The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.
Will you vote for Kyrie Irving as an All-Star starter?
Are you a big Cavaliers fan? Do you hate the Cavaliers?
Think about those last two questions before deciding on the first.
Irving signed a contract extension with the “Derrick Rose rule” trigger. The Rose rule allows players with four or five years of experience to earn more money if they achieve one of the following within their first four seasons:
- Named to the All-NBA first, second or third team twice
- Voted an All-Star starter twice
- Won MVP
Irving, entering his fourth season, has never made an All-NBA team, so that mode of qualifying is out. MVP seems far-fetched.
But the Cleveland point guard started last year’s All-Star game, so doing so again is – by far – his best shot at qualifying.
Last year, Irving finished a comfortable second in Eastern conference guard voting:
1. Dwyane Wade (929,542)
2. Kyrie Irving (860,221)
3. John Wall (393,129)
4. Derrick Rose (359,546)
5. Ray Allen (250,909)
6. Rajon Rondo (174,654)
With LeBron James and Kevin Love joining him in Cleveland, there will be more attention than ever on Irving. That he won the vote so easily last year on a dreadful team is encouraging for him.
But if Rose and Rondo are healthy, they’re threats to overtake Irving. Rondo started with Wade in 2013, and Rose did in 2011 and 2012. Even Wall, who advanced further in the playoffs last season than Rose and Rondo, could push for votes.
The stakes are reasonably high for Irving. Here’s what Irving would earn – based on the NBA’s projected 2015-16 salary cap – if he triggers the Rose rule (gold) and if he doesn’t (wine):
That’s a difference of $1,550,241 in year one and $8,913,889 over the five-year extension – all based on fan vote.
Three players have triggered the Rose rule, but unless he wins MVP, Irving could be the first to do so only through a popularity contest.
Rose won MVP. Paul George made two All-NBA third teams. Blake Griffin qualified by starting an All-Star Game in his fourth season, but later that year, he also made a second All-NBA team.
So, fans have a lot of power here – power that could greatly impact not only Irving, but the Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA.
With the salary cap set to skyrocket under the new national-TV contracts, there’s speculation Cleveland could have enough cap space to sign a fourth star outright in 2016. Every extra dollar Irving makes limits the Cavaliers’ ability to upgrade.
Considering Cleveland is the championship favorite and will likely hold that title for several years to come, the trickle-down effects could be immense. Beating LeBron, Love and Irving will be hard enough. Defeating that trio and a fourth star sounds downright impossible.
When the ballots come out, conflicts of interest will occur everywhere.
Would the Cavaliers campaign against their own player in All-Star voting? I’d be shocked.
Would they not campaign as hard for Irving as they would otherwise? I could see that. Some organizations don’t campaign on principle, which would give Cleveland some cover. Plus, this isn’t a franchise known for its respect of players.
How about Cavaliers fans? Do they vote for their own guy or do they try to preserve the team’s future cap flexibility?
And fans of other teams? Western Conference fans should stuff the ballot for Irving, doing their small part to open the championship window for franchises outside Cleveland. But fans of other Eastern Conference teams face a dilemma similar to Cavaliers fans: Their own guy or Irving?
There will be some unusual incentives in play. In the end, I expect Irving to start. There will just be too much attention on the Cavaliers, and he was already so popular.
But the potential for hijinks is definitely high.