But he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Then what? It’s an important question any team considering trading with the Cavaliers must assess.
Don’t expect much clarity.
I’m told Irving is not about to commit to any team at this point. He has two seasons left on his contract and wants to keep his options open.
Commit by signing an extension or commit by verbally assuring his new team he’ll re-sign? There’s a huge difference, but details like that often get lost in the trade-rumor grapevine.
The largest extension Irving could sign within six months of a trade is one year, $21,104,148. By contrast, Irving’s max salary if he opts out in 2019-20 projects to be about $32 million.
That’d be a large income drop while granting only one additional year of team control.
Six months after being traded, Irving could sign a three-year extension worth $73,361,218 ($24,453,739 annually). If he waits until July, he could sign a four-year extension worth $101,437,733 ($25,359,433 annually).
By contrast, if Irving plays out his contract then opts out in 2019, his max salary projects to be about $188 million over five years ($38 million annually) if he re-signs or $139 million over four years ($35 million annually) if he signs elsewhere.
So, there’s large incentive for Irving to forgo an extension. Anything larger than the one-year, $21,104,148 extension would require trust between Irving and the trading team, anyway.
Would Irving commit to re-signing after his contract expired, a la Kevin Love when Cleveland traded for him in 2014? Maybe not. Even if he did, it’d be non-binding. And a lot can change in two years, no matter the stated plan now.
But potential trade partners would still prefer that assurance. It’s easier to trade significant assets for Irving if he at least says he’d plan to re-sign. Irving reportedly told the Cavaliers he’d prefer a trade to the Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. That’s a clear flashing signal to teams on – and off – that list. But it’s still not the same as a pledge to re-sign.
It’s just unclear, even with this report, where Irving draws the line. A contract extension always seemed far-fetched, especially now. But would Irving promise to re-sign if the right team is ready to trade for him?
He wants out of Cleveland. We’ll see what he’s willing to do to facilitate a trade.