According to a recent story from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers are actively gauging other teams’ interest in acquiring Kyrie Irving, of which there is plenty. Of those that have contacted the Cavs, few have made legitimate proposals, and fewer still seem to have enough in the way of available assets to make listening worth Cleveland’s while. Per Wojnarowski’s piece:
So far, these are among the teams who've made offers to the Cavaliers for Irving, league sources tell ESPN: The San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. There were approximately 20 teams that inquired with Cleveland upon the news of Irving's trade request, league sources said, but far fewer have registered legitimate proposals. More loom in the shadows, and many interested simply don't have the assets to make a deal happen.
The Cavaliers want a package that resembles the 2011 Denver Nuggets-New York Knicks deal for Carmelo Anthony -- young players, win-now veterans and draft picks, league sources said. For new general manager Koby Altman, this is a textbook way to open trade discussions. But for now, most Irving suitors are using the Minnesota Timberwolves-Chicago Bulls trade model for Jimmy Butler, a scaled-down model of Melo's rich return of assets.
Cleveland’s asking price for Irving is very high, and the team has publicly committed to keeping him on the roster into training camp, and the start of the regular season, if they can’t find a sufficient return via trade. That might be smart. Giving away a star-caliber player for cents on the dollar just because he wants out isn’t a sound way to approach roster construction.
Then again keeping the team’s number two option, whom the best player on Earth recently expressed his displeasure with, one year before he decides whether or not to stay in Cleveland, probably isn’t a wise move either. The Cavs are in something of a bind here. Hold off on a deal for Irving, and they risk making an already volatile interpersonal situation so bad that they lose Lebron James in free agency next summer.
Make the deal now for a limited return, and they hurt their chances of winning a championship, and may suffer the same fate in the upcoming offseason anyway. They need to trade Irving to keep James happy, and they need to get enough back to convince him he has a chance at winning additional titles in the immediate future. The fact of the matter is that very few teams can offer a package that satisfies the latter.
Enter the Boston Celtics, a franchise replete with a bountiful collection of young players, established veterans, and future picks- more than enough to make them an ideal trade partner for the Cavs. Boston could put together a number of enticing enough packages for Irving that, in a vacuum, might make sense for both sides.
The Cavs and Celtics are very much not operating in a vacuum though. They’re competing for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, a position recently dominated by James and co. (accounting for the playoffs). Boston is desperate to see Lebron vacate his throne in Cleveland, particularly if he is truly determined to head to Los Angeles and the Western Conference.
Swapping Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a premium pick for Irving, as has been floated, could make Cleveland a better team, even if the Celtics wind up with the best player involved. That’s the last thing Boston needs to do.
Maybe things become less palatable if that pick isn’t one of the Celtics’ juiciest options, but then the Cavs aren’t likely to make a deal. Why swap two years of team control on Irving for Thomas’ expiring deal, particularly when he’s an older option? They’d risk losing Thomas and James next year, holding onto only Jae Crowder and a mid-level draft pick. That’s not appealing enough.
From Boston’s perspective, constructing a deal assumes that Irving would have a considerable boost on the team’s ceiling, which might not even be true. Irving is, like Thomas, a great player who is obscenely skilled on offense, and a net negative on defense. Their production was roughly comparable last year, and while Irving’s contract and relative youth are appealing, it’s not clear that his presence on the team would increase the Celtics’ chances of contending in a meaningful way.
That’s what makes an offer to acquire him unlikely. Boston’s front office has been hoarding assets to make a play for a superstar should one come onto the trade market. Irving is a major talent, but he’s not the type of top-ten overall player you push all of your chips into the middle of the table for. Especially when you have a reasonable facsimile of him already on the roster. One who is beloved by your fan base, is in the good graces of his teammates, and doesn’t believe the world is flat.
All this to say, the Celtics have everything a team could need to make a trade for Irving, except a reason to want to.