The Cleveland Cavaliers have actively shopped All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving ever since he went to ownership requesting a trade. And according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, 20 teams have reached out to Cleveland to gauge interest in landing the 25-year-old guard.
Of those teams, six made trade offers, according to ESPN: the San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat. The others either don’t have enough assets to make a legitimate offer or “loom in the shadows” throughout the deal-making process.
According to Woj, team executives are looking into Irving’s character and work habits, his leadership qualities and penchant for late nights. Everyone Irving has been in touch with on a professional level — including ex-teammates, former Cavs executives, Team USA basketball officials and players, and his Nike Kyrie shoe representatives — have received calls.
Truth be told, the Cavaliers trade talks have been buoyed with teams getting back better, if not perfect, reports on Irving's growth, league sources said. Among the consensus: Irving has a history of late nights and partying, but there's no trail of missed practices, bloodshot eyes or hungover shootarounds. Most intel has come back that he has curbed those tendencies into his mid-20s, picking his spots more wisely. As a teammate, Irving can be moody, but most agree he's ultimately invested. He hasn't always loved deferring to [LeBron James] on the Cavaliers, or Kevin Durant in USA Basketball. This is the Kobe Bryant inside of him, and that's part of the DNA that can be a blessing and a curse. Teams believe he's smart, savvy and, above all, they believe he's a winner.
New Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman is in no rush to deal his All-Star point guard. He and owner Dan Gilbert made that painfully clear by their continued referral to Irving’s trade request as “a fluid situation” and by putting no timetable on moving the young guard.
Irving is one of the best players to become available on the trade market in a long time. Only 25 years old, he has an NBA championship, an All-Star MVP and an Olympic gold medal. He is the best ball-handler in the NBA, one of the best finishers at the rim available league-wide and is arguably the best inside-outside scorer at the point guard position.
Irving is a winner and a competitor, and he hasn’t even reached his prime yet.
As a result, Cleveland wants a deal similar to that of Denver, which traded Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks in 2011. In return, the Nuggets recouped a deep package of young, established players including Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, New York’s 2014 first-round pick, two second-rounders, and cash.
There are two teams that can give Cleveland what it wants
The Miami Heat have made both Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow available in Irving trades, according to ESPN. Winslow is good friends with Irving and would love to play with him, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, but the Heat package simply isn’t attractive enough to warrant parting ways with an all-world talent.
Instead, the Suns and the Celtics have the best pool of young players and trade assets on tap to pry Irving away from the Cavaliers.
Phoenix will reportedly not include No. 4 pick Josh Jackson in any Irving trade, but general manager Ryan McDonough has put together an impressive cast of youngsters, including Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender. The Suns also own each of their first-rounders and Miami’s first-round picks in 2018 and 2021.
It is also unclear if Irving wants to stay long term in Phoenix, or anywhere else for that matter. His free agency looming in the summer of 2019 and the threat of his departure — potentially to New York — could impact how far some teams go to land him.
Boston’s reservoir of assets is unparalleled.
The Celtics have the best group of young players available league-wide, including No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum, 2016 No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder. Most would expect Boston to include Isaiah Thomas in any potential deal for Irving, but the Celtics were not included on Wojnarowski’s list of teams that made offers to the Cavaliers.
Boston posted the best record in the East last season and improved that roster by adding Tatum and Gordon Hayward. Further disrupting that chemistry by swapping point guards with a conference rival — as talented as Irving is — would do more harm than good.
It is unclear what the six teams that made trade offers included in their deals for Irving, but odds are if it were a package that blew Altman and Gilbert away, they would have pulled the trigger on it.
For now, as Cleveland’s front office has maintained, Kyrie Irving’s trade request remains a “fluid situation.”