Kyrie Irving knows, as well as anyone, the value of being an All-Star – how the status validates on-court performance, sells shoes and can be flipped for even more exposure. Irving is comfortable in that environment, promoting his brand at four All-Star weekends already and winning All-Star game MVP in 2014 in New Orleans.
He was back in New Orleans for this year’s All-Star game when he was asked to name his all-time All-Star team.
As Irving announced his team — he was responding to a question — he said “I’d put MJ at the 1, Kobe at the 2, Ray Allen at the 3, gotta space it out, got to have a spot up 4, so I’m probably going to go with KG, he’s going to rim-run, do the dirty work. I’d put Shaq at the 5.”
What about LeBron?
Irving, via Vardon:
“Yeah, yeah, yeah well, I mean, he (James) understands,” Irving told cleveland.com, as he walked off the podium.
But take a step back from Irving’s answer, and his mere presence in New Orleans for All-Star – again, already – foretold immense demand in the trade market.
Irving is just 25 and a four-time All-Star. Only two players have reached so many All-Star games and changed teams while as young as Irving is now: Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady.
Here’s every All-Star to switch teams before turning 26 and their age when the transaction occurred, Irving included for reference as if he were dealt today:
|Jrue Holiday||1||2013||PHI||NOP||23 years, 1 month, 0 days|
|Terry Dischinger||2||1964||BAL||DET||23 years, 6 months, 28 days|
|Jason Kidd||1||1996||DAL||PHO||23 years, 9 months, 3 days|
|Ray Felix||1||1954||BLB||NYK||23 years, 9 months, 7 days|
|Jamaal Wilkes||1||1977||GSW||LAL||24 years, 2 months, 9 days|
|Shaquille O’Neal||4||1996||ORL||LAL||24 years, 4 months, 12 days|
|Stephon Marbury||1||2001||NJN||PHO||24 years, 4 months, 28 days|
|Don Sunderlage||1||1954||MLH||MNL||24 years, 8 months, 29 days|
|Mel Hutchins||1||1953||MLH||FTW||24 years, 9 months, 1 day|
|Andrew Bynum||1||2012||LAL||PHI||24 years, 9 months, 14 days|
|Tracy McGrady||4||2004||ORL||HOU||25 years, 1 month, 5 days|
|Chris Webber||1||1998||WAS||SAC||25 years, 2 months, 13 days|
|Bob McAdoo||3||1976||BUF||NYK||25 years, 2 months, 14 days|
|Billy Knight||1||1977||IND||BUF||25 years, 2 months, 23 days|
|Len Chappell||1||1966||NYK||CHI||25 years, 3 months, 0 days|
|Len Chappell||1||1966||CHI||CIN||25 years, 9 months, 25 days|
|Kenny Anderson||1||1996||NJN||CHA||25 years, 3 months, 10 days|
|Kenny Anderson||1||1996||CHA||POR||25 years, 9 months, 14 days|
|Butch Beard||1||1972||CLE||SEA||25 years, 3 months, 19 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||STL||MNL||25 years, 3 months, 7 days|
|Kyrie Irving||4||2017||CLE||?||25 years, 4 months, 5 days|
|Otis Birdsong||3||1981||KCK||NJN||25 years, 5 months, 30 days|
|LeBron James||6||2010||CLE||MIA||25 years, 6 months, 10 days|
|John Johnson||1||1973||CLE||POR||25 years, 6 months, 6 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||MNL||STL||25 years, 7 months, 22 days|
|Sean Elliott||1||1993||SAS||DET||25 years, 7 months, 29 days|
|Dennis Johnson||2||1980||SEA||PHO||25 years, 8 months, 17 days|
|Alonzo Mourning||2||1995||CHA||MIA||25 years, 8 months, 26 days|
|Andrew Bynum||1||2013||PHI||CLE||25 years, 8 months, 22 days|
|Baron Davis||2||2005||NOH||GSW||25 years, 10 months, 11 days|
|Bernard King||1||1982||GSW||NYK||25 years, 10 months, 18 days|
|Vin Baker||3||1997||MIL||SEA||25 years, 10 months, 2 days|
|Kiki VanDeWeghe||2||1984||DEN||POR||25 years, 10 months, 6 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||STL||NYK||25 years, 11 months, 13 days|
|Kevin Love||3||2014||MIN||CLE||25 years, 11 months, 16 days|
|Mike Mitchell||1||1981||CLE||SAS||25 years, 11 months, 22 days|
Irving didn’t sneak into only one All-Star game like Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum. Irving is a near-perennial selection.
And unlike several players on the above list, he’s also doing it in era where there are more NBA teams than All-Star spots. In the 60s, when the league was smaller, NBA teams averaged more than two All-Stars each.
Irving is under contract for two more years before he can opt out, and his salaries – and $18,868,626 and $20,099,189 – became bargains when the new national TV contracts caused the salary cap to skyrocket.
The timing of Irving’s trade request becoming public has certainly contributed to the frenzy, as other NBA storylines have quieted for the summer. LeBron’s enormous profile also draws attention to anything involving him and his team.
But players like Irving – young established stars – rarely become available. No matter when this story leaked or whom Irving was playing with, this is a special opportunity for whichever team acquires him.
He would not.
While Wiggins said that he is taking a “day by day” approach to the contract discussions, he didn’t waver when asked whether he was worthy of a max contract, which could reach $148 million over five years with a starting salary of $25.5 million. “I definitely do,” Wiggins told The Crossover. “Nothing less.”
File this under: What else is he supposed to say? The two big questions:
1. Would Wiggins accept less than the max?
He might feel he’s worth it, but there’s value in security.
The Timberwolves could offer less now, knowing he couldn’t leave in restricted free agency next summer. There’s risk he signs a shorter contract next summer, but there’s also risk in overpaying Wiggins now.
Of course, Wiggins might get offered a max extension, anyway. But if not, he’ll have to decide whether he’d rather guarantee himself life-altering money or roll the dice on even more.
2. Would Wiggins’ extension kick in with Minnesota or Cleveland? Though the Timberwolves are negotiating with him, they could still trade him – even after he signs the extension – to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. Minnesota is a known suitor of the point guard, and Wiggins makes sense in a potential trade.
All those teams – plus the Clippers and Suns – have made offers to the Cavaliers.
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.
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.
Altman and the Cavaliers haven’t been overzealous on the phones. They’ve been deliberate in returning calls and canvassing for offers, trying to create the illusion that there’s no urgency, no desperation.
A few important things to keep in mind: This isn’t necessarily a complete list of teams that have proposed a trade for Irving. These offers aren’t necessarily reasonable. The Cavs can make offers themselves.
But if Cleveland is concerned about not looking desperate and therefore not proposing trades itself, which teams have made proposals takes on greater importance. Going through the known offering teams:
- The Heat are reportedly pessimistic/uninterested. Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow shouldn’t be enough. I’m not sure what else Miami can offer to make up the difference.
- As long as Carmelo Anthony remains set on the Rockets and the Knicks won’t trade Kristaps Porzingis, New York will have a near-impossible time forming a suitable offer for Irving – unless the Knicks can re-route players acquired for Anthony. That would get complicated.
- The Spurs lack assets beyond Kawhi Leonard, and their next-best player – LaMarcus Aldridge – would exacerbate a logjam with Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and LeBron James in Cleveland.
- The Timberwolves make a lot of sense on paper, but they’re still negotiating a contract extension with Andrew Wiggins. While that might actually be a precursor to an Irving trade, Wiggins finalizing an extension would signal Minnesota is going another direction. The Timberwolves trading for Irving would almost have to include Wiggins.
- An Eric Bledsoe-and-Josh Jackson package for Irving seems about fair, but the Suns are reportedly refusing to include Jackson. Phoenix has a wide enough array of other assets that a deal could still be struck, though.
- The Clippers haven’t been mentioned much, but here’s a theoretical starting point for an Irving trade:
The Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony trade has long been held up as the gold standard for dealing a star. But what an indictment of the Bulls that their Jimmy Butler trade is now viewed as the reference point for teams low-balling teams with stars. Chicago deserves it.
The Cavaliers just have to sort through these offers – and maybe eventually propose a few of their own – to ensure they emerge looking more like Denver than Chicago.
Chauncey Billups – who thinks like an NBA executive in that the Cavaliers offered him a job running their front office – called Kyrie Irving‘s trade request “alarming.” Billups found it incomprehensible a player would want to leave LeBron James and Cleveland, which has reached three straight NBA Finals and won a title.
Maybe Irving’s trade request reflects poorly on the Cavs. After all, Billups declined their offer.
But Billups also clearly took issue with Irving. What kind of player wants to leaving all that winning?
Any team considering trading for him is investigating that question and many others.
Truth be told, the Cavaliers trade talks have been buoyed with teams getting back better, if not perfect, reports on Irving’s growth, league sources said. Among the consensus: Irving has a history of late nights and partying, but there’s no trail of missed practices, bloodshot eyes or hungover shootarounds. Most intel has come back that he has curbed those tendencies into his mid-20s, picking his spots more wisely. As a teammate, Irving can be moody, but most agree he’s ultimately invested. He hasn’t always loved deferring to James on the Cavaliers, or Kevin Durant in USA Basketball. This is the Kobe Bryant inside of him, and that’s part of the DNA that can be a blessing and a curse. Teams believe he’s smart, savvy and, above all, they believe he’s a winner.
“Go back through every team he’s played on, talked to people involved — or just study the results — and it doesn’t matter whether it was high school, college, USA development and national teams, and in the NBA — and you see a pattern of him impacting winning,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “There are questions about those first couple years before LeBron came back, but I think there were a lot of issues around there that were out of his control. That said, he didn’t always help himself then either.”
Before LeBron returned, the Cavaliers went 21-45, 24-58 and 33-49 with Irving. He’s a winner? Yes, maybe.
There’s a difference between a player “impacting winning” and winning. A single player can control whether he impacts winning – making individual plays that help his team and limiting errors that hurt. He can’t control whether he wins. That requires enough of his teammates to impact winning, and many of Irving’s in Cleveland didn’t. It can be difficult to separate a player’s individual contributions from overall team success, but that’s the job of an NBA executive. Teams are trading for Irving, not the 2013-14 Cavs. It seems the verdict is in: Irving is not being blamed for those losing seasons.
Irving is smart and driven. He parties late into the night? Many players do, especially when they’re younger. There apparently isn’t reason to be particularly concerned about Irving.
Irving clearly isn’t the same player or person he was a few years ago, and though that’s the only timeframe he led a team, his growth demands viewing a bigger picture.
It seems potential trade partners are doing that and mostly liking what they’ve found.