After the stunning report that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland dropped late Friday afternoon, the NBA universe spent the weekend dreaming up fake trade scenarios involving the supposedly-disenchanted point guard.
So then, which potential deals would actually make sense for both the Cavaliers and a potential trade partner?
Here are five Irving trades that would do just that. (Note: these have all been approved by ESPN’s trade machine, essentially meaning that the salaries match up). We’re trying to keep these as simple as possible, so you won’t find any elaborate four-team trades here. Also, in each scenario, the Cavaliers also get draft picks that could help them add young talent for the future. Let’s get to it:
KYRIE LIGHTS UP THE GARDEN
Cleveland gets: Carmelo Anthony.
New York gets: Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith.
In no scenario will the Cavs get a player of Irving’s talent/ability in return. That’s basically the golden rule when trading away a superstar who the rest of the NBA knows wants out, or knows that you want to deal away. (See: Vince Carter , or 1,000 more examples). It’s just something that Cleveland will have to accept in negotiating any potential Irving trade.
Yet in Anthony the Cavaliers will get a player only a couple of seasons removed from his prime with the chance to reawaken his career, which has been flat-out sad in recent years. Anthony is still a top-end scorer in the league and a good bet to return to his near-unstoppable scoring self in a new environment. And where better to do so than in Cleveland where he’ll be playing alongside his old buddy LeBron James, with whom he played the best basketball of his life while teammates on Team USA during the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Irving in New York City, where he’ll get his chance to be “the man” under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, would not only be fun for the league (read: many games chasing 50 points), but also give the Knicks a rock-solid foundation along with Kristaps Porzingis.
If an Irving-Anthony deal were to happen it would likely mean a third team would have to be involved or a separate trade entirely that sends Kevin Love packing— the Cavs’ frontcourt would simply be too crowded, and Anthony and Love are too similar in terms of what they bring to the table.
KYRIE TO THE PELICANS
Cleveland gets: DeMarcus Cousins, E’twaun Moore.
New Orleans gets: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert.
Yes, the Pelicans just re-signed Jrue Holiday to a long-term deal and then grabbed Rajon Rondo in free agency on a one-year deal, but Holiday can play off the ball if it means landing one of the top-three scoring point guards in the game and a bona fide superstar like Irving.
The pairing of Irving and Anthony Davis should instantly propel the Pelicans into the playoffs and would give New Orleans a terrifying tandem to build around, while also (hopefully) helping to establish a talented roster that could prevent Davis from fleeing in free agency, which has always been a threat given the sad group of players the Pelicans star has carried since he joined the league.
For what it’s worth, Irving has a history of playing extremely well in New Orleans, where he earned MVP honours at the 2014 all-star game:
With the increasing likelihood that the Cavaliers sign Derrick Rose, it means Cleveland will at least have a serviceable point guard to replace Irving. Perhaps Rondo could be included in this deal, but the Cavs have a far bigger need for shooting in their backcourt. By including Moore, a solid role player who can be an offensive boost on the right team, Cleveland will get precisely that — Moore shot 45 per cent from deep two seasons ago, and a respectable 37 per cent last season, which is also his career average.
But what I really like about this fake trade is the notion of Cousins playing in Cleveland. LeBron’s future in his hometown is again up in the air, and it’s more and more likely that he’s looking elsewhere once his contract expires next summer. With his Cavs making one more run at a title this season their immediate focus becomes finding a way to beat the Golden State Warriors.
It’s pretty apparent by now that you can’t beat the Warriors by trying to go shot for shot with them, or replicating their small-ball style. Looking around the league, however, there is a type of player that gives the Warriors trouble, and it’s a big, bruising, versatile low-post presence. Davis, Cousins, and perhaps Karl-Anthony Towns are just about the only players in the NBA who are capable of disrupting the Warriors’ strategy, forcing them to keep a big body on the floor to protect the paint.
Cousins would give the Warriors fits and give the Cavaliers their best chance to beat the defending champions once more. The biggest red flag surrounding Cousins since he came into the league has been his attitude and mental focus. If there is any player in the NBA who could reign Cousins in and force him to get his act together it’s James. It remains to be seen if Cousins is a player worth building around for the future — and the Cavs have to be looking ahead to their future in the increasing likelihood that James bolts at the first chance he gets. But at worst in this scenario, the Cavs get another all-star in return, one who gives them their best chance at beating Golden State this season.
THE CAVALIERS GET WIGGINS…AGAIN
Cleveland gets: Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague.
Minnesota gets: Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye.
Perhaps the most one-sided deal here, given that it’s very easy to see how Minnesota gets better in this scenario, and less obvious on the Cavs’ part.
This would be a trade done with the future in mind if you’re Cleveland, not so much the upcoming season. Sure, Wiggins had a breakout campaign last year and projects to be a borderline all-star level talent, but his inclusion on the Cavs doesn’t make them any better in 2017-18. That said, this may be the best deal in terms of Cleveland’s long-term future, re-aquiring the building block they drafted first overall in 2014 and promptly traded to Minnesota for Love.
This trade will have to wait until after the regular season begins — Dec. 15 to be exact — as Teague can’t be immediately traded after signing a deal with the Timberwolves this off-season.
As for the Timberwolves, the addition of Jimmy Butler (a very similar player to Wiggins), makes the young Canadian somewhat expendable for the right deal. And a trio of Irving, Butler, and Towns would be unreal.
KYRIE TO THE SUNS
Cleveland gets: Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender.
Phoenix gets: Kyrie Irving.
Again, virtually no deal will net the Cavs a comparable player to Irving, and this is certainly an example of that. Yet at least in this scenario Cleveland gets a legitimate starting point guard, plus any Suns first-rounders included would be quite valuable moving forward.
The Suns may not have been on Irving’s list of preferred destinations, but at least he’ll get to be “the man” here, too, and would form one of the NBA’s best backcourts alongside shooting guard Devin Booker. This may not be the most exciting fake trade out there, but one that makes sense for both sides given the situation the Cavs are facing.
KYRIE BECOMES PART OF THE PROCESS
Cleveland gets: Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick.
Philadelphia gets: Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith.
This is probably the most far-fetched trade on this list, yet one that would check off plenty of boxes on both sides.
The biggest stumbling block is whether or not the Cavs would be interested in adding a rookie point guard to a roster looking to compete for a title this coming season. But remember, an Irving trade would, or should, account for a post-LeBron reality in Cleveland, and that’s where Markelle Fultz in a Cavs jersey becomes a really intriguing notion.
The most recent first-overall pick should be a lock to at least be very good in the NBA and a foundational piece for any franchise. Meanwhile, Redick can be a big boost for the Cavaliers in the immediate future, where his floor spacing, catch-and-shoot skills and ability to play off the ball are an ideal fit that addresses a pressing need on Cleveland’s current roster.
For Philadelphia, landing Irving speeds up the process considerably and gives them an all-star in the backcourt and clear-cut go-to star, which is important given that rookie sensation Joel Embiid looks like he’ll have problems staying on the court for long stretches.
Like the Teague/Timberwolves scenario, neither Fultz nor Redick can be traded in the off-season, so this deal will have to wait until December, but it would surely be worth the wait.