Kyrie Irving allegedly wants out of Cleveland. His preferred destinations have been announced but could Orlando work some magic to bring him to central Florida?
Kyrie Irving wants to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for a much bigger team role. He didn’t bother to consult with
general manager LeBron James in his decision. James stated he will sit this one out and let the front office handle the situation. Irving’s list of preferred destinations is short and central Florida is not on the travel itinerary. But should the Orlando Magic make an attempt to trade for the disgruntled star?
Irving is a four-time NBA all-star and a NBA champion. He shoots a high percentage from three-point land. And he has one of the best crossovers since Allen Iverson was in the association. In summary, he is everything the Orlando Magic do not have in a player and everything they desperately need. But there are questions that need to be answered in order to see Kyrie Irving in an Orlando Magic uniform.
What would a trade package look like that entices Cleveland to make a deal? How could the Magic convince him to remain in Orlando after a trade? And would the team be better off breaking up their core once again?
Trade Scenario One
The first scenario centered around Irving and a trio of Magic starters.
Orlando receives: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Cleveland receives: Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, 2018 1st round pick (three protected), and 2019 2nd round pick from Orlando.
This trade works in favor of both teams for a few reasons.
Cleveland keeps a formidable team for next season. By allowing Fournier to become a third or fourth option, they may be able to harness his scoring potential. Vucevic becomes a legitimate threat outside the paint and opens the floor for LeBron James with his shooting ability. Aaron Gordon becomes a solid power forward option for Cleveland in case James decides to leave for greener western pastures. Cleveland is finally removed from Loves contract and can start a short rebuild.
Orlando would have two star players to play alongside Jonathan Isaac and potentially form a big three. Orlando would instantly become playoff contenders and could have something to build on after bottoming out the last five years. Kyrie would get an opportunity to lead a team — something he has made a clear priority on his agenda.
Trade Scenario Two
The second scenario, the Magic and Cavaliers call on the New York Knicks to make a deal.
Orlando receives: Kyrie Irving, Joakim Noah, and Channing Frye
Cleveland receives: Carmelo Anthony, Elfrid Payton, and 2019 2nd round pick from New York.
New York receives: Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and 2018 2nd round pick from Orlando.
For the Magic, they replace Payton with Irving. They add shooting touch from Channing Frye on a second stint and add veteran leadership from Joakim Noah. If Noah can resemble a fraction of himself from Chicago, then Orlando comes away with a bonus.
Cleveland receives two pieces in route to another potential NBA Finals appearance. Payton is a cheaper one year rental in a swap of guards and would benefit learning for James. The addition of Carmelo Anthony gives the Cavaliers a one-two-three scoring punch like no other as James shifts to shooting guard for the first time in his NBA career. The mismatch opportunity for Cleveland against, say, a Golden State team becomes front and center. Anthony also serves as a solid one year rental the year after in case James leaves. His contract also serves as a key trade chip as an expiring deal in case the Houston Rockets become interested again.
The Knicks receive everything they need to look somewhat like a real NBA team. They add athleticism, shooting, and a low post presence. In addition, Vucevic can step in and compliment Kristaps Porzingis to form a version of their own twin towers. The Knicks gain freedom after the “Carmelo-Mare” situation.
The Deal is Made for Kyrie Irving, Now What?
Assuming Orlando is capable of pulling off one of the mentioned trades, the next step is convincing Irving to stay with the team longer than his current three-year deal.
Most of the young core Orlando once had is now gone. But Orlando still has plenty of options to restucture their roster. Orlando could have lineups that resemble one of the following:
Lineup for Trade Scenario One
PG: Elfrid Payton, Shelvin Mack, DJ Augustin
SG: Kyrie Irving, Terrance Ross, Mario Hezonja
SF: Jonathon Simmons, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Kevin Love, Jonathan Isaac
C: Bismack Biyombo, Khem Birch
Lineup for Trade Scenario Two
PG: Kyrie Irving, Shelvin Mack, DJ Augustin
SG: Terrance Ross, Mario Hezonja
SF: Jonathon Simmons, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Jonathan Issac, Channing Frye, Khem Birch
C: Joakim Noah, Bismack Biyombo
In both scenarios, the Magic come away with an overall improved roster. The Magic get a better look at their new off-season weapons and cash in on not having to offer Aaron Gordon a max deal next season. They also remain flexible on what they offer Payton long-term as Irving makes him less of a necessity.
Would those lineups be competitive enough to convince Kyrie Irving to commit to Orlando long-term?
In each scenario, the Magic would be missing a next level piece that places them in the championship caliber conversation. Lineup A, the Magic sorely lack a better scoring option at center. In scenario B, the team lacks a true backup power forward. In both lineups, the wildcard for the team becomes rookie Wesley Iwundu and whether or not he can play meaningful minutes off the bench. Both options also place a lot of weight on third year player, Mario Hezonja becoming a key contributor off the bench for the Magic — a road they less likely want to travel.
In order for Irving to remain in Orlando, it seems the team would have to work the phones and bring in another star caliber player to compliment Irving. They wouldn’t have to get it done in year one but it would have to be guaranteed that at some point they would acquire a sidekick of his choosing.
And that could spell trouble for the team down the road.
Is Irving worth disassembling their core young players, again?
In the short-term of schemes, the answer is a definite YES. Irving brings a ton of star power to central Florida — something they haven’t had since Dwight Howard was in town. His ability to recruit other players to join him would be too much to pass on in a small market city. As we saw earlier this off-season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a team should be willing to take a risk and persuade a star to stay with the team later down the road. Success changes how a player can view a team. And Orlando would almost assuredly find success with Irving, it just becomes a question of what amount of success is enough for him to stay.
On the long-term, acquiring Irving and watching him leave in free agency in three years could set the team back another decade. The team will have traded away valuable assets and gone away from their original rebuilding plan pre-Irving. The most the team could hope for is to have aligned themselves with other premiere players or have grown another star that could take over if Irving left. Jonathan Isaac could be a star caliber player by then but that would be too much of a gamble.
The Likely Scenario
Overall, the Magic should at least gauge the value of their players and make an attempt to land the star guard. After the last five years of building hope and potential, this would show the fan base they are exploring all options to improve the roster publicly. The Magic have more than enough assets to get a deal done compared to the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat. The Cavaliers have been burnt in the past by the Miami Heat and would likely avoid any situation that involves dealing with Pat Riley and the gang. New York has tradeable assets but they are not willing to deal Kristaps Porzingis in any trade scenario. The Spurs are the favorites as they could offer a nice package of players.
The only factor that could make the Cavaliers explore trades with teams out west is to prevent having to see Irving four times a year.