While the Cavaliers are free to trade Irving to wherever they please, the four-time all-star and former NBA Champion has reportedly listed the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves as his four preferred trade destinations.
Each of the four aforementioned teams face their own set of challenges and expectations heading into the 2017-18 season. Irving’s reported interest in being the focal point doesn’t exactly line up with all of his choices, but his impact would surely be felt on any of the following teams.
New York Knicks
Of all the cities that Irving provided, New York makes the most sense when considering the circumstances.
The Cavaliers are already reportedly in discussions with the Knicks, who are dealing with their own trade demand issues with Carmelo Anthony. It’s reported that the two Eastern Conference teams are trying to swap stars, which would pair Anthony with his old friend LeBron James.
Irving, who went to high school in nearby New Jersey, would thrive in New York. His relationship and shoe deal with Nike would gain more attention in a big market like New York City and it would give him a chance to be the main option alongside a younger Kristaps Porzingis.
If the Cavaliers pulled off a trade with the T-Wolves involving Irving, it’s hard to imagine them not wanting a point guard back in Teague, which means they would have to wait at least three months for his free agency restriction to wear off. That move would also give Irving his best chance of fitting in with the T-Wolves, since neither he nor Teague are suited to play the shooting guard role over Butler or Andrew Wiggins.
However, given that the Timberwolves already have a trio of 20-point scorers, and Jamal Crawford off the bench, it makes more sense for them to stay pat with a distributor in Teague.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs would give Irving his best chance to win in the near future, but it wouldn’t give him an opportunity to be the focal point on a team that already includes superstar Kawhi Leonard.
Irving also said that he doesn’t want to play with James, making it plausible that his ‘focal point’ comments could have just been said to soften the news for LeBron. At the same time, if Kyrie is at all serious about joining the Spurs, he would know better than anyone that a player needs to have a selfless mentality to thrive in Gregg Popovich’s system.
If he can continue sacrificing like he did with the Cavaliers, Irving would be able to fill the hole left by an aging Tony Parker at point guard, while helping the Spurs put their failed LaMarcus Aldridge experiment behind them.
Although he didn’t land a superstar this summer through free agency, Heat president Pat Riley was busy adding pieces to his roster to use as trade chips when the right opportunity came along. Now that the Cavaliers are faced with the inevitable choice of having to trade Irving, Riley’s sleeves are likely rolled all the way up.
Irving, who is locked up for two more seasons until he gets to use the player option in his deal, is good enough to warrant a trade for any of the Heat’s players. Just like with Minnesota, it’d be hard to imagine him fitting in alongside a point guard in Goran Dragic, and also Dion Waiters, who has had problems with Irving in the past.
But if Riley did, in fact, trade Dragic and Waiters to make room for a new starting point guard, the Heat would have a formidable inside-out duo with Irving and Hassan Whiteside, plus a supporting cast that will be ready to contend in the Eastern Conference.