CLEVELAND — The word is out around the NBA. The Cavaliers want a veteran starter, a blue chipper on a rookie contract, and a first-round pick for Kyrie Irving. The Cavs are working diligently to make Irving happy (he wants to be traded) and get what they want for him in return. They’ve been in contact consistently with Irving’s camp as they field calls and offers from interested suitors, trying to cultivate an offer that makes sense. Among the scenarios under consideration, LeBron James worked out with a number of stars in Las Vegas this past week, among them Eric Bledsoe, the Phoenix Suns guard who’s been linked to numerous rumors as a possible target in a trade for Irving. Bledsoe is 27, never been an All-Star, and has endured three knee surgeries. But he is coming off the best of his seven seasons, averaging 21.1 points and 6.3 assists for the Suns and is a better defender than Irving (who has superior ball skills). It’s easy to brush off James’ workouts with Bledsoe — Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul were also there and James and Bledsoe share an agent — but Bledsoe would fit one of the Cavs’ requirements. The Suns also own Miami’s first-round pick, which is partially protected in 2018. That’d be the second box checked. Cleveland also wants Josh Jackson, a 6-8 rookie drafted fourth overall by the Suns in June. Phoenix reportedly doesn’t want to trade Jackson, and a source said the Suns told Devin Booker he would not be traded — which would seem to put a serious hamper in this potential trade. “If that deal (Bledsoe, Miami first rounder and Jackson) for Irving was there, it’d be done by now,” a league source with knowledge of the Cavs’ thinking told cleveland.com. The deal would be agreed to, perhaps, but not officially done. As a rookie, Jackson cannot be traded for 30 days after signing his contract — which he put his name to on July 3. That means the Suns couldn’t deal Jackson to anyone until later this week. The Cavs-Suns potential trade is just one being bandied about on talk shows and the Internet, as the basketball world dines on the delicious, offseason rumor meal of Irving wanting out and Cleveland trying to make it happen. The general manager attempting to make the trade on the Cavs’ side is new, 34-year-old Koby Altman. If it were his predecessor, David Griffin, orchestrating the trade, history tells us what the Cavs would ultimately end up with would be something almost no one saw coming. Perhaps that same history can be used as a guide to envision what kind of haul Altman ultimately pulls for Irving. “In terms of David Griffin, the biggest testament to him is he’s got us all ready for this,” Altman said Wednesday. “He was a tremendous leader for us and that’s what he did. That’s the best testament to him is he has all of us ready for this challenge.” Griffin, who departed from the Cavs June 19, left behind Altman, Mike Gansey (now the assistant GM), and Brock Aller (now senior director of basketball operations) as three men who worked in Griffin’s front office and are now running the show here. Trades can be complicated things in the NBA. What looks to us like one trade can often count as multiple transactions within the same deal as GMs like Griffin deftly navigated the league’s collective bargaining agreement to get the best returns. Taking the above caveat into consideration, Griffin essentially made four roster-changing, crucial deals in his three seasons as GM — each of which ended in the Finals. One was trading Andrew Wiggins (now a rumored target of the Cavs for Irving) to Minnesota for Kevin Love — that one was the exception to Griffin’s rule of multiplicity and general secrecy. The other three fit. In January of 2015, with the Cavs scuffling, Anderson Varejao out for the season and coach David Blatt flailing, Griffin knew he needed to deal. The Cavs’ interest in Timofey Mozgov in Denver was well known, but before Griffin could acquire him he first pulled off a three-team blockbuster cheap jerseys in which Dion Waiters was shipped to Oklahoma City and J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert came to Cleveland from the Knicks. Smith was the surprise in the deal because of his off-court issues, but in the meantime Griffin needed the first-round pick the Cavs received from Oklahoma City for Waiters to package in a deal with Denver for Mozgov. The following season, with the Cavs wanting to spread the floor when they went to their bench, Griffin with little prior fanfare traded with Orlando for Channing Frye. Cleveland could’ve had Frye straight up, but also wanted to move salary so it roped Portland into the deal, convincing the Blazers to take Anderson Varejao’s contract in return for a first-round pick. The Blazers sent a second rounder to the Magic. Last season, of course, with Smith out for three months because of a broken thumb and free-agent signee Mike Dunleavy not panning out, Griffin’s front office stunned the league by acquiring one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history — Kyle Korver — in exchange for Dunleavy, the expiring contract of Mo Williams, a first-round pick, and cash. It is from that kind of depth which Altman may be operating as he attempts to move Irving. He may try to attach the expiring contract of Frye ($7.4 million) as well as Shumpert’s contract (two years, $21.3 million) to Irving-related moves. He could seek to use what he receives from one team for Irving to acquire a whole new set of assets from a third team. That’s what Griffin would’ve done. And it’s Griffin from whom Altman learned his craft.
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DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors recently learned his NBA 2K18 rating. Is it too low, too high, or just right? Here are three completely unscientific ways to tell.Forget All-Star appearances, stats, even rings. What NBA stars care about most – and who could blame them? – is their NBA cheap jerseys nba 2K rating. The difference between a losing in the first round of the playoffs and losing in the NBA Finals is negligible really; the difference between a 90 and an 89 in 2K is life or death. Recently, a handful of players were (un)lucky enough to learn their ratings for the newest iteration of the game, NBA 2K18. The whole guess-and-find-out exercise was reasonably entertaining, but next time, 2K developers should probably avoid dropping these videos just before Kyrie Irving shatters the NBA universe. Speaking of Irving, remember how he similarly shattered the Toronto Raptors‘ dreams last playoffs? Well, he beat Toronto again, receiving a 90 rating compared to DeMar DeRozan’s 89. Right now, the most pressing question for Raptors fans is whether DeRozan’s rating is fair compared to those of his peers. If not, fans will riot. It’s difficult to compare big men and perimeter players so we’ll ignore the two centers for now. Let’s look at Devin Booker first. DeRozan is effectively a non-shooter from three, and he compromises a team’s spacing, whereas Booker is known as a deadeye who can play on or off-ball. But even accounting for shooting – and Booker’s shot is still largely theoretical (career 35.4 percent from three) – DeRozan is a more proven offensive player. And defensively, Booker and his short arms reach a level of ineptitude DeRozan, although a negative, does not. At this point in their respective careers, DeRozan is three or four points better. Fair. Irving is also inferior to DeRozan defensively, but there’s no competition on offense. The two play a similar iso-heavy brand of basketball, except Irving adds far more value away from the ball. Come the playoffs, we’ve seen teams successfully gameplan against DeRozan, whereas Irving is almost unguardable. But if we’re counting the regular season, when Irving can be inconsistent, one point seems okay enough. Fair. And then there’s Paul George, who is more versatile offensively, shoots at an extremely high level, and is one of the best defenders in the league. George isn’t dominant – he doesn’t get to the line often enough and shoots a few too many midrange jumpers – but he definitely earns those two points. Fair.
The Phoenix Suns are not in ‘win now’ mode. Quite frankly, they are a few years out from being considered anything close to a legitimate threat to their Western Conference foes. Something that would totally derail any progress made throughout the past couple seasons, would be to sign an ill-fitting star, or once again draft a player tomorrow with a tag around his neck that reads “could be good in 3-4 seasons.”
After sitting back and collecting young talent alongside an ever growing collection of assets, the Phoenix Suns are in a position to acquire a star without hurting their future. Rarely, if ever, do those opportunities come around, especially for someone who wants out with a guaranteed two years remaining on their contract.Kyrie Irving has put my plan for Phoenix to eventually acquire that star talent into overdrive, albeit a year or two in advance. And Irving was one of the star-caliber players I outlined a few weeks ago when mentioning who they could eventually go after. For Phoenix — who according to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro will not include No. 4 pick Josh Jackson in any discussions for Irving — this is a risk they should be willing to take if they want to not only push their timeline forward but also be in position for attracting other stars around a 25-year-old Irving with Devin Booker and Jackson as formidable options who can grow alongside him. Now, the question is, though, what will it take to acquire a disgruntled Irving? The end game will be a tug of war between Cleveland’s front office and whoever is interested in taking on this risk. Cleveland believes Irving is a superstar who will be entering the prime of his career, which means obtaining him will cost more than an arm and a leg if someone complies to their high demands. However, other franchises will see this as a two-year rental opportunity trying to convince the Cavaliers’ point guard to stay on long-term. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has mentioned on multiple occasions, a deal could be made with Phoenix for Irving if they wanted him. With Jackson not on the table, general manager Ryan McDonough could still offer Cleveland’s newest in command, Koby Altman, his most tantalizing offer. Out of Irving’s four preferred destinations — Miami, New York, San Antonio, and Minnesota — all encounter a possibly debilitating hurdle. Let’s go through those four and find out where that hurdle is. The Knicks refuse to include Kristaps Porzingis in talks, while Carmelo Anthony seems hell bent on joining Chris Paul and James Harden out west in Houston instead of getting stuck in Cleveland by himself in 2018 if LeBron James leaves for greener pastures.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has Andrew Wiggins to offer in an Irving package but head coach and general manager Tom Thibodeau’s defensive philosophies might nix a possible deal. Alongside that notion, the Timberwolves signed Jeff Teague on July 1 so they would have to wait until December to include him in any deal. Gorgui Dieng would have to be moved, too, and his contract is viewed around the league as a non-desireable contract.
Miami has Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow to offer for Irving, but that won’t be close to enough without giving up multiple first rounders. Compared to Dragic, Bledsoe far and away is the better option for a LeBron-led Cavs squad.
San Antonio could offer a bevy of young prospects in Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, and Justin Anderson around Danny Green, for example, but, again, not close to what Cleveland is looking for in terms of value in return. And the Spurs will have a hard time finding any partner to take on Tony Parker and or LaMarcus Aldridge in a three-way deal.
This leads back to Phoenix, where all roads tend to head towards when a star player is on the trading block at the moment. As McDonough mentioned on Wednesday, they had the artillery to acquire DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler if they wanted to. None of those three coincided with the roster, but, with Irving, I think that mindset flips when a package around Bledsoe is what it will take to obtain one of the best 1-on-1 scorers in the Association. Will the Suns roll the dice on trying to convince Irving on the Valley for the next two years? With the addition of Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones this month, who was Irving’s teammate from 2014-2017, alongside an extension for McDonough, shows him there is stability moving forward. That includes a roster full of youth led by Booker, Jackson, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender. The security, in terms of future roster intentions and flexibility, is already set for a player like Irving to take it by the reins immediately upon arrival. If I was in McDonough’s shoes, here’s the offer I would throw at Dan Gilbert and Altman: Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren, Tyson Chandler, and a top five protected first rounder in 2018 (Phoenix’s original pick). If Cleveland doesn’t bite on that offer, I would counter with Chriss and Bledsoe alongside their 2018 first via Miami. Cleveland, if they part ways with Irving, would want to obtain either a package around young prospects, preferably Jackson, and draft picks. The expectation from their side is two unprotected first rounders, at least one, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe on his podcast this week with Windhorst. The Cavaliers hold the leverage in this situation, but if Irving sticks to his word about not wanting to play Robin to LeBron’s Batman any longer, that value Irving has will slowly depreciate the longer this drags out. Advantage, again, cheap jerseys nba toward the Suns if they want to make a move. Another note when thinking of the value that could be sent to the Cavs in an Irving deal: Brandon Knight’s season-ending ACL tear opens up a need at the backup two-guard spot unless they believe rookie Davon Reed and Derrick Jones Jr. can split the duties. With that being said, Phoenix could include Iman Shumpert to help Cleveland shed salary which opens the door to Knight heading toward the door next summer via trade or stretch provision. Phoenix offers Irving both stability and a roster built for contention throughout his prime. For what Irving desires, being the lead man, the Suns put forward that opportunity if he buys into their family-oriented environment and coinciding with Booker in a backcourt. Even though McDonough, Jones, and majority owner Robert Sarver (he might be salivating at adding a star presence in Irving to the Valley again) preached patience earlier this month, they should not be when it comes to Irving. It’s a perfect storm to acquire an All-Star guard who fits into their extended future alongside a roster mimicking more of a college team at the moment in terms of youth. Kyrie Irving’s fit in a Suns uniform
Sure, the defensive fit for Kyrie alongside Booker in a backcourt would be rather abysmal, to say the least, but he comes to a franchise where their head coach already mimics what happens out in Portland with two score-first guards. Earl Watson and Terry Stotts both prioritize getting up and down and trying to win through their offensive firepower. Sliding in Irving for Bledsoe actually makes sense for Watson if they want to move even more towards a warp speed up-and-down attack. Personally, I think Watson would welcome Irving and be better off with said addition. He’s a splendid fit for a team who needs more scoring and wants to push the pace. This roster is built to allow both Irving and Booker to get theirs respectively, in terms of touches and shots. Irving, as we all know, is an elite guard in terms of putting the ball in the hoop. The value he’s able to add as an isolation scorer and off of pick-and-rolls is immense. Far and away, Irving’s inclusion into PnR sets with a gifted passer such as Bender could unlock fascinating potential from him as a playmaker. Even with another above-average passer, for a wing, in Jackson should allow Irving to find openings off the ball, too. As a slasher to the rim, Irving could grow upon that if sharing touches with Booker compared to the most ball-dominant forward in recent memory, LeBron. With the way Phoenix has constructed their roster thus far, it opens up opportunities for a score-first player like Irving to develop beautiful ball movement on and off the ball. Another positive in the Suns favor for selling Irving on staying is that the would be core five can grow together for an extended period. Irving, Booker, Jackson, Chriss, Bender, if they do a package around Bledsoe/Warren/1st, is one of the more promising cores if everything goes to plan with each prospect’s ceiling of potential. Not only would McDonough and Co. now have five players all yet to hit their primes, four not even close to theirs, but he also would still have control over the majority of his future draft capital. Immediately, Phoenix becomes a desirable free agent destination even next summer and steadily improves as the core continues its upward trajectory. After all of this, I would be surprised if Phoenix isn’t working to acquire Irving. They have two years to sell him on having a contender extending throughout his prime especially, and begin to make them a destination to contend for top free agents year in, year out if Irving commits to a now edited, more win very soon sort of timeline. With reports coming out about Irving refusing to speak to Cleveland throughout this process speaks of how ugly this might get here soon if nothing happens. However, the longer it goes the more it helps a team like Phoenix as Cleveland begins losing leverage. Even if Irving ends up in Phoenix and bolts after two years, the original four would be ready to compete for the playoffs on their own. That shows how great of a position they are in to take this shot on the Cavs’ star ready to have his own leading role. And with how flexible McDonough has made their roster now and into the future allows for them to go all-in on Irving whether he stays after the 2018-2019 season or not. McDonough has said on multiple occasions this offseason how he would look to acquire the right player if they could “accelerate their timeline,” and Irving is one of those who could help set a new road map to a title whichever way they take.