I’ll tell you what — life is pretty good right now if you’re a blogger that enjoys making mock trades.
I had planned on writing a third part to my “Let’s make a Melo trade” pieces with some ideas from P&T and Twitter commenters, and that’s still going to happen. But, a certain 35-year-old-lookin’ 25-year-old wants out of King James’ court, and I can’t help myself but to dive into some trade scenarios that could bring Kyrie Irving to New York.
First, the disclaimers:
— All of these proposals are done with the ESPN Trade Machine (play along at home!) and assume that Melo would be willing to waive his 15 percent trade kicker to facilitate a move (since the Trade Machine doesn’t account for it).
— Draft pick allocations can be found here.
— Not all of these trades will satisfy the rules of “each team involved in a multi-team trade needs to receive something from each team involved,” but the easy loophole to that is including heavily-protected second round picks. I’m not going to bother with that—just know that it’s implied.
— I’m changing the beat of my drum about pick protections this time around — in the two Melo pieces I basically implied that the picks incoming to the Knicks would be protected in some way, but I didn’t care to dive into it. In the case of the Knicks’ picks, I very much care about the protections, so I will cover that in this piece.
Trade No. 1 - We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Let’s try the easy way first.
New York receives: Kyrie Irving, Richard Jefferson, Edy Tavares
Cleveland receives: Carmelo Anthony, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, New York’s 2018 first round pick and a second first round pick (protected, explained below)
Alright, so here’s the easy way. And make no mistake about it, I understand the ramifications of trading two first-round picks in one trade, and the post-traumatic stress that it causes many of you. But hear me out!
So my plans for the first rounders would be very much inspired by how the Lakers protected their recent picks that turned into Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. For a little historical context — the Lakers traded the Sixers their 2015 first-round pick as part of the ill-fated Steve Nash trade in 2012. (They also included their 2013 pick unprotected.) The Lakers protected the pick for the top five picks in 2015, the top three in 2016 and the top three in 2017, conveying in 2018 at the latest. We all know how that wound up — the Lakers tanked the crap out of their last few seasons, and wound up with the now-traded D’Angelo Russell, Ingram and Ball from 2015-17. The Sixers will get the Lakers’ pick next season (depending on where it falls, it could also go to the Celtics because of the Markelle Fultz trade).
So my plan for the picks is this (and I’m going to do my best to make this easy on the eyes): the 2018 pick would be protected for the top 10 picks in 2018, top five in 2019, and top three in 2020, conveying in 2021 at the latest. The second pick would convey two years after the first, meaning it could convey as early as 2020 or as late as 2023.
So, 200 words of logistical and historical bullshit behind us, here’s why I’d do this trade as the Knicks, and why the Cavs would:
— The pick protections don’t put pressure on the Knicks to be good right away—if the Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Damyean Dotson core of the future doesn’t gel this year, you’ve still got the 2018 pick to continue the rebuild. If the team surprises and either makes the playoffs or comes very close to it, then that’s good progress! And let’s be real, the East sucks now. It could happen.
— You’d hope that the Knicks could find a way to turn that aforementioned young core into a playoff team within a couple years—that is a heck of a lot of talent, and every single one of them is under 25. ***HOT TAKE ALERT*** I think that Irving and Porzingis would be the most promising 25-and-under duo since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
— At 25, here’s a look at some of Kyrie Irving’s achievements: four-time All-Star, NBA champion, 2014 All-Star MVP, 2012 Rookie of the Year, 2015 All-NBA third team. He’s averaged no fewer than 18.5 point per game in his career on no less than 43 percent shooting. His career-low 3-point percentage is 32 percent (2015-16), but he’s averaged over 40 percent in two of the last three years. Also importantly, he’s signed to a rookie max extension from the previous CBA, meaning he’s making $18.9 million this season and an average of about $20 million for the next two years (player option for a third). Among point guards that will make more than him in that timeframe: George Hill, Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley (by a lot) and Damian Lillard (by a lot).
But what about his defense? Well, I thought of that. Irving has earned a rep of being a bad defender. While he’s not great, statistical evidence would suggest that he’s not the worst—and certainly not bad enough to mitigate his otherworldly scoring talent. For contrast, Ricky Rubio—a Knicks fan darling around the trade deadline, beloved for his passing ability and defensive reputation—only has 2.8 more defensive win shares than Irving for his career (both just finished their sixth NBA seasons). Irving, meanwhile, has 40.4 total win shares (offensive and defensive) to Rubio’s 23.2—nearly double. Irving will make about $4 million more than Rubio next year.
All of this is to say, Kyrie Irving is the personification of the hope that springs eternal from draft picks. Teams dream of drafting a player like him over the course of ten drafts, let alone two. Acquiring a player of his caliber for a 33-year-old aging star and two protected shots in the dark is, in this writer’s humble opinion, a no-brainer.
— The Knicks also get Jefferson and Tavares. Jefferson would likely retire (whatever), and Tavares could be an interesting project big man (fun fact: he played in Liga ACB before joining the NBA, same as KP and Hernangomez).
— For the Cavs, this should be considered a success. Their success here is multi-faceted. For one, they unite LeBron James with Melo, finally. They also keep Kevin Love. Kuz comes with Melo, and he’s a cost-controlled player with a lot less miles on his body than Jefferson that can serve basically the same role. Kuz is absorbed into the trade exception that the Cavs received from the Mike Dunleavy trade this past season.
As far as the picks, the Cavs brace themselves for the rumored LeBron departure by re-stocking their severely depleted cupboard. The Cavs are currently without their 2019 first rounder and their second rounders from 2018 through 2020.
So, basically, in my eyes this trade still lets the Cavs make a fourth run at the Warriors this season, while also getting some assets for the future. It’s been rumored that they want another point guard in return for Irving, but with the rumored interest in Derrick Rose, the Cavs could be alright. Look at the point guards LeBron played with in Miami—Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are barely in the league two years later. With the amount that LeBron handles the ball, he doesn’t need a dominant point guard.
Alright, that’s my opus on trade one. Now that it’s known how I feel about Kyrie, these next couple should be a piece of cake! (Not!)
Trade 2: The hard way
New York receives: Kyrie Irving, Jared Dudley
Cleveland receives: Carmelo Anthony, Eric Bledsoe
Phoenix receives: Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Frank Ntilikina, Cleveland’s 2019 second-round pick (less favorable of LA Lakers/Minnesota)
This trade assumes that the Cavs, as rumored, would like a replacement for Irving at point guard in any trade. Bledsoe certainly fits that bill, a dynamic scorer and decent defender who has been called “Mini-LeBron” according to his Basketball-Reference page. Match made in heaven!
The Suns unload Bledsoe and get back Ntilikina, a recently-drafted lottery pick. They’ve been rumored to want to be rid of Bledsoe, for whatever reason, and this is a pretty good return. This allows them to hand the keys off to Tyler Ulis (who showed out to end last year) and bring Ntilikina along slowly with the rest of the pieces of their young core. Shumpert and Frye make a decent amount of money, but the Suns have a relatively clean cap sheet.
The Knicks receive Irving, and also get Dudley, who’s OK, even if he looks like he needs a good punch in the face. It would hurt to get rid of Ntilikina before he even plays a game in orange and blue, but to get out of this trade without giving up a first rounder is a coup. Again, Irving is what you hope a lottery pick could become, and more.
This trade could consummate on August 4 due to Ntilikina signing his rookie contract, similar to when the Cavs had to wait to trade Andrew Wiggins in the Kevin Love trade.
Trade No. 3: The harderer way
New York receives: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert
Cleveland receives: Carmelo Anthony, Eric Bledsoe, Courtney Lee, Kyle O’Quinn, Detroit’s 2019 first-round pick (with some sort of protection in place)
Phoenix receives: Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Cleveland’s 2019 second-round pick (less favorable of LA Lakers/Minnesota)
Detroit receives: Kevin Love
First off, shout out to commenter marcus7 for the original framework of this deal. I made a couple small adjustments, however—in his original proposal, Tobias Harris went to the Knicks, and the Suns only received Johnson. O’Quinn also wasn’t involved in the original. I think the above makes a little more sense for all sides.
The Cavs trade both Irving and Love this time, effectively breaking up the core that has gotten them to three straight NBA Finals. The get back Melo and Bledsoe, but for the trouble of shipping out Love as well, they get Lee — who could either start and send JR Smith back to his optimal role on the bench, or come off the bench himself (which worked pretty well in a limited sample with the Knicks last year). O’Quinn comes as well (absorbed into the aforementioned Dunleavy trade exception) and gives the Cavs some good all-around big man play off the bench. The Cavs also get a first rounder to further brace themselves for a potential LeBron departure.
The Suns get back Jackson, who has shown flashes of being good in Detroit but fell off in a weird way last season. His counting stats were pretty good, but the Pistons just seemed to run better with Ish Smith in there instead of him. The Suns also get Johnson, a two-years-removed lottery pick who just hasn’t found his way. The Suns would be one of the more exciting young teams around on athleticism and length alone.
The Pistons, our fourth dance partner for this trade, get the star that Stan Van Gundy apparently desires, and pair him with Andre Drummond, all for the low, low cost of sending out a guard that they’re desperate to be rid of, a disappointing lottery pick, and a future protected first. Their interior defense would probably suck, but Love and Drummond would make a good pairing on offense, in theory. Love would also get to be the alpha male again, which he hasn’t been since his time in Minnesota.
The Knicks take back Shumpert this time (OAKAAK!), but obviously the big selling point here is getting Irving without having to give up a first rounder, thanks to sending out Lee and O’Quinn.
And those are my Kyrie Irving trade ideas! Do you love them? Hate them? Tell me more in the comments! (And please be civil with one another.)