In an offseason full of blockbuster trades, where every team is doing what they can to match up against the Golden State Warriors, the team that has squared off with them in the NBA Finals the last three years is making the most headlines. Despite going to three straight Finals and winning a championship in 2016, Kyrie Irving is tired of playing second fiddle to LeBron James. The 25-year-old superstar wants to become the focal point of an NBA franchise, so he requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The specific reason why he wants to leave remains to be seen, but many NBA insiders think that he wants to get out before the organization implodes when LeBron leaves for L.A. next season. Given the damage that has been done over the last few weeks, it seems unlikely that Irving will be sporting the wine and gold next year. Here are the top five potential suitors for a Kyrie Irving trade.
Phoenix is the only team on this list that was not included in Irving’s desired landing spots, but the truth is they have the most to give the Cavs if they decide to deal the 4-time All-Star. The Suns have stockpiled assets as a part of their rebuilding process that has been nicknamed “The Timeline” by the fans in the desert. Most importantly, Phoenix has a serviceable point guard replacement, a 27-year-old veteran that put up an impressive 21/6/5 stat line in 2017. Originally, Cleveland made it known that a deal would not get done if 2017 first round draft pick Josh Jackson was not included. Phoenix has already expressed that they would not include Jackson in any trade offers, so there is still a lot of work to be done if a deal is going to be made in the Valley of the Sun.
New York Knicks
New York represents the only non-contender on Irving’s list of desired teams, but it makes sense, considering he is from New York and grew up cheering for the Knicks. Of course, if a trade were to go down between New York and Cleveland, the main bargaining chip would be Carmelo Anthony, who has been on the trading block for weeks. Anthony has the choice of which teams he can be traded to because of the no-trade clause in his contract, but Cleveland remains on his short list. The only issue is a third team would need to be involved to get a deal done, in order to make the money match up. It is surprising that Kyrie would want to leave the defending Eastern Conference Champs to go to a team with no championship aspirations anytime soon, but I guess there really is no place like home.
The Minnesota Timberwolves currently own the longest playoff drought in the NBA, having missed the postseason every year since Kevin Garnett’s 2004 MVP campaign. Nevertheless, the Wolves have made some big moves in recent years to put themselves into a position to contend in the near future. First, they traded Kevin Love to Cleveland for No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in 2014. Next, they drafted Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. Both Wiggins and Towns won NBA Rookie of the Year. Then, Minnesota made a huge splash on draft night by trading for two-way superstar Jimmy Butler. Truth be told, if Minnesota wants Kyrie Irving, they will probably have to give up Wiggins and a few other assets, but with a big three of Irving, Butler, and Towns, the Timberwolves would immediately catapult themselves into contention.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs still remain the top contender to the knock off the Warriors in the West, and Irving has expressed interest in playing for Coach Gregg Popovich. The only problem is that Kyrie’s motivation to leave Cleveland is his desire to become “the man,” and Kawhi Leonard is a better overall player and fit for Popovich’s scheme, so it is hard to envision Irving being the top option. Regardless, a duo of Irving and Leonard, combined with complementary players like Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili will prove to be lethal atop the Western Conference.
Miami has been struggling to rebuild its team since LeBron left to return to Cleveland three years ago. Emerging players like Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, and Hassan Whiteside have kept the Heat relevant, but they can’t seem to get over the hump in the East. Pat Riley has already announced that he’d be willing to trade Dragic and two-way wing Justice Winslow for Irving, but Cleveland has not pulled the trigger yet. After whiffing on coveted free agent Gordon Hayward, Miami is desperate for stardom, so expect Riley to pull out all the stops to get Kyrie in a Heat uniform.