And I really mean this year. Seriously.
Most 25-year old superstars with a ring and 3 Finals appearances wouldn’t ask to be traded. Most NBA players don’t hit Finals winning fade-away threes in Steph Curry’s face, either. Kyrie Irving isn’t most NBA players. I can evidence this by pointing out that he is the only person to request a trade away from LeBron James.
But let me tell you, Kyrie is not going to fade off into the middle-seed sunset and settle for All-NBA teams for the rest of his career. The Cavaliers built their team around LeBron, not Kyrie. Kevin Love is the perfect complement for James. The perfect complement for Kyrie lies in the East, too, and on a team that could certainly acquire his services for the right price.
Let’s dive into what hampers Kyrie first; we know about his league-best ability to finish ridiculous layups and his knack for big time shooting from 3-pt range and elsewhere. His defense is subpar, but that’s an issue for many superstar PG’s todays, so I’m going to temporarily look past that. His biggest weakness, and one that was hidden by LeBron, was his ability to distribute from the point. LeBron took care of that, for the most part, and once he came in from Miami, Kyrie’s development as a passer was halted. He never got to develop that part of his game because the team wanted him to take the shot. Most teams without a LeBron, however, expect the point guard to get the bulk of the assists.
Enter the Denver Nuggets. Enter Nikola Jokic.
Let’s talk a little about Nikola Jokic—he might be the best passing big since Aryvdas Sabonis. His ability to throw strikes from the low post is something that very few NBA teams have. Here’s a few teams that had a really good distributing big man: the Warriors (Draymond Green), the Celtics (Al Horford), and the Grizzlies (Marc Gasol). Those teams did okay in the playoffs, right? Jokic is also twenty-two. Three years younger than Kyrie, who is absurdly young. It’s a match made in heaven—there’s nothing quite like pairing a superstar point guard with a superstar big man.
Here’s another thing—there’s a logical trade that both sides would probably agree to. Here it is below, completely compliant with the CBA.
Faried is primarily to make the salary work. This opens the opportunity for the Cavs to trade Kevin Love if they so choose because of Hernangomez and Faried (who can play the 4). You also acquire some young talent for when LeBron ultimately leaves in a year. Jamal Murray was way better than anyone expected him to be and has big time star potential. Gary Harris is a 22-year old SG. This is a good trade for both sides—you’re going to have to give up some pieces for a player like Irving, and the Cavs probably won’t get more than this from anyone not named the Celtics, and, let’s be serious. No.
Irving’s passing ability—or lack thereof—is matched by Jokic’s excellence. Kyrie isn’t a klutz with the ball, either; he’ll get his assists, but having a Center who can emphasize ball movement would go a tremendously long way. Oh yeah, and did I mention you have Paul Millsap, too? That’s a really good team right there.
Denver, you have your big three. One is 22 and one is 25. Paul Millsap will be a really good star player to compete for the next couple of years until the next big player that you have a chance on comes around. You’ve probably made yourself a 3 or 4 seed, and your two best players aren’t even in their primes yet.
Cleveland, if you have to trade Irving, still makes out here. You may be taking a little less than the Kemba/Batum deal would have yielded, but is Kemba going to make a difference? He’s not young enough to be a big piece in the future, and Batum is at his peak as well. Maybe it gives you another Finals appearance, but you certainly won’t win. If there isn’t a trade that will allow you to compete with the Warriors, you should trade for the future. This deal includes 3 talented young players under 22.
You have three smart, talented, and complementary players in Kyrie, Millsap, and Jokic. Irving can be the go-to scorer and primary option like he wants because Millsap and Jokic are extremely unselfish. If Irving has an off night, let Millsap do what he does best. Millsap was a Celtics killer—this team would play an incredibly 7-game series against Boston. LeBron and the Cavs? My bet is on Uncle Drew to get his revenge and go off for 60 points in game 7 against them (if they get there). Maybe that last one is a stretch, but seriously:
Let’s make this happen.