The Cleveland Cavaliers are prepping for a future without LeBron James and are also hell bent on getting a young player for Kyrie Irving.
Both statements go hand-in-hand. Ever since the news leaked about Kyrie Irving’s trade request, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been the talk of the NBA landscape. Almost everybody has spoken about what their future looks like, and this includes media members, players, executives and more.
The news doesn’t stop, and Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Cleveland is looking for a “young stud” in exchange for Kyrie, the first step in preparing for a LeBron-less tomorrow. (We’ve known this, but we finally have names.)
Kyrie wants to leave so he can lead a team. That’s fine. I’ve talked about that at length in the past. There are signs that point to LeBron signing elsewhere next summer if Cleveland is unable to get it done again, and that’s likely. Trading Kyrie would mean the Cavs are fully-invested in their future and aren’t banking on James coming back for the long-term. According to Woj, Cleveland has four ideal targets: Kristaps Porzingis, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Jamal Murray. Bringing on any of them would start the rebuild early, even if LeBron is strong enough to carry the Cavaliers to the Finals yet again.
The Cavaliers are 1-2 in their three Finals since James moved back to Ohio: the first one was without Irving and Kevin Love, and Cleveland lost in six to Golden State. The second Finals was the one that brought a trophy back to Cleveland, and both stars surpassed their limits to come back from being down 3-1. This most recent meeting with the Warriors ended in five. You can thank Kevin Durant from that. Even with Irving and James firing on all cylinders, Golden State had too much firepower.
It’s been a rough couple of months for Cleveland, starting with their loss in June. Not only does Irving want out, but Dan Gilbert also fired David Griffin out of the blue and replaced him with Koby Altman, someone who hasn’t yet proved himself in the front office. On top of that, their roster has almost no wriggle room. Cleveland built the team around LeBron, inserting three-and-D guys who are lethal spot-up shooters. This past postseason that didn’t go as planned.
Their “three-and-D guys” only played half of the floor. And the Warriors took advantage. The worst part about their composition is that Irving and Love are the only players with considerable trade value, and that’s a dagger when your payroll is through the roof, and you’re neck deep in luxury tax. Given their opaque future, being proactive about rebuilding is a safe bet for the Cavaliers, and that makes an Irving trade more likely.
Sending off Kyrie means Cleveland has come to grips with saying goodbye to LeBron. They had a dazzling run, but starting fresh with a potential star is enticing for a franchise who’s on the brink of crumbling like a Jenga tower.
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