How the Cleveland Cavaliers handle the Kyrie Irving trade request may be one of the most important moments in franchise history. Not only will it help determine the ceiling for this team, but it may influence their ability to retain LeBron James.
We know that the Cavs asking price for Irving is a starter, a rookie contract player, and a draft pick. But what players and positions they will receive help at from a trade remains to be seen. Irving has shouldered a massive load over the last couple seasons and trying to find a way to replace that may be a struggle.
If the Cavs don’t receive a point guard in return, that would leave Derrick Rose, Kay Felder and Jose Calderon as the teams point guards. Felder and Calderon are clearly not starting caliber, but the presence of Rose gives the team a legitimate option.
Rose may not be the same player he was at his peak, and he’s not close to Irving’s level, but he’s still a starting caliber player at his position if he needed to be. Even though he’s likely a low-end option and the fit may be questionable, it still is a viable option if he stays healthy. It would present the team with an opportunity to address other needs if they feel comfortable banking on Rose.
But when you look at what the Cavs should target in return, it’s important to fully understand the role that Irving filled. With the starting unit, Irving provided the team with a second initiator for the offense and a spot up threat. Something Rose wouldn’t bring to the table, as he is not a threat from deep and is not accustomed to playing off-ball. While his ability to be a lead ball handler with the second unit is an asset, playing with LeBron James and the starters would limit his effectiveness.
Instead of targeting a more traditional point guard or somebody that needs the ball in their hands, the Cavs may be better suited targeting a combo guard. A player like Gary Harris or Jamal Murray would perfectly fit the Cavs due to their ability to space the floor and provide secondary play making.
Having a combo guard would also give the Cavs a contingency plan for J.R. Smith, or at the very least an option at shooting guard moving forward. The more lineup versatility the Cavs can acquire, the better suited they will be to take on the Warriors.
If Irving is traded, it would also give the Cavs an opportunity to utilize Kevin Love in a bigger role. He initiated a lot of the offense in Minnesota and would likely be the team’s second best player without Irving. With the presence of Irving and James, it wasn’t beneficial to the team to maximize Love. But without Irving, failing to maximize Love would be foolish.
With both James and Love heavily involved, there just isn’t a huge need for a traditional point guard. As long as James is on the team, it’s not necessary to have another player take the ball out of his hands.
If the Cavs can’t land a combo guard, they still should look to get a score first point guard, preferably one that can shoot. The ability to knock down shots would help make the transition to playing off of James easier, even if the player is accustomed to being the primary initiator. While Rose is a passable option, the Cavs can’t risk jeopardizing the chemistry that they have with their starting unit. A shooter needs to be their top priority — something Rose, a career 29.8 percent career three-point shooter, is not.
The Cavs have been tight lipped throughout this process and it’s hard to get a sense for what is actually available in exchange for Irving. Trying to get pieces that fit that also help you win-now, while hedging for the future is a pretty tall order. This is a unenviable task for first time general manager Koby Altman.