This should not be a surprise. The former No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers has not developed like a top pick is expected to — last season he got in 57 games for the Timberwolves, scored 5.2 points a game when he did, he had a well below average 45.8 percent true shooting percentage and a PER of 11.4. If he were the 14th pick in the draft, we’d be thinking maybe he can evolve into a solid bench player in a couple of years in the right development system.
The problem is he is getting paid like a No 1 pick — $5.8 million this season, with a team option for $7.3 million for 2016-17 that must be exercised by the end of this October. No team would pick up that option. So essentially a team has to want to trade for him as a rental at the price of the mid-level exception, even though he at best can give them limited minutes off the bench.
Which is to say, good luck moving him Flip Saunders without throwing in some sweeteners (future picks). Maybe you’ll have better luck near the trade deadline. Maybe. But probably not.
Cavaliers look to reduce Kyrie Irving’s minutes next season
Last season, only Jimmy Butler and James Harden played more minutes per game than Kyrie Irving at 36.4. Irving logged a total of 2,730 minutes last season, 10th in the NBA total. He had a heavy workload.
Now, he is coming off fractured kneecap surgery, an injury sustained in the playoffs.
The Cavs also want to cut Irving’s minutes. Mo Williams was signed to help out at point guard. Irving is coming off surgery for a fractured knee cap, so it makes sense to keep his workload light in the regular season.
As Pluto notes, this is exactly why the Cavaliers wanted Mo Williams.
With the veteran Williams and the scrappy fan favorite Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavaliers can easily trim six or more minutes off a night for Irving, getting him down to 30 minutes a night or just below. Plus, they can give him nights off. Considering the injury and what we know about guys who are rested playing better, all of this should be expected.
What helps is the Cavaliers will not pay a real price for this. The added Cavaliers’ depth, plus the fact they are in the East and have an easier path to the top seed, means they can lighten the load on Irving and still get have home court throughout the playoffs (or at least until the Finals). Then come the playoffs, the minutes will crank up again.
The traditional arc for an NBA player is for them to chase numbers and try to get paid early in their career, then near the end they start making sacrifices for a team in hopes of getting a ring.
Kawhi Leonard has flipped that arc. From the beginning of his career he was on a Spurs team that was about sacrifice — Tim Duncan led the way, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili bought in fully. Four seasons in Leonard has a ring and a Finals MVP.
“Winning just rubs off on you, once you see Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker) and Tim (Duncan) wanting to win every game.”
Now that’s he’s reached a new plateau professionally, Leonard says he’s ready to make another big leap.
“I want to be an (NBA) all-star and MVP of the regular season,” said Leonard. “I’m trying to be one of the greatest players so whatever level that consists of is where I want to take my game.”
The Spurs want him to be those things. They are paying him become the franchise face and cornerstone after Tim Duncan retires, or at least to share that with LaMarcus Aldridge for a while.
Eventually, that means Leonard taking on more of the scoring load — he averaged 16.5 points per game last season, and with the added depth on the roster that may not jump much in the short-term. But if he’s going to get in the regular season MVP consideration, he’s going to have to be closer to 20 points per game and set a tone on offense.
Leonard may do all that, but he’s not going to give up team play to do it.
Friday night video fun: Best blocks of 2014-15 season
It’s Friday night, you can either go to a bar and watch guys get rejected by the cute redhead and her friends, or you can just watch the best rejections of the last NBA season right here. Take your pick.
Nerlens Noel and DeAndre Jordan, of course, have a couple good ones, but my favorites belong to Kemba Walker and Blake Griffin.