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NBA PM: Where The Cavs Should Trade Kyrie Irving

The Cleveland Cavaliers are saying all the right things, but if they ultimately have to trade Kyrie Irving, where is the best spot to trade him?

Basketball Insiders



Where To Trade Kyrie Irving?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are saying all the right things about their relationship with star guard Kyrie Irving.  However, it seems inevitable that the marriage between the Cavaliers and Irving is headed towards an end. The question is where should the Cavs trade him and for what kind of return?

In what is a weekly Thursday feature, we asked three of our Basketball Insiders to weigh in on this idea, and give us their thoughts on “Where To Trade Kyrie Irving?”

Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Portland’s Damian Lillard are two elite point guards with an All-Star background about to just enter their respective primes, but perhaps with two different goals in mind?

After speaking with Sports Illustrated in an interview earlier this week, Lillard said the following about Irving’s desire to get away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to be the focal point of a team.

“I mean it’s a lot of hard work [being the face of a team],” he told SI. “I’m not even sure that’s true, but I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to The Finals every year? I think they’ve been to The Finals the last three years, so. I would love to do that.”

Lillard was then asked if he would ever ask for a trade if he were in the same predicament as James’ teammate.

“I don’t know because I’ve never played with LeBron,” he responded. “But just watching from the outside, you see how easy he makes the game for everybody else. I’m not sure what it’s like playing with LeBron the person, but the player, I don’t see why anybody wouldn’t want to play with him.”

Let’s get this out of the way, first and foremost: In no way, shape, or form is this Lillard vying for a trade to the Cavaliers. He’s an incredibly loyal person and teammate when it comes to the Portland Trail Blazers. You’ll find evidence from past quotes and on Twitter multiple times that the recently-turned 27-year-old wants to remain with the franchise that drafted him until his career is finished.

However, if you’re new Cavs GM Koby Altman and you are looking to make a splash and find a solution to this situation with an unhappy Irving, why not pick up the phone and see if Neil Olshey is interested in a swap of sorts?

The similarities are striking between both players. They possess the clutch gene, they’re incredible in isolation situations and have the ability to single-handedly take over games at any time.

Lillard is a better rebounder and more aggressive in getting to the free throw line, but Irving’s slightly more efficient offensively and a couple of years younger with a championship under his belt.

Both players are under control for at least the next two years (Irving through 2018-19 with a player option for ’19-20, Lillard through ’20-21).

A straight up, one-for-one deal probably wouldn’t entice the Trail Blazers enough to make a move, but say Cleveland includes Iman Shumpert. It’s no secret that the team has been trying to shed his hefty contract for over a year now.

Portland just shipped off Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets for the same reason, but they’ll still need to fill his spot in the rotation, right? Shumpert could slide right into that backup wing role and provide some defensive help in the second unit for Terry Stotts.

It’s a heavy burden, but that’s still at a much lower salary than what Crabbe was making, but with more experience and, like Irving, championship experience.

Dan Gilbert and Altman would need to do a lot of convincing, though, for this to work. Portland loves its backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum as they continue to grow and feed off one another as one of the best duos in the NBA. For that reason, and the fact that the Cavaliers get no future assets back either, this trade scenario might be tough to pull off on both sides.

Irving’s value is off the charts. He’s a champion and is still yet to show what he’s capable of on a nightly basis as the star of the show. That should yield a worthy return for Cleveland, so Altman will have to do his due diligence to ensure that he gets the best possible return.

Landing Lillard would accomplish that goal.

–          Spencer Davies

The Cavaliers are in an impossible situation as it relates to Kyrie Irving. As for the best place to trade him, it’s a question whose answer will vary in accord with the responder’s thought process. On Sunday, I made the case for trading him to the Sixers, but I did so mainly because I am functioning under two assumptions: first, the Golden State Warriors are going to win the 2018 NBA Finals and, two, LeBron James is going to leave Cleveland next summer.

If only I had a crystal ball…

Here’s the thing: nothing is promised. Although we all consider the Warriors to be the favorite to win their third championship in four years, an injury to either Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant would change everything. For that reason, if you’re the Cavs, it would be difficult to trade Irving away for young assets that wouldn’t help you in the immediate term. In the event that, for whatever reason, the Warriors aren’t able to win the West, the Cavs should want to be well-equipped to represent the East again. They could probably beat any other Western team in the NBA Finals. So, behind Door No. 1, you have the “Well Equipped” train of thought, which would say that the Cavs, if they do trade Kyrie, should net at least one rotation player that can help them in the immediate term, just in case…

On the other hand, if we knew for a fact that two assumptions laid out above were true, the Cavs should position themselves to build for their future, as they would have neither James nor Irving one year from now. In that case, the primary concern should be netting draft picks and/or young players in exchange for the 25-year-old phenom. We’ll call that the “Build For The Future” train of thought.

So, I am going to cheat.

If the Cavs want to be safe, the best landing spot for Irving would be either in Phoenix, or, believe it or not, New York. Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson and another rotation player or pick would be a great return for Irving and would simultaneously help the Cavs win the East and have a piece or two to build for the future. Meanwhile, trading Irving for Carmelo Anthony, Frank Ntilikina and the Knicks’ 2018 first round pick would accomplish the same. Only problem? Irving hasn’t given any indication that he’d re-sign in Phoenix, so giving up Jackson is improbable. On the other hand, Anthony remains committed to landing in Houston, so he won’t waive his no-trade clause.

In the event that the Cavs decide to punt their chance at winning the Finals should the Warriors sputter, I’d maintain that the Sixers make the most sense for Irving. He would get a team of his own, would presumably partner with an up-and-coming nucleus and would only need to help the Sixers qualify for the second round of the playoffs to be deemed a success. Almost anywhere else, he’d need to deliver a championship to get the same respect. For the Sixers, despite the fact that Joel Embiid has the fans of the franchise believing that the team is “back,” they are far from it. Any hopes they have of taking their rebuild to the next level rest on two players who have never played a regular season NBA game and one who has only managed to play in 31 of them. The process is far from over, but Irving would give them a sure thing and move them to the next level.

In the end, I still say Philly makes the most sense, but as an alternative, either Phoenix or New York could net excellent returns, as well.

–          Moke Hamilton

Star point guard Kyrie Irving finds himself in a tough situation. He is a very talented player with elite skills on the offensive side of the court, an NBA champion and the sidekick to the best player in the league, LeBron James. There are multiple reports indicating the last part of the equation – being a sidekick – has Irving looking for greener pastures. While there are several teams that would presumably be a good fit for Irving, there is one team in particular that should stand out among the rest: the Los Angeles Clippers.

It has only been a month since the Clippers lost their star point guard, Chris Paul, to the Houston Rockets. With Paul’s cooperation, his departure led to a return of useful assets, including a first-round pick, Sam Dekker and Patrick Beverly. With Blake Griffin re-signed and the acquisition of forward Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers are poised to be competitive as early as next season.

Why should Irving go to the Clippers? Griffin has proven to be a very good player but always ranked second in the pecking order to Paul. And yet, both players had large individual endorsements and national recognition, on top of being perennial contenders. In Los Angeles, Irving could take Paul’s place in this hierarchy and like Paul, Irving could take command of the team and have it play in a way that caters to his skills.  With Irving, the team would have a new lead star to take control and recover from the loss of Paul.

Be warned though, these are big shoes to fill and there are risks too. Griffin likely didn’t re-sign to continue sitting in a secondary star role. He has elite playmaking for a big that couldn’t be fully utilized due to Paul’s expert command as a ball dominant facilitator, go to scorer and de facto coach on the floor. In addition, Irving has a tough individual act to follow. Paul has overseen the single greatest stretch of basketball in Clippers’ history, was consistently a top player on both ends of the court and has arguably been the best overall point guard in the league over the last few seasons. Kyrie’s contributions, however great, may be diminished when compared to Paul’s success over the last few years.

With so many new players, the Clippers are not able to trade many of their otherwise moveable assets until later in the season. To trade for Irving now would likely require center DeAndre Jordan in exchange. An All-star center that can help cover teammates who are less than stellar defensively is invaluable and the Clippers should be reluctant to part with Jordan. With one year remaining on his contract, perhaps this would be an opportunity avoid the risk Jordan tries to leave again, as he did previously in restricted free agency a few years ago. Otherwise, the Clippers would have to wait for new acquisitions like Beverly, Dekker and center Montrezl Harrell to become tradable, which may be too late since other teams are reportedly lining up big offers for Irving.

Considering the Clippers’ roster, they would need to retain Jordan to have any hope of playing even passable defense next season. However, with Irving playing alongside Griffin and Gallinari, the team would score a lot, be exciting to watch and give Irving the opportunity to be spread his wings away from James in one of the biggest markets in the NBA.

–          James Blancarte

Every Thursday we’ll ask three of our guys to chime in on a common subject. If there is something you would like to see us address, drop it to us on Twitter at @BBallInsiders using the hashtag #ConversationThursday.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers and @Ben__Nadeau.


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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte



San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders



The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies



It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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