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.