While the Cleveland Cavaliers are still focused on winning another NBA championship, they’re also preparing for another post-Lebron James era.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote Tuesday morning about how the team is handling the trade request of point guard Kyrie Irving with the idea they need to build towards the future in the event that James leaves next summer as a free agent.
James can opt out of his three year, $100 million dollar contract next summer and the rumors have been swirling that he will be heading west for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Cleveland hasn’t given up hope that James won’t stay past next summer but owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman won’t be left at the altar with nothing like the franchise did in 2010 when James left for the Miami Heat.
Which is why they’re adamant to acquire a young promising player in any trade for Irving who requested to be dealt last month to get out of James’ shadow.
The Cavaliers would like to acquire one of these players in a potential trade according to Woj:
- Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (3rd overall pick in 2017 Draft)
- Suns forward Josh Jackson (4th overall pick in 2017 Draft)
- Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds per game)
- Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (9.9 points per game)
Porzingis is reportedly the primary target for the Cavaliers but the Knicks want the team to also take on Joakim Noah and the remaining 3 years, $55 million on his contract.
The Milwaukee Bucks have also shown interest in Irving but if they don’t offer All-Star forward Giannis Antetokunmpo, no deal will happen between Milwaukee and Cleveland.
If James were to commit to Cleveland long term, the Cavs would trade Irving for guys who can contribute now and help Cleveland try to dethrone Golden State in the NBA Finals.
I can understand this situation on both sides.
On Lebron James’ side:
He’s already fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland and the organization on delivering a championship. He doesn’t owe Cleveland anything and if he wants to leave, he can leave. He’s not committing long term to keep pressure on ownership to make sure they keep spending and making aggressive moves to stay a title contender.
On the Cavaliers’ side:
They have to build for life after James. Yes, it’s going to be a struggle and likely they’ll drop back down to the bottom of the league. But they need building blocks for the future and trading Irving can give them a lot of assets to start that rebuilding process if James ends up leaving.
The team was in a tough spot when Lebron left seven years ago with no assets or cap space and they’ll once again be in that spot again if he leaves again.
I do think though that when they trade Irving, they need to bring a veteran back as well as a promising prospect and draft picks.
If they’re pursuing Porzingis, I’d make it a point to also get Carmelo Anthony in the trade which Lebron can recruit him here because they’re close friends. Taking Noah back too would be no problem as long as they got Anthony in the deal as well.
The only other prospect I’m interested in that Wojnarowski mentioned would be Josh Jackson. I’ve watched enough of his college film that I think he can be a solid NBA player and would be a guy we can build around for the future. Obviously we’d also get at least point guard Eric Bledsoe in a deal with Phoenix and I think he could be an All-Star in the Eastern Conference alongside Lebron.