The NBA offseason continues to provide the excitement the regular season, and the playoffs, failed to deliver.
On Friday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst dropped a bombshell that sent shockwaves throughout the league. He reported that four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving has requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that drafted him first overall in 2011. This news comes as a shock to many because there was no evidence of any rifts developing in Cleveland’s locker room.
Besides, who wouldn’t want to play with the best player in the NBA, LeBron James?
Apparently, according to reports, Irving doesn’t, and he wants the opportunity to be the big man on campus for a playoff bound team.
In today’s NBA, even though a player doesn’t have the power to dictate where he wants to land through trade — unless the player is equipped with a no-trade clause like Carmelo Anthony — his desires are still shared for the NBA world to see. ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported Irving has told the Cavaliers front office that his preferred landing spots are the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, and last, but not least, the New York Knicks.
It’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves front office making a move to trade for Irving, especially after recently signing Jeff Teague to a 3-year, $57 million contract. Also, with the recent addition of Jamal Crawford, and the acquisition of Jimmy Butler through trade, it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves trading any of these recently acquired pieces to bring Irving to the freezing cold of Minnesota.
As for the Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich already has two point guards — Tony Parker and Patty Mills — that fit his system perfectly. Irving would be an upgrade over either guard, but if the narrative is true that Irving wants to be the number one option on a team, it’s hard to imagine Popovich handing over the reign to him with Kawhi Leonard still on the roster.
Irving would go from being the second option in Cleveland to the second option in San Antonio. Therefore, would a trade to the Spurs be beneficial to Irving and his supposed wishes?
With the Timberwolves and the Spurs crossed off the list, that leaves the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks as the most likely landing spots for Irving, according to his list of teams he’d like to be traded to. The Heat can facilitate a trade that would more than likely send Goran Dragic, a young player, and a future 1st round pick to Cleveland for Irving, but the Knicks have a wildcard the Heat doesn’t have to make a trade with Cleveland work.
That wildcard is Carmelo Anthony.
Recently, Anthony has made it clear to Knicks management to not beg for forgiveness like Keith Sweat because he’s not having it. He’s tired of the disrespect from the Knicks brass, which started with the rule of the evil Zen master, Phil Jackson, and continued with his predecessor Steve Mills. At this point, the only thought that’s on Anthony’s mind is to get out of New York as quick as possible, so he can join his banana boat buddy Chris Paul in Houston or join his other banana boat buddy LeBron James in Cleveland.
James has made it clear to Cavaliers management that he wants Anthony by his side in Cleveland, and whatever James wants, he gets it because he’s player-coach slash general manager of the Cavaliers. Don’t let the fact that Cleveland currently doesn’t have an acting general manager in place fool you. James influences a lot of the roster moves by Cleveland’s front office.
A Irving-Anthony trade between the Cavaliers and the Knicks makes sense for both teams. Cavaliers would get another scorer to help James and to maintain dominance over the East. Also, having another scorer would give Cleveland a fighters chance against the well-oiled machine that is the Golden State Warriors, and the Knicks would be receiving a veteran point guard who can help pick up the scoring load vacated by Anthony.
In New York, Irving would be the number one option, and he’d have a young supporting cast led by budding star Kristaps Porzingis. Talent wise, the Knicks should make the playoffs, in a weakened Eastern Conference, if Irving proves to be a leader on the court, but current evidence shows that he has yet to prove that he can lead a team to the promised land.
With James on the roster, Irving has shown many flashes of brilliance.
In the 2016 NBA Finals, Irving dropped 41 points, in a crucial Game 5, to stave off elimination, and he nailed the three-point dagger in Stephen Curry’s grill, which helped the Cavaliers overcome a 3-1 deficit to win an improbable NBA title. For the last three games of that series, Irving averaged 30.0 points per game (ppg).
Last season, Irving averaged a career-high 25.2 ppg, and he shot a career-high 47.3% from the field.
It’s easier to put up good stats when the best player in the world is by your side, but without James in Cleveland, Irving has failed to impress.
In his first three years in the NBA, Irving has led the Cavaliers to a 64-117 record on the court when healthy. Granted, Irving’s breath was still smelling like Similac in those years, but those stats are still relevant because Irving hasn’t done much better, in recent times, with an improved roster when James isn’t on the court.
Last season, the Cavaliers were a minus-8.2 without James on the court.
It remains to be seen if Irving can lead a team to the playoffs, much less a championship, but acquiring Irving may be what the Knicks need to jump start a youth movement.
Sometimes, a player needs a change of scenery to realize his true potential, and being from New Jersey, New York may just be place Irving needs to be to show the NBA what he’s truly made of.
Ryan G. is also featured on iSportsWeb. Check out the original post here.