The cat is out of the bag. Kyrie Irving, fresh off of a Finals appearance and about 13 months removed from a championship, has made it known that he wants out of Cleveland. There’s been many a think pieces and analytical critique written about his reasons why he would want to fly without the safety net of LeBron James, and whether he’s courageous, or whether he’s foolhardy.
This is not one of those. I care not why Kyrie wants to leave, I just care about where he goes. The NBA is the ultimate entertainment league, our off-season is almost as fun as watching wins and losses. Kyrie hit what was arguably the biggest shot in
Cleveland Cavaliers history, and now he would like to go ply his trade elsewhere: you rarely get this level of soap opera drama in any other sport.
When we last saw Kyrie without the benefit of LeBron James, he was a volume scoring, meh play-making scorer on a lottery team. Now he’s older and wiser, but according to ESPN’s Ben Alamar, not necessarily much better than he was six years ago.
The opinions of Irving’s game and worth vary wildly both in the blogosphere and among the casual fans. Regarding Kyrie, we hold these truths to be evident:
- He’s a former Rookie Of the Year, 4 time All Star, and 2015 All-NBA 3rd teamer: he’s very, very good.
- Last season, he became 1 of 16 players since the institution of the three-point line to average at least 25 points while shooting at least 47% from the field and 40% from three.
- There are only handful of legitimate franchise superstars: Kyrie isn’t one of them.
- There’s a next tier of All Star level players who exist a step or two below the top-tier. This is where Kyrie is.
- You could argue that Kyrie is “better” than Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or Gordon Hayward. You’d be wrong. We saw how much length and versatility matter in the NBA; as a general rule, unless your point guard is a mutant capable of draining threes from 35 feet on the regular, or capable of running through and jumping over anyone, I’ll go all-star wing over all-star point guard.
We’ve seen the Nuggets and Suns trades discussed at nauseum, so I won’t retread those. I’ll only say good on Phoenix and Denver for not mortgaging their futures (reports are the Cavs were asking for Josh Jackson with Bledsoe and Bender or Chriss, and wanted both Jamal Murray AND Gary Harris, along with Wilson Chandler and a pick. Kyrie is a good player, but c’mon).
So without further ado, I’ll put on my GM hat and get down to it.
(Note: I’m not very good at this, so toss in picks wherever necessary to make things kosher, if you want.)
(Note 2: I didn’t really include Jeff Green and Derrick Rose in the analysis because I don’t give a damn about either one of them. Okay, Rose might help.)
Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye, Cedi Osman
Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Dwayne Bacon, future first
You want to run the show, Kyrie? “Mamba Mentality”? Go learn at the knee of the OG Michael Jordan. Before Mamba, MJ was The Black Cat; maybe MJ can imbue some of his magic in Kyrie. The Hornets are a nice squad, Kemba is fun, but let’s be real: they’re not scaring anyone, and Michael Jordan needs to make a big move
Kyrie isn’t a HUGE upgrade over Kemba, but he’s an upgrade, and his star power ups the Q rating of Hornets games. Alongside Nicolas Batum, backed by Michael Carter-Williams, and with Dwight Howard patrolling the paint, the Hornets have enough defense to make this work. Irving and Malik Monk would randomly erupt for 65 points combined (while giving up 60). Frye and Cody Zeller behind Dwight and Marvin Williams give the Hornets quality big man depth. Kyrie-Monk-Batum-Frye-Dwight lineups are leading this team to the playoffs. Book it.
The Cavs don’t miss much slotting Kemba in for Kyrie. Walker is quick as a wish, fearless, and it’s safe to say, he’s fixed the early career issues with his jumper (after shooting a wimpy 31.8% from three in his first four season, Walker has canned 38.6% of his triples over the last two years, on sizable volume).
In Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cleveland gets a perimeter stopper/small ball power forward who can be a game changer defensively. Tristan Thompson and MKG would give the opposition offenses fits. Kaminsky came on strong at the end of last year (before his injury against the Suns in March, he put up 17.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a game while making a tidy 38% of his 6 threes a night from the first of February through march 2nd), injecting some new blood into a stale Cavs’ locker room. Dwayne Bacon can really play (seriously, click this link), has the perimeter length Cleveland sorely needs (he’s 6’7” with a 6’10” wingspan), and the fact that he looks like a cross between Chris Webber and Vikings legend Chris Carter is the icing on the cake.
Honestly, this might be too much for Kyrie
Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Kay Felder
Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic
People will say that this isn’t enough for Kyrie, but go back and read #3 and #5 in the intro. With new basketball decision-makers in both front offices, let’s shake things up.
The Cavaliers get their “young potential” in Aaron Gordon, a springy power forward disguised as a small forward. He spent the last month of last season averaging about 17 and 7 and shooting 35% from three…there’s hope.
Fournier is a sneaky good wing with ball skills (17-3-3 last year shooting 36% from deep). Elfrid Payton shows shades of young Rondo; he can’t shoot a lick (27% from downtown, 69% from the free throw line), but can do everything else 913-7-9 post all-star break last year). Vucevic can is a scorer and rebounder who spaces out to midrange, at least. Lineups of Bron, Fournier, Jr Smith, Love, and Aaron Gordon are fast and flexible, and Elfrid with Love, Korver, Jr Smith, and Jeff Green would at least be interesting, offensively.
Kyrie gets to be Philly Iverson (aka 2017 Westbrook). Shump, Jonathan Isaac, and Bismack Biyombo combine for a formidable defensive backbone, rebounding and defending while Irving shoots to his heart’s content. Frye, Biyombo, Thompson, and Isaac give coach Frank Vogel tons of options down low, while Jonathan Simmons and Terrence Ross are the type of rangy, athletic wings to bracket Kyrie with. This team probably makes the playoffs in the East. I was just messing around when I started this one, but looking at it, I like it.
Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye, Shumpert
Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Joe Johnson
Kyrie is unequivocally the man here, offensively; either he’s starting in two point guard sets with Rubio, or (sorry Ricky) with Rubio on the bench and Irving starting beside future star Donovan Mitchell. Maybe coach Quin Snyder can get Kyrie to at least act like he cares about defense, but if not, Rudy Gobert is ready to clean up the copious amount of Irving mistakes. With Joe Ingles, Thabo Sefalosha, Shumpert, and Ekpe Udoh, along with Gobert, Utah still maintains it’s defensive identity, and now it has a legit flamethrower to initiate the offense. Frye should have a field day roaming the perimeter; an Kyrie-Mitchell-Ingles-Frye-Gobert lineup ain’t half bad.
The Cavaliers get an injection of athleticism and perimeter scoring punch from Hood and Burks, improved defense with Exum and Favors, and veteran savvy in Joe Johnson. I still very much want to believe in Hood; he just struggled to stay healthy last year. Hood’s 6’8” and can score in flurries:
When healthy, you can say the same about Alec Burks…the problem is, he hasn’t been healthy very much over the past three seasons, and it’s looking more and more like he might not be in the NBA long, at this rate (but we need him in the deal to make the money work, I think. I’ll be honest: I didn’t even run these through ESPN’s Trade Machine. I ain’t got time for all of that, man).
Love and Thompson would start, of course, but lineups of Exum-Jr Smith-Hood-Lebron-Tristan would be able to do some damage, defensively. They’d long and switchy on the perimeter; swap out Thompson for Favors and you don’t lose a thing. Go jumbo with Thompson and Favors, with Hood at the shooting guard and Bron on the other wing. The possibilities are endless.
I have no clue if these are “fair” deals for Kyrie Irving; playing alongside Lebron Raymone James for the last 3 seasons has made it difficult to gauge his on-court value. How can you disentangle how much Bron elevates his teammates with his passing and immense gravity from what an individual talent like Kyrie provides? How much is brilliant iso scoring worth without the all around excellence of LeBron to provide a structure for it?
For all we know, Irving and James will smooth things over, and the 2018 Cavaliers will look a lot like the 2017 Cavaliers. But if Cleveland does decide to move on, the East will be a helluva lot more intriguing.
What do you guys think of my trade ideas? Let me know in the comments below, or yell at me on Twitter at @SnottieDrippen