Cavaliers Star Kyrie Irving Requests Trade

By: Ryan Aceman

In an unexpected turn of events, Kyrie Irving has asked to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers, stating his desire to be the “focal point” of a team as the main reason.

The implication is that Irving has grown unhappy in his role as part of a dynamic duo with LeBron James, where some might consider Irving second fiddle. It is being reported that James was “blindsided” and “disappointed” by the news.

Irving has been a member of the Cavaliers since being drafted 1st overall in 2011, and has three years left on a five-year, $94.3 million contract. He has a player option in the final year of that deal. When Irving signed his contract back in 2014, he was expected to be the face of the franchise for the next decade, only to be upstaged by James returning home from Miami in free agency the very same summer.

Leaving Cleveland would force Irving to forfeit a potential “supermax” contract, like the one John Wall just signed. But now that Irving has accomplished the ultimate team objective in winning a championship, it makes sense that he would want to maximize his individual talents in a new situation at the onset of his prime.

This development comes just days after Irving called the Cavaliers’ offseason “peculiar,” parting ways with long-time GM David Griffin and failing to acquire a marquee player via trade or free agency. Since James’ return in 2014, The Cavaliers have been to three consecutive NBA Finals, facing Golden State each time, and winning the championship in 2016. Despite being poised to make another deep playoff run with their current roster, Cleveland has not made any moves this offseason to bring them closer to eclipsing the Warriors. 

There are plenty of questions to be asked, including whether the Cavaliers can even trade Irving for a fair return. It would be challenging for any franchise to reciprocate a package that matches Irving’s value, as one of the NBA’s most dynamic scorers and best clutch players. It’s likely that a three or four-team trade would be required in order to ensure an equitable exchange between teams.

Reports are stating that New York, Miami, Minnesota and San Antonio are his preferred destinations, with San Antonio being the most attractive for the 25-year old four-time All-Star. However, Irving’s contract does not include a no-movement clause, so he would have minimal input in determining where he goes.

Although Irving won’t control where he lands if traded, the Cavaliers could honour his wish and move him to one of his four preferred destinations if they get the right package in return.

The New York Knicks would allow Irving to be the primary ball handler for the foreseeable future, but the only real moveable pieces on their roster are Carmelo Anthony (if he's willing to waive his no-trade clause) and a handful of young prospects. This means at least one more team would probably be involved, since there’s no way I see the Cavaliers dealing Irving for Anthony straight up. However, there have been some reports stating Cleveland may be willing to part ways with Irving in exchange for Anthony and at least one first round draft pick. We’ll have to wait and see. A Porzingis/Irving duo would be a welcomed fresh start for one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional teams over the last several years. My prediction: a three-team trade between Cleveland, New York, and Phoenix – Cleveland gets Anthony from New York and PG Eric Bledsoe from Phoenix, New York gets Irving, and the Suns get Kevin Love plus draft picks.

The Miami Heat were 30-11 in the second half of last season, barely missing the playoffs after an abysmal 11-30 start. We saw Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside play at career-high levels down the stretch, and a Goran Dragic (20.3 ppg)/Irving (25.2 ppg) backcourt would be one of the best scoring tandems in the league. Adding Irving would put them in contention for a top three seed in the East, while also affording him the ability to showcase his dynamic talents as the best player on the team. Whether Miami has the requisite pieces to move for Irving’s services – without compromising what makes them such a promising team – is the main challenge.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the league’s best rosters on paper, after acquiring SF Jimmy Butler via trade and PG Jeff Teague in free agency. Adding Irving would only further cement their status as one of the NBA’s most exciting newly-formed superteams, but they will also have trouble acquiring Irving without the assistance of a third franchise. I doubt the Wolves would part ways with Andrew Wiggins, which would be the minimum return expected for Irving in a one-to-one trade, so GM Scott Layden would have to pull a rabbit out of his proverbial hat.

Irving has cited the Spurs as his ideal landing spot, which would require him to make some changes to his approach and play style. First, Irving wouldn’t be their best player, as that title belongs to Kawhi Leonard. Also, the Spurs ball-movement system does not favour isolation play, which much of Irving’s skill-set is predicated upon. The Spurs would ask Irving to make the extra pass and trust his teammates more than ever before. On top of the potential philosophical differences, I can’t imagine what the Spurs could trade for Irving. I doubt the Cavaliers are interested in taking on Lamarcus Aldridge’s contract with Kevin Love still on their roster, and Spurs' prospects Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson are still works in progress as NBA players.

Regardless of where he ends up, be it spending another season in The Land or being moved for an exorbitant package of players and assets, Irving’s request has shaken up the NBA. After looking at his preferred destinations, it’s evident that a three-team trade is the most likely scenario for Irving to be dealt. Personally, I believe the New York Knicks are the most plausible spot for Irving. How might this affect LeBron James' free-agency plans after this upcoming season? Would the Cavaliers still be the favourite to come out of the East without their mercurial point guard?

Stay tuned for further analysis in our upcoming podcast episode and read more on NBA.com.