After a long period of silence surrounding a potential Kyrie Irving trade, we finally get some insight into what the Cavaliers are thinking. While most figured the Cavs would be looking to capitalize on what is left of LeBron James’ time in Cleveland, it appears as though the fear of losing him again is making the Cavs look at younger options.
According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the team is not putting blind hope into James staying anymore. Rather than be reactive to departure, they are looking to set themselves up in position to succeed in the future, with or without James:
The Cavs aren't giving up on the possibility of re-signing James next summer, but they are no longer investing blind faith in the hope he will stay. For James, a reluctance to commit comes with an emerging set of complications. Beyond Irving's decision to ask for a trade, Cleveland has determined that it's unwilling to simply be reactive to James' possible departure.
Of course, Cavaliers officials prefer to re-sign James to a long-term deal and chase titles together into his twilight, but the Cavs are treating his unwillingness to commit as a call to protect themselves long term in the Irving trade, league sources said.
So what does this mean from a Cavs perspective? Well the list of players the team has reportedly inquired on is as follows:
The Cavaliers find themselves far more fixated on a young star, including New York's Kristaps Porzingis, Boston's Jayson Tatum, Phoenix's Josh Jackson and Denver's Jamal Murray, league sources told ESPN.
Those names all make sense with the exception of Jayson Tatum. While he looks to be a talented scorer, he is still the top four pick from this year’s draft with the most questions and bust potential. In addition to that, the Cavs would be sending Irving to their rival in the Boston Celtics and giving them what they need to beat the Cavs and make the Finals. I just can’t see a deal between Cleveland and Boston taking place.
The primary target for the Cavs has been Kristaps Porzingis, however the willingness to take back Joakim Noah has been a sticking point in the talks:
Porzingis has emerged as a primary Cleveland target, but that's a conversation that can occur only with Cleveland's willingness to unburden the Knicks of the three years and $55 million left on Joakim Noah's contract. For now, the conversation is a nonstarter for the Knicks, league sources said.
A straight up trade of Irving for Porzingis and Noah does work from a salary cap standpoint. With the Cavs not having many inciting options to pair with Irving, taking the worst contract in the league off the Knicks hands may be the best way to close the gap in value. It also would once again show Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend, something that could help rebuild some faith from LeBron. Noah, though, is effectively dead weight. There’s no reason to believe he’d be able to contribute over the length of that contract.
Regardless of whether or not James has given the Cavs any indications of what his plans are, I think this is the correct approach. James has every right to not commit moving forward, but the natural consequence is that the Cavs need to look after their own interests. If they can find a deal that balances the return so that it helps both now in the future, then I think we see the team move on the deal and trade Irving.