Kyrie Irving's sent on Friday. (Or, if you're a flat-Earther, along the NBA world). According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the four-time All-Star told Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that he'd like to be traded, and ESPN's Chris Haynes reported that he has four preferred destinations: The Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.
I know what you're thinking: The Knicks, seriously? So let's start there.
New York Knicks
Why would Irving want go there? Maybe he's lost his mind. In all seriousness, though, ESPN reported that Irving wants to be more of an offensive focal point. With the Knicks, that would happen. Once upon a time, Carmelo Anthony wanted to be The Man in New York -- he wanted the huge ovation he got when he was introduced as a Knick for the first time, he wanted the extra attention and accolades that come with winning in the country's biggest media market. Irving is probably thinking similarly. If he can be part of turning the Knicks around, he'll be a legend in the city forever.
What kind of trade would get it done? Wouldn't it be hilarious if, after all the speculation about Cleveland potentially swapping Kevin Love for Anthony, it ended up trading Irving for him? It's unclear how realistic that is, but it's certainly interesting. If you package Irving with Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye or Richard Jefferson, a 2-for-1 trade for Anthony works.
Alternatively, Irving could go to New York in a multi-team deal. That kind of thing gets complicated quickly, though, and if Anthony isn't involved, it's difficult to construct moves that makes sense. The Knicks just don't have a ton of players with real trade value. Would the Cavs be interested in Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas? What about Willy Hernangomez or rookie Frank Ntilikina? Hard to say.
If you're thinking how Kristaps Porzingis might fit, well, the . It's no secret, though, that they are shopping Anthony.
How would this work, basketball-wise? Well, at least New York isn't playing the triangle anymore. Irving would be able to run the team, and he'd have a terrific pick-and-pop partner in Porzingis. That one-two punch would be enough to get Knicks fans excited, but it wouldn't guarantee much success in the short term. As captivating and skilled as he is, Irving has not yet shown that he's the sort of all-around player that can carry a team to victories. This would merely be the first step toward New York building something sustainable.
Why would Irving want go there? Aside from the lack of state income tax, the weather and the organization, you mean? Miami has always been a popular destination, and Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA. With Irving, the Heat would not immediately become a contender, but they would likely at least be a playoff team. The hope would be that the franchise can attract other stars to play with him over the next few years, though that will be tougher than usual because of the long-term deals the Heat handed out this summer.
What kind of trade would get it done? I wonder what Cleveland would think of a package of Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. Dragic would ensure there's little drop-off at the point guard position, and Winslow is the kind of young, versatile wing the Cavs desperately need. If Winslow's jump shot has improved since he tore his labrum in January, then this could actually make them better next season. He could be an offensive liability, however, and it's not clear if James is a big enough Dragic fan to want to re-sign next summer to play with him again.
How would this work, basketball-wise? The funniest part of this is the idea of Irving and Dion Waiters reuniting. The two of them had little on-court chemistry in Cleveland, but perhaps they would be able to function better together at this stage of their respective careers. Aside from that, the fit should be good enough for Irving -- he'd definitely get to be the No. 1 option, and maybe Spoelstra and Miami's awesome training staff could even get him in condition to be a plus defender.
San Antonio Spurs
Why would Irving want go there? He has experience being around Gregg Popovich with Team USA, and he might simply want to be a part of the Spurs' culture. With the 35-year-old Tony Parker recovering from a serious quad injury, it is clear that San Antonio needs to find its point guard of the future. Irving can fill that role and continue chasing championships.
What kind of trade would get it done? You'd think that Cleveland would want young point guard Dejounte Murray in any deal. He will only make $1.3 million next season, though, so let's talk about the bigger names. LaMarcus Aldridge has long been rumored to be on the outs in San Antonio, and he would feast on open jumpers if he got to play with James. He and Love are similar, though, so acquiring Aldridge might mean that Love needs to be sent elsewhere. The Cavaliers would be silly not to inquire about Danny Green, too -- he is one of the best 3-and-D guys in the league and was teammates with James many moons ago.
This seems like the right place to bring up a multi-team trade partner that makes sense: the Phoenix Suns. They employ a man named Eric Bledsoe, who is older than the rest of their core players and plays Irving's position. He also happens to be represented by Klutch Sports' Rich Paul, who reps James, Smith and Tristan Thompson. Would the Cavs and Spurs agree to a simple trade that sent Bledsoe to Cleveland, Aldridge to Phoenix and Irving to San Antonio? It seems too neat to actually happen, but it works financially. You might recall that Aldridge came close to signing with the Suns in the summer of 2015.
How would this work, basketball-wise? This is by far the most fascinating destination. Irving holds the ball a lot and loves to isolate. For this reason, you would never think of him as a Spurs-style player. If he wants to grow as a player, though, there's no better place for him. In San Antonio, he'd get to play with Kawhi Leonard, win a ton of games and learn from the best coach in the business. If he really wants to be the focal point of the offense, though, this might not be a great fit -- Leonard deserves to be that guy, with Irving serving as the second option.
Why would Irving want go there? Look at the roster. Karl-Anthony Towns could be a future Most Valuable Player. Jimmy Butler is a top-10 player coming off the best year of his career. Andrew Wiggins is full of talent. Just like Popovich, coach Tom Thibodeau is familiar with Irving through their time with Team USA, and this would be a chance to do something special without the extreme expectations that come along with being on James' team.
What kind of trade would get it done? This is the tricky part. Would the Wolves be willing to part with Wiggins? Minnesota just signed point guard Jeff Teague in free agency, so it can't trade him until December. Gorgui Dieng's salary gets the Wolves most of the way there in terms of matching Irving's salary, but it's difficult to imagine a deal centered around Dieng and draft picks getting it done. Minnesota is too good now for its picks to have much value.
How would this work, basketball-wise? In terms of pure talent, the Wolves would be terrifying with Irving, even if they had to give up Wiggins. Opposing teams would have to gameplan for him, Towns and Butler, which is just brutal. He'd also space the floor much better than Teague can. The problem is that playing Irving and Teague together is a recipe for disaster defensively, even with guys like Butler and Taj Gibson on the court with them. And in a league that is full of great point guards, it probably won't be easy to move Teague in December.
Also, unless Irving improves his defensive effort significantly, Thibodeau would never stop screaming at him.