Recently, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving has asked to be traded away from the team that just appeared in three consecutive NBA Finals. The reason that was alleged was because Irving had a desire to be the top guy on a franchise, and that he no longer wished to be Robin to Lebron James’ Batman. In requesting his trade, Irving listed a select number of teams to which he would like to be traded, but shortly after announcing his desire to leave Cleveland, it was said that nearly all of the other 29 teams in the NBA were working to put together a possible trade for the 2016 NBA Finals MVP.
Despite the fact that nearly every team in the league would like to have Kyrie Irving, there are some teams with which Irving would be a better fit than others. Some offer the chance to compete for a championship, while others give Irving the chance to truly be the top guy on the roster. However, since Irving does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, his ultimate destination is up to the Cavs. With that, here are some teams where he might land which would fit in with what Irving desires, and some teams which would not.
20 Might: Minnesota Timberwolves
When LeBron James left the Cavs for Miami, the Cavs won the NBA Draft Lottery three times in four seasons. When James returned to Cleveland, the team traded two of the three top picks, keeping only Kyrie Irving on the roster. One of those top picks, Andrew Wiggins, went to Minnesota and became the star that Cleveland thought that he would become when he was drafted first overall. Minnesota was one of the teams that Irving indicated that he would like to be traded to, and the team has many options for acquiring Irving without losing its top talent.
The presence of Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford in Minnesota gives the Timberwolves tradeable assets without the team having to surrender Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns. Cleveland has expressed interest in both Crawford and Butler, so the Wolves could trade either or both to Cleveland, and Irving could team with Wiggins and Towns. Though Irving is only 25, he is older than Wiggins and Towns, and has been in the league longer, so he would be the veteran voice among the top talent on the team.
18 Would Not: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were one of the teams that Irving stated that he wanted to be traded to, but once Kyrie looks at the situation more closely, he'll change his mind. Going to the Spurs would mean that Irving would actually be playing for a team that had a better 2017 record than the Cavs. However, not only are the Spurs the least likely team to trade for Kyrie Irving, the Spurs do not satisfy Irving’s desire to be the top guy on a team. There is no way that Irving could be the top guy on the Spurs as they are currently constructed.
The Spurs are Kawhi Leonard’s team, and behind Leonard is LaMarcus Aldridge. In order for the Spurs to acquire Irving, the Cavs almost certainly would want Leonard in return, but there is no way that San Antonio will trade Kawhi Leonard, even if the prize is Kyrie Irving. Without moving Leonard, Irving could not be the top guy, and that is primarily what he is looking for. Though he would be on a perennial playoff team, he would still be Robin to someone’s Batman.
17 Might: New York Knicks
The Knicks were another of the locales that Irving indicated that he preferred being traded to. On the plus side, Irving would definitely be the top guy in New York, because the only player who could challenge him for the spot is Kristaps Porzingis, and Porzingisis also the asset that the Knicks would need to trade in order to acquire Irving. The other plus would be playing with Carmelo Anthony, as Anthony’s presence would take some scoring pressure off of Irving.
The downside is that the Knicks are the worst team in the league, and no one wants to play there. No one knows what type of offense coach Jeff Hornacek is going to run now that Phil Jackson is gone, and the team has no real talent. Irving would be the top guy, but he would be the top guy on a very bad team, like the last years of Kobe’s career.
16 Would Not: Houston Rockets
The Rockets are one of the new glamor franchises in the NBA. Every player seemingly wants to play in Houston. With Mike D’Antoni as the team’s coach, personal scoring stats are certain to be elevated, and the team is guaranteed a playoff spot every year. With free agents wanting to go there, Houston is a team that will stay near the top of the league. Unfortunately, the Rockets would not be a good fit for Kyrie Irving.
Irving can’t be the top guy in Houston because James Harden currently occupies that spot. Houston would not trade a two-time runner up for the league’s MVP award, even for Kyrie Irving, and even if Harden was traded, Chris Paul becomes the top guy in Houston, and Irving would still be number two. If Irving wants to win and to pad his stats, Houston is the place to be, but if he wants to be the top guy, there is a line of guys ahead of him who, not only have been with the team longer, but who also play the same position as Irving.
15 Might: Los Angeles Clippers
Kyrie Irving, playing alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would be a dynamic “Big 3” that could threaten the top teams in the Western Conference. In this lineup, Irving would become the top guy by default because Chris Paul’s departure has left the Clippers without a leader. Even better, if the Clippers are forced to trade Blake Griffin in order to acquire Irving, there would be no question who was the leader of the team.
The losses of J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have left the Clippers in need of offensive help, and Kyrie Irving fills that void. Also, with Austin Rivers as the current lead guard, Irving is a substantial upgrade at that position. With Griffin and Irving, the Clippers would be formidable, but without Griffin, the Clippers would still be better than they figure to be with Austin Rivers in control. LA fans would love Kyrie Irving, unless the Clippers suddenly became a team incapable of winning.
14 Would Not: Los Angeles Lakers
Magic Johnson has stated that the Lakers are going to be active in trying to attract top talent, and Kyrie Irving fits that bill. The drawback to Magic’s proclamation is that the team selected point guard Lonzo Ball in the most recent NBA Draft, and proclaimed him as the future of the franchise, so Irving would have to compete with Ball for the role as top man in Los Angeles. In addition, the one thing that Irving might be running away from might join him if Irving is traded to the Lakers.
Paul George has stated that he wants to join the Lakers when his contract expires after next season. Also, there are rumors that George might be joined in L.A. by LeBron James, so if the Lakers traded for Irving, and then sign LeBron James, Irving would once again be Robin to James’ Batman. In addition, if Ball is indeed the future of the franchise, then Irving would be several slots down in the Lakers’ pecking order.
12 Might: Charlotte Hornets
Despite the presence of Dwight Howard, the Charlotte Hornets are a team without a true star on the roster. Dwight Howard is not the player that he once was or was expected to be, so if Irving was traded to Charlotte, Irving would instantly be the top star. In truth, Howard might be the only player on the roster that the Hornets could trade to Cleveland to get Irving, so Howard would not be on the roster, which would make things better for Irving.
On other teams, Howard had trouble accepting that he was not the top guy on the rosters, which is why he has moved so often. In Charlotte, Howard has a chance to achieve that goal for himself, unless the team trades for Irving. In Charlotte, Irving would be the top guy, and Howard might possibly be on his way out anyway if he expresses unhappiness about not be the top guy himself.
11 Would Not: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder recently acquired Paul George, and adding Kyrie Irving to that roster would make OKC one of the top teams in the NBA. However, if there is any place where Irving would not be the top guy, it is with the Thunder. Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s most recent MVP Award winner, and there is no way that the Thunder trade him, even for Kyrie Irving, and if the team is able to get Irving and keep Westbrook, Irving would clearly be the second banana on that roster, and possibly third behind Paul George.
If Irving was unhappy playing with Lebron James, a player who believes in getting his teammates involved, then Irving would detest playing with Westbrook. There is a perception that Westbrook’s teammates sacrificed their own games in order to get Westbrook the MVP award, and so that he could average a triple double for the season. If this is true, then after a few games with Westbrook, Irving might wish that he was back with Lebron.
10 Might: Indiana Pacers
Having just sent Paul George to OKC, the Pacers are in desperate need of a team leader, and someone that they can depend on to take over close games. Kyrie Irving would easily be that guy for the Pacers. Irving proved that he can step up in crucial situations, as evidenced by his winning the NBA Finals MVP award, and he could be that guy for Indiana. Though, without George, the Pacers do not have anything that they could use in a trade for Irving, if the team could get him, he would be just what the doctor ordered.
Irving would be an upgrade at guard for the Pacers, and he would take over Paul George’s role as the team’s leader and closer. This would be a place where Irving could come in right away and become his own man, hopefully leading the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. Though the Pacers are not very loaded as they are currently constructed, Irving would give them a top young talent that the team could build around.
9 Would Not: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have several assets that the team could use if they wanted to trade for Kyrie Irving, and depending on which player or players were traded to Cleveland, the Raptors could find themselves in a unique situation, but it would not be one that would be beneficial to Kyrie Irving and his goals. It is possible that the Raptors could acquire Irving without giving up either of their star guards, but if that happened, then Irving would find himself a few steps down in the pecking order in Toronto.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combine to form one of the top guard tandems in the league, and with Irving, no team would have a better trio of guards than Toronto. However, in this lineup, Irving would be sharing the glory with DeRozan on the court, and possibly behind Lowry and Serge Ibaka politically. This situation would be good for Irving’s career, but would not be what Irving is looking for personally.
8 Might: Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are a unique situation because the team already has a leader, but everyone knows that Dirk Nowitzki is going to retire soon. Once he does, a player like Kyrie Irving could assume the mantle as the leader of the franchise, but no one knows when the retirement is going to happen. This is the situation that Dwight Howard found himself in with the Lakers and Kobe Bryant. However, on the court, Nowitzki has taken a step back, and Irving would be a clear number one option.
Nowitzki has always been a team player, on and off the court, and politically, he has never been one to make waves, so in the locker room, Irving would be the top guy there as well. The Mavs are a team in a rebuilding mode, so Irving would be playing for a lottery team, but he would have what he currently wants; to be the top guy on a team with another superstar player.
7 Would Not: Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets were in need of a leader, so the team traded its top scorer for D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers. Since Russell is entering his third NBA season, and averaged more points per game than every remaining Nets player, he is almost guaranteed to be the number one option on the team. With Russell becoming the leader of the team, there is no room for Kyrie Irving to become the top guy on the Nets.
Kyrie Irving is a more established player than Russell, but the Nets traded their top player for Russell, so there is no chance that New Jersey would make another deal in order to get Irving. The team is planning on building around Russell, so they have no use for Kyrie Irving. If Irving did end up in Brooklyn, he would be competing for minutes with Russell, Jeremy Lin and the other backcourt players on the team.
6 Might: Phoenix Suns
The rumors currently circulating are that, despite the fact that Kyrie Irving did not mention the Suns as one of his desired locations, Phoenix seems to be the leading contender to land Irving. In order for Phoenix to land Irving, the cost will probably be Eric Bledsoe and/or Tyson Chandler, with some role players thrown in, unless Cleveland only wants expiring contracts and draft picks. This deal would not hurt the Suns, and the Cavs would benefit from having either Bledsoe or Chandler, provided Chandler has anything left.
In Phoenix, especially without Bledsoe there, Irving would definitely be the top guy. He would get to play alongside Devin Booker, and together, they would be a dynamic backcourt. However, Phoenix is one of the bottom teams in the Western Conference, and Irving would be leaving a juggernaut for a team that is years away from making the playoffs. This is the drawback to wanting to be the top guy more than wanting to win.
4 Would Not: Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have been building for the future for several years, and believe in drafting new talent as opposed to signing free agents or trading for top talent. During the most recent free agent signing period, the best that the Sixers did was to sign J.J. Redick from the Clippers, and with all of the young players on the team, Irving could easily be the top guy in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the Sixers would have no interest in Kyrie Irving.
“The Process” in Philadelphia is about bad records and lottery picks. Trading for Irving would mean abandoning “The Process” in favor of improving the team in the same manner that many other teams employ, and the Sixers are not interested in that approach. Since the Sixers want to build through the draft, the team would not trade for Irving, and because the team is loaded with young, unproven players, the Sixers have no assets in which to acquire Irving anyway.
3 Might: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat was one of the teams that Irving expressed interest in being traded to, and of the four teams that Irving mentioned, Miami is the only one that currently has no former All-Stars on the roster. Because of this, the Miami Heat is perhaps the best option for Kyrie Irving, especially since his desire is to be the top guy in a franchise. With no All-Stars on the roster, Irving is easily a higher rated player than anything that the team currently has.
Because of the absence of a single top-tier player on the roster, it would take a lot of assets from Miami to trade for Kyrie Irving, so the team would be virtually barren, except for the presence of Kyrie Irving. Just as in New York or Phoenix, Irving would be the top guy on a team that is going nowhere, and is several years away from being a playoff team. Sadly again, this is the price of wanting to be the star more than wanting to win.
2 Would Not: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards feature one of the best backcourt tandems in the NBA. John Wall and Bradley Beal two very good players, but they are also the only tradeable assets that the Wizards have if the team was interested in pursuing Kyrie Irving. If the Wizards trade Beal, then the team would feature two very similar players in Wall and Irving. However, it is unlikely that the team would trade John Wall, so without that, Irving could not end up in Washington.
The Wizards are a team on the rise, and can challenge the Cavs for the top spot in the East, despite the Wizards’ guard-heavy lineup. Playing for Washington would give Irving a chance to take down the Cavs, but the team has so many guards that even if Irving was the top guy in Washington, he might be perceived as just one of the many guards on the team’s roster.
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