Should the Cavaliers Trade Kyrie Irving? Top Destinations for Uncle Drew


The NBA offseason is the gift that keeps on giving.

In what's supposed to be the most quiet time of the year for the Association with the summer league over, training camp weeks away, and the chaos of free agency behind us, the NBA is still grabbing the lead on sport shows and the top headlines on websites around the country.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported on Friday that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. According to Windy, the Cavs’ star guard asked to be traded last week, with a shortlist of preferred destinations including Miami, New York, Minnesota and San Antonio.

You read that right: a top-15 player in the NBA, just entering his prime, wants to be traded.

My first reaction was, “What in the world is Kyrie thinking?” Since LeBron took his talents to South Beach in 2010, players all across the league have bent backwards and taken pay cuts to play alongside him.

We're talking about Hall of Famers like Ray Allen and Chris Bosh, and nearly a dozen other role players who thought being on LeBron's team gives them the best chance to win a ring. They would do whatever it took to wear the same jersey.

Now LeBron’s top teammate wants to separate himself from The King. Does that make sense?

Unlike the other players who have teamed up with LeBron in the past, Kyrie already has a ring. Granted, LeBron's superhuman performance helped him capture it, but make no mistake—the Cavs don't come back from that 3-1 finals deficit against Golden State without Irving.

Don’t forget Kyrie was the one who hit the go-ahead shot over the outstretched arms of Steph Curry in Game 7, which essentially clinched the series.

Some players prioritize winning over everything. Others prioritize winning while being "the guy.” With the Cavs’ current roster constructed around LeBron, Kyrie is nothing more than a glorified role player.

Ever since high school, Kyrie was the man. In high school, he played on the top-ranked team in the country at St. Patricks in New Jersey, alongside future NBA players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dakari Johnson.

I was lucky enough to watch this team play in person twice during Irving's senior year, and although supreme talent surrounded Kyrie, there was never any doubt about the leader or best player.

When St. Pats needed a bucket, they cleared out for Kyrie and scored. When St. Pats needed a stop, Kyrie stepped up and buckled down on his man. He was the single most dominant high school player I've ever seen in person.

The two times I saw him live were in extremely competitive showcase tournaments; he wasn't just toying with your average high schooler.

I'd guess there were at least six or seven D1 or D2 players on the court at all times during those games, including at least three future NBA players, but Irving was in a class of his own.

In college, Irving dominated during his short stint at Duke before hurting his foot. But when he was on the court for the Blue Devils, he was their go-to option.

As a true freshman starting in the best conference in college basketball, Irving averaged 17.5 points per game in just 27 minutes of action...while shooting an absurd 53 percent from the floor and 47 percent from beyond the arc.

Plain and simple, college defenders had no chance at slowing him down. The Cavs selected Irving with the No. 1 overall pick the following year, and he immediately lived up to expectations by capturing Rookie of the Year honors in runaway fashion.

In 2015, the Cavs signed Irving to a massive extension that all but guaranteed he'd be their centerpiece for the next decade. That is until LeBron decided to return home.

Irving said at the time it bugged him that LeBron didn't call any of the current Cavs players to let them know before releasing his now famous "I’m Coming Home" article in Sports Illustrated, and the two superstars have had a strained relationship since.

Fast-forward to today, and it appears Kyrie is ready to step out from LeBron's shadow and take on the responsibility of leading a team by himself.

It's been widely speculated that LeBron will leave the Cavs next offseason, which in theory would mean Kyrie would be the man again in Cleveland. But with how much of a shitstorm the team's front office is, would you really want to be "the guy" in Cleveland?

I don't blame Kyrie for wanting out, but I do blame him for expressing his desire this late in the offseason. We'll get to that in just a second.

Look at how the Cavs have been managed over the last few seasons. LeBron left Cleveland in the first place because Dan Gilbert and the front office refused to put talent around him.

When LeBron left, the Cavs went from first in the East to dead last, and stayed in the basement until his return. The front office was unable to attract talent to the team, and outside of Kyrie, drafted poorly (anyone remember Anthony Bennett?).

LeBron decides to come back because of his strong allegiance to Northeast Ohio and his desire to deliver a championship to his hometown fans—not to Dan Gilbert. Since the King’s return, the Cavs have done what they can to please him and build a championship roster.

Ownership opened up their checkbooks for the likes of Tristan Thompson and JR Smith while also acquiring key role players like Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, and Channing Frye.

It's not easy to build a team when three guys (LBJ, Irving & Kevin Love) make up most of your salary cap, but give David Griffin credit—he did just about everything he could while Gilbert swallowed his pride and paid the luxury tax.

But the last three years seem like an isolated situation. Gilbert had never been willing to pay the tax before LeBron's return, and there's no guarantee he'll be willing to pay once LBJ's gone and the team’s championship window is closed.

Gilbert didn't retain Griffin at the end of the summer, and left the Cavs GM-less during the most important stretch of the offseason. To top it all off, he low-balled Chauncey Billups to become president of basketball operations, and Billups later declined the offer.

So think about this. With an owner like that running the show, in a small market, without any other young talent around you...would you really want to be "the man" in Cleveland?

Kyrie sees the writing on the wall after LeBron leaves, and he's trying to get out of that potential situation before it happens. But waiting this late into the offseason handcuffs the Cavs. Teams rarely get equal return when trading a star.

A couple stars did swap jerseys this summer, and had Kyrie expressed his desire to be traded earlier, the Cavs may have been able to work out a star-for-star deal with Indiana for Paul George or a sign-and-trade with Utah for Gordon Hayward.

But no. Kyrie waited too long, and now those stars are off the market and can’t be dealt anytime soon.The draft has come and gone and the idea of a top pick is more appealing than the player actually drafted in those slots.

With LeBron on the roster, the Cavs can't just dump Kyrie for future assets because despite the reports of him wanting to send his career in Los Angeles, the team needs to do everything in its power to keep him in a Cleveland jersey until the day he retires.

This late in the game, there's not much the Cavs can do for Irving, especially with the teams he’s shown desire in joining.

He'd be a perfect fit with San Antonio in Gregg Popovich’s system, but the Spurs aren't trading Kawhi Leonard, and they don't have enough assets to entice the Cavs into trading Irving.

Miami is in a similar situation. Who would be an equal return for Kyrie? No one, unless Miami offered its entire roster. The Cavs might entertain the idea of Goran Dragic, Justice Winslow and a future pick, but that doesn’t seem like a big enough haul in return for a top-15 player.

With Phil Jackson out of the picture, Kristaps Porzingis is an untouchable asset for the Knicks. Without him in a deal, you can take the Knicks out of the running for Irving.

That is unless the Cavs decide to pull the trigger on an Irving for Carmelo and assets deal, which might go down as the second worst trade in NBA history behind the Celtics/Nets deal that sent Brooklyn's entire future up I-84 for the washed-up carcasses of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

There is no way the Cavs deal a 25-year-old star just entering his prime for Carmelo without the assurance that LeBron will stay beyond this year. It just doesn't happen, even if the Knicks sweeten the pot with Willie Hernangomez and some future picks.

Minnesota is the most interesting potential trade partner, but they'd have to be willing to part ways with Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is a good player, don’t get me wrong, but he's not on the same level as Kyrie.

The Timberwolves would have to pony up more than that to pluck Irving from Cleveland. Minnesota signed Jeff Teague this offseason to run its offense, but he can’t be traded until December 15 so any deal between these two teams may have to be put on the backburner.

On a side note: Irving in Tom Thibodeau's system would be very interesting. Kyrie isn't known for his defensive prowess, and Thibs is a defensive-minded coach who demands effort on that end of the floor.

Also, are we sure Kyrie would be “the man” in Minnesota? Butler is right up there on the same level of stardom as Uncle Drew, and he's a more complete player. Karl Anthony-Towns is one breakout season away from establishing himself on that same tier.

Kyrie may not be in LeBron's shadow in Minnesota, but it's not like he'd be the only player worth paying to see on the team.

None of those four teams makes a whole lot of sense for the Cavs basketball-wise, but which teams do?

Phoenix might make sense, with a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and some other young pieces. Is Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Marquise Chriss enough to keep Cleveland competitive next year and four years down the road?

It seems like a better package than the four teams we’ve previously mentioned, although Boston makes sense too.

The Celtics don’t seem too keen on paying Isaiah Thomas the max next season, so shipping him alongside one or two of their approximately 8,732 young assets would definitely keep Cleveland in the championship conversation next year while accumulating young talent.

The Nuggets could also be in play here, with a package centered around Jamal Murray or Gary Harris. Denver has a plethora of young pieces to work with, and has an emerging core centered around Nikola Jokic.

Adding Kyrie to the mix would catapult them up the Western Conference standings, but there’s no guarantee Irving would be the alpha dog on that team either. Jokic is a star, and Paul Millsap is no slouch either.

Either way, if the Cavs do decide to trade Kyrie, they better get back an absurd amount of assets or talent. Players of his caliber don't get traded in their prime often, but in this case, it may be the team's only choice.

And really, who can blame Kyrie for wanting out? I know I wouldn't want to be “the man” on a Dan Gilbert-owned team.


The FootBasket Store

The FootBasket Store
Click on the above image for custom apparel!