After a few uneventful days in the NBA, reports have come out today that Kyrie Irving is seeking a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that Irving informed the Cavs of this last week in a meeting, and he no longer wants to play with LeBron James. Apparently, Irving wants out of Cleveland so he can find a “bigger role”, and LeBron James is reportedly disappointed. An already disappointing offseason for the Cavs just got worse.
Will the Cavs Even Trade Kyrie?
Although Kyrie wants a trade, there’s no guarantee that Kyrie will get traded. Kyrie Irving is the youngest member of the Big 3 Cleveland has assembled (25 years old), and he’s under contract through the 2019/2020 season. His contract is also very team friendly, as he signed a 5-year extension worth 94 million dollars in the summer of 2014, which was the same summer the Big 3 was formed.
Irving has three years left on his deal, and his yearly salaries are $18.8 million, $20 million, and $21.3 million. Considering super-max contracts are nearly double his salary for the next three years, his contract is a bargain.
When it comes down to it, I don’t think the Cavs will trade Kyrie Irving. A rebuild for the Cavs is inevitable, as the team is knee-deep into the luxury tax (7 million dollars over). Besides Kyrie, the Cavs have almost no young talent, and Kyrie is a guy you want to build a franchise around.
The End of an Era for the Cavs
There’s always a time when great teams have to split apart, and Cleveland is going to sooner rather than later. LeBron James will turn 33 next season and is a free agent next offseason. Without LeBron, the Cavs are a borderline playoff team and are in no man’s land: not good enough to contend, but not bad enough to be in the lottery. Cleveland’s future doesn’t look bright, and Lebron James’ agent has already talked to Rob Pelinka, Lakers GM, about next summer.
If the Cavs want to please Kyrie (who is 25 and has three years left on his deal), they will have to get rid of Lebron. With a legitimate chance Lebron leaves next offseason, the Cavs should start to take calls on him. The team has too many bad contracts/no young talent to win an NBA Finals. Plus, the Golden State Warriors are in the way.
The Cavs simply can’t acquire enough help to beat the Warriors because of all the bad contracts the Cavs have. The Cavs, like mentioned earlier, are well into the luxury tax. They have minimal space to add any help, and their current roster looked clearly incapable of defeating the Warriors.
Tristan Thompson is under contract for 3 more years, and is owed $16.4m, $17.4m, and $18.5m. Tristan Thompson averaged 8 PPG and 9 RPG and was out-rebounded in the Finals by Steph Curry. Next season, Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson will be making the same amount. Thompson is barely under his teammate, Kyrie Irving.
J.R. Smith is owed $13.7m, $14.7m, and $15.68m over the next three years. Smith averaged 8.6 PPG and is almost 32 years old. J.R. shoots worse from the field (34.6%) then he does from behind the arc (35%). Kemba Walker (granted, he is on a very friendly deal) is being paid less than J.R. Smith.
Those are a few examples of the bind Cleveland is in when it comes to the salary cap.
Lack of Young Talent
An effect of being a great team is that there is usually not a lot of good talent on the team. The Warriors are an exception, as most of their young guys were second round steals, and they’re known to be great drafters. The last debatable pick they had to make was in 2013, when they picked Anthony Bennett with the first pick (Andrew Wiggins was obvious and was traded, second round picks don’t count in this instance). Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters were the last two first-round picks that actually made a difference on the Cavs.
The Cavs didn’t have a first rounder this season, and they won’t have one in either 2019/20 (Kyle Korver trade-depending on protections). Kyrie Irving (25) is the youngest player on the team that plays at all.
The Cavs Will Have to Start Over- It’s Just a Question of When
Cleveland doesn’t have a future besides Kyrie, has horrible contracts, and expiring free agents. They can choose to play it out this season, but this team will have to tear down at some point, and it could be now, or it could be a year from now.