After three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and after having won the title in the second appearance, it appears Kyrie Irving’s time in Cleveland is coming to an end.
At least, that’s what many expect considering the former No. 1 overall pick reportedly walked into Dan Gilbert’s office and asked to be traded.
Typically, when superstar players are adamant about being traded, it gets done one way or another. And former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin believes it’s inevitable.
“I think Kyrie’s going to end up being traded,” Griffin told ESPN’s The Jump. “He went to Dan Gilbert privately, told him that he thought he would be happier somewhere else … Most guys don’t have the courage to do what he did.”
However, trading a 25-year-old superstar, who is arguably the best point guard in the league, is a tall order to say the least.
Irving does not have a no-trade clause, so the list of potential teams he gave to the Cavaliers’ front office is more of a suggestion than a demand. The Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and San Antonio Spurs may be Irving’s preferred destinations, but there is no guarantee he’ll end up with one of them.
In fact, Griffin seems to anticipate the Boston Celtics getting more involved in the Irving trade discussion.
“This is a guy whose list included really good coaching situations: Brad Stevens, [Gregg] Popovich. I see this as looking for a fit for himself to take the next step in his career,” Griffin said. “I think this is a guy who wants to know how good he can be. The teams on his list—you know, Gordon Hayward in Boston and Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio—he would be accompanying other great players. It’s not like he’s asking to lead a rag-tag bunch. He just wanted to put himself in a position, I think, where he could find out exactly what he has entering his prime.”
If the Celtics did increase their efforts in trying to acquire Irving, it would surely create an awkward situation considering Boston believes it can beat Cleveland as currently constructed.
With Isaiah Thomas set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, acquiring Irving would add more security, as Irving isn’t set to become a free agent until the 2020 offseason. But the city of Boston has grown quite fond of Thomas, and all indications have shown he has the support of the front office with the potential for a long-term deal on the table.
And there is no guarantee trading for Irving would push the Celtics past the Golden State Warriors — let alone the Cavaliers. Any deal made with Cleveland would likely require (at least) a solidified starter, a young, talented wing, and multiple future-first-round picks.
Plus, you have to imagine the Cavaliers would ask about including Thomas in a potential deal for Irving because Derrick Rose is on a one-year deal with an injury-plagued past, and Cleveland would need Thomas in order to keep pace with Golden State.
But whether it’s Boston, Miami, New York, or whoever … if Griffin — a man only two months removed from being on the inside of Cleveland’s front office — believes Irving will be dealt, we probably should, too.
Now, imagine a scenario in which Irving is traded, and then LeBron James leaves after this season.
That would be a long walk back to the NBA Draft lottery.