Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland, and the first thing everyone needs to remember is that in today’s NBA, teams never get fair value when their star wants out of town. The most recent examples include:
I’ve got Irving as the 14th best player in the NBA, but I was stunned to find out he’s only going to be the 43rd highest paid player in the league next year. So he’s actually got tremendous value. Jimmy Butler had two years left on his contract plus the opt-out (just like Kyrie), and he fetched three lottery picks. Before you say that’s the baseline for an Irving trade – Butler was a #1 in Chicago last year and led a weak Bulls team to the playoffs; Kyrie Irving has always been #2 to LeBron.
The most interesting, albeit longshot trade I’ve heard came from a technical producer on my Fox Sports Radio show:
Callers to the show were predictably outraged at the idea of trading Isaiah Thomas. He’s the biggest fan favorite on the team, the team’s best scorer and most clutch player. Of course, Kyrie is two of those things, plus he’s four years younger and much cheaper for the next two years. Thomas will be seeking a deal in the max neighborhood after this season.
Crowder is in a logjam at small forward in Boston, but he also has one of the best contracts in the NBA (three more years, $21.8 million). The Nets #1 pick in the 2018 draft figures to be in the Top 5, as Brooklyn isn’t going to be very good.
Yabusele was the 16th pick in the 2016 draft, is only 21, and pegged as a versatile forward with the potential of Draymond defensively and shooting, while standing at 6-foot-8, 260-pounds.
How Cleveland wins: Worse case is LeBron bolts after this season, they decide not to re-up Thomas, and they’ve got cap room plus a Top 5 pick.
How Boston wins: Many would say they get an upgrade at point guard (Kyrie isn’t very good defensively, but anyone is an upgrade over Thomas), they’d save money over the next two years, and they’d be the favorites in the East next season.
I don’t think Cleveland will get equal value for Irving, a player who is viewed as a dominant scorer (25.1 ppg), one of the best finishers at the rim, and a very good shooter (47 percent FG, 40 percent 3-pointers last season). It’s unclear just how good of a playmaker he is (only 5.8 assists per game, tied for 21st in the NBA), but he also played in the shadow of LeBron, who was 6th in assists per game (8.7).
[Aside: Couldn’t you also ask whether or not Kyrie will be as great of a shooter/scorer without having LeBron as a teammate. Defenses kind of have to focus on the 2nd best player in NBA history.]
The biggest impediment here? The Cavs wouldn’t want to help make Boston the premiere team in the East for what could be the next half-decade.