't make sense, and the Cavaliers get half of the Banana Boat Crew in Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.
At this point, Cleveland's No. 1 priority isn't getting the most for Kyrie, it's making LeBron happy. I'm pretty sure bringing his two best friends to the Cavs increases his chances of staying beyond 2018. Will the Cavs be better on the floor? Maybe not. But they'll be better off it, which should be Koby Altman's focus.
Side note: I love the irony of Phil Jackson leaving and the Knicks immediately trading Carmelo Anthony for a franchise point guard. I couldn't resist. — Matt Dollinger
Wolves receive: Kyrie Irving
Cavs receive: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins
The rebuild in Minnesota continued this summer, with the additions of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, setting the Wolves up for their first playoff appearance since 2003-04. One other key piece in the Wolves' recent rise, Andrew Wiggins, could also help elevate the team even further this summer… if he is bundled in a trade for Kyrie Irving.
If Towns and Butler are untouchable, Wiggins appears to be Minnesota’s best available asset. Irving, who is a close friend of Butler, is one of the league’s brightest stars and has title pedigree no player in Minnesota can match. If Tom Thibodeau is building toward contention, getting a 25-year-old champion in exchange for Wiggins (or Wiggins and Teague, who can be dealt on Dec. 15) seems like a smart move. And while Wiggins has the potential to become an All-Star, the Wolves would be better served packaging him in a deal for Irving. Dynamic players like this don’t hit the market often, and the messiness of his trade demand could play into Minnesota’s hands.
And we can’t forget that Cleveland is familiar with Wiggins. They drafted him No. 1 in 2014 before shipping him off for Kevin Love. He didn’t quite fit the mission at hand after James’s return, but he could be ready to play a major role for a contender at this stage in his career, especially in the lowly East. — DeAntae Prince