Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers

1.) With the rumbles out of Cleveland at an all-time high, and Derrick Rose inking a minimum deal with the Cavaliers, there’s a very real chance that Kyrie Irving, with two years left on his deal, maybe out of the Midwest. What do you see as a legitimate landing spot for Irving? Let’s hear the best trade idea for David Griffin.

Eric Apricot: Kyrie stated his preferred spots were the San Antonio Spurs (have a tough time offering anything intriguing besides LaMarcus Aldridge), the Minnesota Timberwolves (lots of young good players but probably wouldn’t give up any A-lilst players), the New York Knicks (dying to divorce Carmelo, but would be suicidal to give up Porzingis) and the Miami Heat (could offer Dragic and not much more).

None of these look like great direct trade partners for the Cavaliers. Rumors are flying about trades where a third team steps up to accept all or part of the offers above, and gives Cleveland young cheap talent. I’m intrigued by the possible trades which get Bledsoe and Josh Jackson from Phoenix to Cleveland.

I think there’s a very real chance Cleveland just eats it and waits out the market for Kyrie until some team panics and makes a big offer. Kyrie still has two years left, and if Kobe and Shaq can win rings hating each other, Kyrie and LeBron can patch this up and stay together for the kids, I mean for one more run, until LeBron James leaves.

James Holas: After seeing what Sacramento and Chicago got for perennial all-stars DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmy Butler, respectively, the hypothetical Kyrie trades have me floored. Irving is a fine player, a high-level isolation scorer, dazzling ball handler and a dead eye long range shooter, but he’s not one of those “franchise altering” guys you move heaven and Earth for.

For example, Kyrie would be great in Milwaukee, but there he’d be deferring to another all-around dominant small forward; and talk of moving two long, versatile starters in Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton for him is enough of a deterrent to me.

The best spot seems to be Miami. The Heat are like a diet Celtics team: deep, flexible and dependent on sharing the ball with only two guys, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, capable of creating offense out of thin air. It would behoove the Heat to toss Dragic plus some combination of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and whatever picks they want. Get funky, add Shump to Kyrie and get Goran and Tyler Johnson back.

No one knows where Kyrie will end up, but I’m betting that, like the stars traded before him recently, we’ll all be shaking our heads at the perceived scarcity of the return.

Brandon Jefferson: The team with the best combination of assets and thirst for relevancy is the Denver Nuggets, who have quietly stockpiled a good young core over the past few seasons, headlined by Nikola Jokic.

This offseason, the Nuggets brought in Paul Millsap on essentially a two-year deal to help push them over the edge. Irving has two years left on his deal, which gives the Nuggets a clear window of two seasons to see what a Jokic-Millsap-Irving trio could bring them. As far as what the Nuggets could offer Cleveland for Irving, the deal has to include one of Gary Harris or Jamal Murray (if I’m the Cavs I at least start off asking for both) along with Wilson Chandler and draft picks.

Best case scenario: The Cavaliers are able to attach Iman Shumpert to Kyrie and ship them to Denver for Murray, Chandler, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried, a 2018 First Round Pick and Two Second Round Picks. Barton gives the Cavs more scoring off the bench, Chandler is the consummate three-and-wing. Murray and the picks are the future and Faried gives the possibility of creating a rebounding megazoid with Tristan Thompson.

Brady Klopfer: Cleveland is in a pickle. With LeBron still wearing wine and gold, the Cavaliers’ championship window is officially open. The team desperately needs to be building with the goal of winning it all in 2018 (and, by doing so, convincing LeBron to stay home).

But it’s nearly impossible to trade like for like in the NBA. The Cavaliers could surely get a bevy of future assets for Irving, but by doing so they’d be waving goodbye to their title contention and calling the bellhop to come grab LeBron’s luggage. And yet, if the Cavs attempt to replace Kyrie in a trade, they’ll be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar. Teams like Boston, Portland and Memphis would hang up immediately were a point guard swap proposed.

So Cleveland needs to think outside the box and retool their roster strategy. Were I Koby Altman, I’d get on the lines with Kevin Pritchard and offer Kyrie and future picks for Myles Turner and Thad Young. A non-ball dominant center who can play great defense and shoot 3s is the perfect fit not only for LeBron, but for attacking the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs would then have the flexibility to trade one or both of Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love, which could net them a player like Eric Bledsoe. If they can’t get a player that changes the way they play, there’s no need to settle. The championship window is open, and if the only way to keep it that way is to run it back and hope the situation resolves itself, then that’s what they should do. 

Bryan Toporek: Kyrie’s four “preferred” destinations—Miami, New York, San Antonio and Minnesota—are all pipe dreams. None have the requisite assets to entice Cleveland in a one-on-one deal. And frankly, since Kyrie doesn’t have a no-trade clause, the Cavaliers shouldn’t fret too much about where he wants to go. It’s in their best interest to shop him to all 29 other teams.

To me, the three most logical landing spots are Phoenix, Denver and Milwaukee, in that order. If I’m Cleveland, I call Phoenix and demand Eric Bledsoe, TJ Warren, the top-seven-protected 2018 Miami first-rounder it owns and Dragan Bender. If not for Bledsoe’s lengthy history of meniscus injuries, he actually may be better suited than Irving to help against the Warriors in particular, as he’s a superior defender and is a strong enough scorer to command defensive respect. Warren will be a restricted free agent next summer, but assuming LeBron James leaves Cleveland as a free agent in 2018—spoiler alert: he will—the NC State product will be a solid young building block for the Cavaliers. In the meantime, he’ll give Cleveland some much-needed youth off the bench. Because the East is a tire fire, Miami’s 2018 first-rounder is likely to fall in the 15-20 range, so it’s not a huge loss for Phoenix. With that said, considering Cleveland owes its top-10-protected 2019 first-rounder to Atlanta, it’s imperative to replenish the youth pipeline however possible.

Bender may be the deal-breaker from Phoenix’s perspective, as he’s one year removed from being the No. 4 overall pick and theoretically touts the unicorn-esque skill set that’s sweeping the NBA. However, Bender also missed roughly half of his rookie season due to an ankle injury and shot just 35.4 percent while he was on the court. Phoenix may refuse to trade him because he might develop into a promising player, but with Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler, Alan Williams and Jared Dudley in the fold, he also may stagnate if he can’t earn enough playing time to develop.

The bottom line: No team is going to get Kyrie without giving up a number of valuable assets. The return Chicago received for Jimmy Butler is the absolute baseline, and the price is likely to only go up from there.

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2.) If the Cavs move their 25-year-old All-Star point guard, there’s no guarantee they get a point guard in return. Derrick Rose averaged 18 points and four assists per game on so-so percentages for a bad Knicks team last season. Does Rose still have what it takes to be a starter on a contender like Cleveland? Talk about his fit with the Cavs.

Eric Apricot: Derrick Rose is fine as a bench point guard. He was ranked by Synergy as a very good pick and roll ball-handler (0.90 Points Per Possession, 74th percentile). Cleveland is starved for lineups with a positive net rating without LeBron.

Rose is a theoretically worse fit than Kyrie with LeBron in that he doesn’t have gravity when he’s off ball. Synergy ranks him poorly last season at spot up shooting (0.80 PPP, 20 percent vs Kyrie’s 1.16 PPP, 85 percent) and off-ball cutting (1.07 PPP, 21 percent vs Kyrie’s 1.59 PPP, 96 percent). However, a weakness of the Cavaliers’ offense has been the “your turn, my turn” isolation offense that Kyrie and LeBron devolve into against the best teams. Kyrie actually took fewer spot up shots (137) than Rose (151 possessions), which is rather tragic.

On the other hand, Rose has thrived in a drive and kick offense, which is what Cleveland has optimized for. Kyrie has never racked up the assist totals you’d expect, given the good shooters around him and his ability to attack the basket. And Rose is a defensive liability (-2.36 DRPM, 73 of 82), but Kyrie was about the same (-2.30 DRPM, 71 of 82). So depending on how much is left in the tank, Rose could do better than expected.

So don’t expect LeBron to let Rose isolate at the end of Game 7 of the Finals. But I think CLE could still cruise past most of the East, if LeBron can take the extra crunch-time strain.

James Holas: Let me see how I can best sum up Rose signing in Cleveland: Imagine your house is amazing. Granite countertops, marble floors, diamond crusted bidets, the whole shebang. The one thing stopping you from winning Better Home & Gardens Baller House of the Decade is your shoddy quality roof; it leaks when it rains and doesn’t defend you from the elements like it should. You try some stop-gap, Jeff Green-shaped repairs, but you’re still not in the same zip code as the Golden Estate house.

Then you get a great deal on some refurnished MVP brand refrigerator for your garage. It looks pretty good, but it’s been known to breakdown…but you got it for dirt cheap!

It’s cool you got your deal on that backup fridge, but your roof is still leaking and you’re not going to take Baller Crib of the Year from Golden Estates because you got a good deal on a so-so refrigerator.

Rose isn’t a “bad” point guard (that’d be Brandon Knight). He still shows good burst at times and can get to the rim. But he’s a score-first guard who can’t space the floor and is a mostly weak defender. The Cavs (with Kyrie) need size and length on the perimeter and a more stringent defensive identity.

With the recent Kyrie bombshell, Rose signing might be a whole lot more important. We’ve seen the “Bron Bump” in action; it made people think Dellavedova would be a quality starter (he’s not) and it currently has superstar trade speculation for a star player. Can the power of King James reinvigorate Rose? Will playing beside Rose elevate the former MVP from a “nice stats, low impact” guard, back to being a player who matters?

Brandon Jefferson: Derrick Rose can still be a helpful piece. You aren’t completely washed if you average 18 points per game in the NBA. However, his inability to stretch the floor means he won’t have much of an overall impact on the Cavaliers as a team. If Irving is gone (very likely) then Rose isn’t as redundant, yet Rose is nowhere near the caliber of player Irving is. If they can get quality shooters and defenders in return for Kyrie, there’s a chance this doesn’t blow up in their faces. But, MVP Derrick Rose is long gone and that’s what Cleveland needed if they wanted to give the Warriors more of a fight in 2018.

Brady Klopfer: At this point in his career, Derrick Rose is Jamal Crawford with a better first step, and a much worse jumper. He provides little value as a playmaker, negative value as a defender and scores with well-below average efficiency.

High-volume, low-efficiency offense is only valuable in one capacity: as a bench piece. At $2.1 million, Rose is a fine deal for 15 minutes a night of offensive spark. But he is no longer a starter in the league, especially on a team like Cleveland, which already has a primary ball-handler and has an offense built on spacing and shooting.

Bryan Toporek: Derrick Rose is a shell of his former MVP self, but he looked better last season than he has since he tore his ACL back in 2012. His lack of a consistent three-point shot severely crimps his upside, but he’s still able to relentlessly attack the basket. Last season, he averaged the 11th-most drives per game league-wide (10.0) while shooting 51.2 percent on such plays and drawing fouls 14.5 percent of the time, per His overall field-goal percentage also jumped up to 47.1 percent, as he effectively cut three-pointers from his offensive repertoire.

Should the Cavs feel confident with him as their starting point guard if they don’t land one in return for Kyrie? Hell no. He’s a low-risk, high-reward signing given the $2.1 million price (less than Jose freaking Calderon!) and the assumption that he’ll be coming off the bench, where he’ll provide the second unit with a much-needed scoring punch. Put a ball-dominant point guard without a consistent jumper next to LeBron James in the starting lineup, though, and the Eastern Conference is wide-open for the taking.

3.) Pat Riley coined the phrase, “the disease of more,” referring to players (usually young guys) getting a taste of success and creating unrest as they want more shots, more touches, more money, more fame. Look around the league today. Who’s the next young player who could fall victim to the disease of more?

Eric Apricot: LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t count as young, but he appeared to be the league leader in Wanting More in a Winning Spot before Kyrie rocketed to the top of the charts.

The champions usually get hit with Disease of More, but the Warriors present as a cheery selfless bunch. Notably, JaVale McGee reportedly was seeking more money, more minutes, more starting, more role, which has led to the Warriors letting him walk.

The Portland Trail Blazers have a strange situation where Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both occupy the same ecological niche. Lillard is an elite pick-and-roll ball handler (93 percentile), isolation player (91 percent) and very good spot-up shooter (80 percent). McCollum is very good at pick-and-roll and isolation (80 percent and 78 percent respectively) and an elite spot-up shooter. So they can work together on offense, but as the old saying goes, there’s only one ball. And on defense, they are a small backcourt, so one of them (usually McCollum) has to guard larger shooting guards. This leaves Lillard (-1.49 DRPM, 62nd out of 83) and McCollum (-1.87 DRPM, 76th out of 93 SGs) in a situation that Stephen Curry and Monte Ellis faced four years ago. There may not be enough oxygen for them both the thrive and together they suffer on defense. McCollum has less seniority and fan mindshare and one can’t blame him if he asks out for a better spot. 

James Holas: There’s an almost universal truth at play in the NBA. Elite prospects come into the league craving the responsibility and accolades of trying to be stars. To put it in simpler terms, good young players want minutes and shots. Ego is a mother—-er. We saw it with Jimmy Jackson, Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn in Dallas. We saw it with Penny Hardaway and Shaq in Orlando.

Celtic coach Brad Stevens will be juggling no less than eight players who’ll be jostling for time at the 2,3, and/or 4 (10 guys if you include times we may see Horford at power forward and Smart playing shooting guard). Of those original eight, three are first round picks, with two being stud top three picks Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This is, for now, a very good problem to have.

On any other team, the two dynamic young swingmen would be getting a steady diet of big minutes and ugly losses for a lottery team, but in Boston, both will be on a short leash; it’swinning time, and Boston has no time for the on-court foibles of youth. It helps that both Brown and Tatum will see time at both wing spots and power forward, but even then, Semi Ojeyleye and Guershon Yabusele will be competing for those same backup big man minutes. I wouldn’t be shocked if, in a year or three, we hear about one (or both) young guys chafing at their limited roles.

Brandon Jefferson: The next victim of the disease of more for me would be another Midwesterner, Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is not the first time Antetokounmpo’s name has come up in regards to potentially looking for greener pastures than Milwaukee offers.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is on record saying teams are already thinking of ways to get him off the Bucks. The Greek Freak seemed to quell those talks by tweeting out lyrics to Kendrick Lamar’s song, “DNA.” However, he had this to say during a Q&A at an event in the Philippines: “A lot of people say they’re going to stay with a team and decide to move with a different teams. But you guys always gotta remember, a guy might want to stay with a team, but the team doesn’t do the right things or the right moves for the player to become great.”

The question was in regards to Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with Golden State, but the fact Giannis said this on record puts the ball in squarely Milwaukee’s front office’s hands. Given the debacle of their recent general manager search it’s hard to believe that the Bucks are competent enough to form a championship caliber team around Giannis. Antetokounmpo’s four-year, $100 million contract extension will soon be a below market value and, while the Bucks have the new “supermax” offer on their side in 2021, it might not be enough to entice him to stay if Jason Kidd and co. are still calling the shots.

Brady Klopfer: As we’re seeing with Kyrie, the disease of more often strikes second fiddles who either want to be The Man, or want more credit for their team’s success. The Minnesota Timberwolves have missed the playoffs 13 years running, yet they’re on the precipice of great success. After their offseason coup, they’re led by a top-12 player in Jimmy Butler and a blossoming superstar in Karl-Anthony Towns. That leaves Andrew Wiggins as the third option.

Third option is a tough pill to swallow for a number one pick who just averaged 23.6 points per game in his age-21 season. The former Jayhawk surely believes he’s on the cusp of being elite, so being in the background of every poster and announced third to last in introductions may be grating for such a player, especially in a small market. Sooner or later, he may decide it’s time to be the main attraction.

Bryan Toporek: It’s a few years away from being an issue, but I’m already losing sleep over Ben Simmons potentially heading down that path. If you’re the No. 1 overall pick, you’re often expected to become the face of your franchise, but so long as Joel Embiid remains healthy, he has that role locked up for the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only that, but the Sixers added another No. 1 pick this year in Markelle Fultz. If Simmons and Fultz can’t figure out how to co-exist and share the ball, I’m terrified of Simmons pulling a Klutch Sports power play and demanding out of Philly.

In the meantime, here’s hoping the #RaiseTheCat craze will help convince Simmons to stay with the Sixers long-term.

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