Eric Bledsoe

Report: Suns willing to trade Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender, first-round pick for Kyrie Irving

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We keep hearing whom the Suns won’t trade for Kyrie Irving.

Not Josh Jackson. Not Devin Booker.

What would Phoenix trade for the Cavaliers point guard?

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

The Phoenix Suns are the team to watch on Kyrie Irving. Now, they won’t offer Josh Jackson plus that Miami 2018 first and Eric Bledsoe. I’m told they’ll do Bledsoe. They’ll do the pick. Plus, Dragan Bender.

That’s not a bad offer value-wise.

Bledsoe, though a downgrade from Irving, is a good starting point guard when healthy. Bender, the No. 4 pick last year, is still just a teenager who was expected to be somewhat of a project. And that Heat first-round pick – top-seven protected in 2018 then unprotected in 2019 – could prove quite valuable.

But there are reasons Cleveland hasn’t pulled the trigger.

Bender looked out of place in the NBA last season. The Cavs’ title window is open right now, and they don’t have a clear way to develop him. Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, Kevin Love, LeBron James and Jeff Green should leave very little playing time available at center and power forward. Even if Bender comes along more quickly than anticipated, his strengths – passing and shooting – matter less on a team that would never need to put the ball in his hands in key moments.

Jackson, on the other hand, could help the Cavaliers on the wing, where they need more depth. Though just a rookie, Jackson is actually older – and projects to be more ready – than Bender. Jackson’s defense would help a team with major deficiencies on that end.

But there are also reasons the Suns are offering Bender instead of Jackson.

Irving is locked up for just two more years, didn’t include Phoenix among his preferred destinations and won’t commit to anything beyond his current contract. The Suns might not win enough in the next two seasons with Irving to justify trading Jackson (under team control for five more seasons, though likely far longer if he pans out).

These teams sound close enough that a deal sounds plausible.

Maybe Phoenix relents and includes Jackson. After all, acquiring Irving is a special opportunity.

Perhaps, the Cavs loop in a third team and flip Bender for someone who fits better in Cleveland. But three-team trades are always difficult to pull off.

Still, it sounds as if the Cavaliers and Suns are at least in the ballpark of each other – something that can’t be said of other teams in the Irving sweepstakes.

Report: NBA investigated whether LeBron James owns share of Klutch Sports agency

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LeBron James is training with Eric Bledsoe, which sparked rumors about the Suns guard being included in a trade for Kyrie Irving.

But LeBron and Bledsoe have worked out together in previous years, and obviously Phoenix never traded Bledsoe to the Cavaliers.

LeBron and Bledsoe share an agent, Rich Paul. Paul – in addition to bigger names like John Wall and Ben Simmons – also represents Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, who’ve both signed lucrative contracts with Cleveland.

LeBron and Paul are longtime friends, and the superstar has described Paul’s Klutch Sports Group and its clients as family. No player is as connected to an agency as LeBron. Hence, people connecting the dots to Bledsoe being included in an Irving trade.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from owning interest in an agency, though. Has LeBron’s arrangement with Klutch crossed any lines?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN on The Basket Analogy:

LeBron doesn’t have any ownership in Klutch Sports.

The NBA investigated it and said LeBron doesn’t have ownership.

The NBA should check things like this. But of course LeBron doesn’t own a stake in the agency.

LeBron has empowered his friends – most notably Paul, Maverick Carter and Randy Mims – professionally. This isn’t about money from agent fees. It’s about influence.

Paul can sell it when recruiting players. The Cavs probably felt it while negotiating with Thompson and Smith. LeBron’s ego might feel it at times, too.

And that’s fine. LeBron has earned influence. I don’t mind him exercising it.

If he gets equity in the deal, that’s a problem. But it’s clear the power is sufficient.

Report: Cavaliers would pull trigger if Suns put Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson in Kyrie Irving trade

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As they should, the Cleveland Cavaliers are starting negotiations on Kyrie Irving trades asking a lot: An elite young player on a rookie contract, veteran starter who can help them now, and a first-round pick.

So far, no team has offered that kind of package up.

One team that easily could: The Phoenix Suns. They have picks, and they have quality veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe. However, they have told both of their young stars — Josh Jackson and Devin Booker — they will not be traded. If Jackson were in the deal, it would be done by now, according to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Cleveland also wants Josh Jackson, a 6-8 rookie drafted fourth overall by the Suns in June. Phoenix reportedly doesn’t want to trade Jackson, and a source said the Suns told Devin Booker he would not be traded — which would seem to put a serious hamper in this potential trade.

“If that deal (Bledsoe, Miami first rounder and Jackson) for Irving was there, it’d be done by now,” a league source with knowledge of the Cavs’ thinking told cleveland.com.

Phoenix is rebuilding, and they like what they have in Booker — a 20-year-old who averaged 22.1 points per game last season but is not efficient, and needs to improve his playmaking and defense — and the just-drafted Jackson (who is very athletic, shows defensive promise, but has work to do on his jump shot).

While you can argue the Suns should pull the trigger on this deal — NBC’s own Dan Feldman broke it down and is less opposed than I am — I would be cautious. Irving and Booker plus the rest of the Suns’ roster — Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren, and the aged Tyson Chandler — are improved not making the playoffs in a deep West. Then the Suns need to load up the rest of the roster to try to keep Irving happy and wanting to stay a Sun when he is a free agent in two years.

The Suns can get better now, but will slow and steady win the race? It’s a discussion for GM Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver to sit down and have. What direction do the Suns want to go, because they often seem to head down one path and then jump tracks to another, grinding their momentum to a halt. If they want to build slow, then do it right. So far they have quality young pieces, ones they may eventually want to trade, but is it that time now?

Report: Spurs, Clippers, Suns, Timberwolves, Knicks, Heat have proposed Kyrie Irving trades

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade – reportedly ideally to the Knicks, Heat, Spurs or Timberwolves.

All those teams – plus the Clippers and Suns – have made offers to the Cavaliers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

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.

The Miami Heat are willing to part with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow as centerpieces for an Irving trade, league sources said.

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.

Report: LeBron James ‘hustling’, suggested Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving

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Is LeBron James staying with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Who knows?

But The King is reportedly working to try to find trade deals for disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving.

According to ESPN’s Pablo Torre, James has begun hustling for the Cavaliers this offseason, suggesting a trade of Irving for Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson.

Here is what Torre had to say, via Fear the Sword:

“LeBron James is doing some LeBron James offseason work. And my understanding is it’s not just Derrick Rose, it’s not just Eric Bledsoe. LeBron James happens to know a guy named James Jones . . . LeBron James is hustling behind the scenes, is my understanding, asking ‘Is Josh Jackson available for Kyrie Irving?’ And the answer back that I heard is ‘no, he is not.’ But LeBron James is hustling on behalf of the Cleveland Cavaliers, at least for this one year.”

Then again, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has sources that are saying LeBron has not been active:

Irving has a preferred landing destination in New York, but there is apparently not mutual interest between the Cavaliers and Knicks. While before it was rumored that Carmelo Anthony would like to in Cleveland with LeBron, but that trade has yet to happen despite the obvious answer to the question of what to do with each player.

Rumor has it that Anthony only wants to play in Houston, and sort of puts the brakes on getting Irving to New York.

Cleveland seems to have lost a bit of leverage with Irving’s open trade request, so it will be interesting to see what the return for Cleveland is once a trade is finally made and we can compare it to the deals for Chris Paul and Paul George.

Irving reportedly isn’t talking to the Cavaliers at the moment so one would have to assume a deal will be coming within the next few weeks.