| Forget LeBron. Could the Sixers pitch an offer for the Cavs’ second star? Should they? |
The NBA rumor mill never stops. The current talk of the Association is the situation in Cleveland; there’s a growing sense that LeBron James plans to leave the Cavaliers because of their tumultuous offseason. They fumbled chances to get Paul George or Jimmy Butler, and fired their GM David Griffin. Their biggest moves were adding Jose Calderon and re-signing Kyle Krover. It’s easy to understand why the King is looking at the door when the roster that just got decimated by Golden State didn’t get any better.
Now, the other star on Cleveland, Kyrie Irving has reportedly asked for a trade. And can you blame him? He’s 25 and reportedly wants to lead his own team. It’s impossible to do that in LeBron’s shadow. After all, LeBron put his stamp on the 2016 Finals with the famous chase down block and the long awaited championship to his home town. But it was Kyrie that hit the shot that sunk Golden State, not the King. Even coming off three straight NBA finals appearances, the Cavs are in turmoil and could lose their two best players.
While the Sixers’ players play the NBA equivalent of wooing your crush on social media with LeBron, there’s legitimate rumblings from the fan base about the King coming to Philly next year. Is it possible? Sure. But if LeBron wants to ring chase, he’s better off teaming up with a player like Paul George as opposed to the young nucleus of the Sixers.
So, what about Irving? There are a few things working in the Sixers’ favor if they decided to give it a shot.
Super stars have already moved this summer for cents on the dollar
Paul George went to OKC for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Jimmy Butler went to Chicago for an underwhelming package. Even Chris Paul brought in more quantity than quality in his sign-and-trade to the Rockets. If Irving really wants out of Cleveland and has made it known to the team, this summer acts as proof that the return could be underwhelming. When stars want out, it severely hampers their team’s ability to get equal value in return. If the writing is truly on the wall for Cleveland, the team could be tempted to dump their stars and collect assets. The Sixers, never short of those assets, have plenty of ammo to for a deal that brings Irving to Philly. And they could potentially put together a hugely talented roster if Cleveland continues to the trend of selling stars for lesser offers.
But what would it take?
It’s nice to gush about just adding a player of such high caliber to the team. That’s why LeBron is such an intriguing fantasy. All we’d have to do is pay him, and the Sixers are still ripe with cap space entering next season. But trading for stars is more tricky; you have to give to get. I’d have to imagine that Cleveland would want two things; young talent with upside and draft picks. They owe a first round pick to Atlanta in 2019 (top 10 protected). The Sixers could have two firsts that year (Sacramento’s and their own, although they might have to send one of those to Boston from the Fultz trade). So what type of players would Cleveland want?
- Markelle Fultz: Sixer fans might not like to hear it, but Fultz would likely be required to pry Kyrie out of Cleveland. The 19 year old is talented as they come. He’s a foundational piece here in Philly, but he’d be the piece on Cleveland should they lose LeBron and Kyrie.
- Timothe Luwawu Cabbarot: The Frenchman didn’t impress in Summer League, but could still carve out a valuable role if he refines his craft. He’d be especially valuable to Cleveland if they want to move Iman Shumpert of JR Smith.
- TJ McConnell: In the event that the team trades Irving before LeBron leaves, Cleveland might consider McConnell as a piece to entice the King to stay. LeBron clamored for a playmaker last season, and TJ does just that. But his ceiling is limited, so he certainly wouldn’t be the centerpiece of a deal. He still maintains value as an effective backup point guard.
- Robert Covington: If Cleveland knows that LeBron is gone, a small forward would immediately become a hole on the roster. Covington is one of the most versatile wing defends in the league. Depending on the value of his looming contract, the Sixers might be okay with moving him to keep the cap manageable (Irving makes $18, and 20 million in the last two years of his deal, with a $21 million third year player option).
- Dario Saric: Saric is a fan favorite, but doesn’t have an avenue to start with Ben Simmons on the roster. In a full rebuild, he’d be an attractive piece that can keep fans engaged. He could learn a lot from Kevin Love as well.
If I’m Cleveland, I’m asking for at least three of those players, plus a first round pick and possibly another. It would be a hard pill to swallow for Philly after a slam dunk off season that’s addressed the team’s need for star power and depth. But if it’s enough to land a player like Kyrie, you have to take the deal.
Irving would be a good fit
Apparently, part of what motivates Kyrie to leave the Cavs is to lead his own team. He did so for the first three years of his career, averaging 18, 22, and 20 points per game respectively, despite not creating much team success. With the Sixers, there would be more talent around him but not enough to hinder his ability to be the leading scorer. Despite signing JJ Redick, adding Irving would not clog the lineup in a bad way. He would essentially be playing the same role as Fultz, but with the efficiency and refinement that six years of NBA experience grants.
And just for fun, could you imagine a scenario where the Sixers trade for Irving without giving up Fultz? Markelle could slide over to the shooting guard and Redick would come off the bench (he’s only one a one year deal, so if he’s unhappy with a lesser role the team can let him walk). Imagine this lineup:
PF: Simmons/Amir Johnson
Now that is a playoff team in the East. Irving is a maestro scorer whose most efficient years have come with LeBron being the primary initiator. Simmons or Fultz can handle those responsibilities and Irving can assume a dynamic, volume scoring role.
We’ll have to see how the situation in Cleveland ultimately ends. Their stars appear on to be on the way out. Realistically, the Sixers aren’t a destination for Irving. They already have their lead guard of the future (or guards, depending on what Simmons tells you). But we’ve spent the last four years of the process dreaming of trades like this. What’s one more to throw on the pile?