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NBA AM: The Future Of LeBron Still Murky

The uncertain future of LeBron is impacting how the Cavs evaluate trade options for Kyrie Irving.

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The Future Of LeBron Still Murky

In case you missed Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest Kyrie Irving update over at ESPN, the Cavs don’t appear any closer to a deal for Irving today than they were a week ago, or the week before that.

The change for the Cavs is that they have shifted their focus to obtaining a top level young guy, mainly to ensure they have a building block for the future, rather than go all-in on veterans to satisfy the “win-now, keep LeBron at all costs” narrative. Even with Irving likely headed out, James and his camp remain noncommittal about his future in Cleveland.

The Cavs seem to be accepting the idea they could lose LeBron and want to ensure an Irving deal returns a block to build around. The notion of securing a top level young player also gives a future to sell to LeBron as a reason to stay, so the pursuit of a young guy isn’t just an exit plan for LeBron.

The teams that continue to get mentioned the most continue to be the Phoenix Suns, the Denver Nuggets, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. All four continue to have some level of discussion with the Cavs about a deal for Irving.

According to Wojnarowski, the Cavs seem to have eyes for Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis. The idea being contemplated seems to be the Cavs taking on the contract of Knicks big man Joakim Noah as part of a deal that would land Irving in New York and Porzingis in Cleveland. Noah has three-years and $55.59 million left on his deal, which is a huge roadblock to the Knicks moving him and the Cavs rationalizing a deal involving him. As things stand today, the Knicks remain unwilling to entertain a deal for Porzingis seriously, but it seems if there is a primary target for the Cavs, it may be Porzingis.

The Cavs from the very beginning of the Irving process have been very diligent and deliberate, refusing to engage on anything outside of their own timeline and their own sense of urgency.

The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Cavaliers will ramp up their talks as the calendar flips to September and training camps start to become the focus for most teams.

Training camps in the NBA will start to open the week of September 25, which creates the first real milestone for teams pursuing Irving and for the Cavs question of will they will genuinely risk bringing Irving to camp and open would could be an unprecedented media circus.

For the teams looking to add Irving, locking him in before camp opens gives the acquiring team the best chance to fill in their roster around a ramped-up plan that includes Irving.

League sources continue to label the Suns as the team with the right assets to obtain Irving, but they remain reluctant to include rookie Josh Jackson or third-year stud Devin Booker in any conversation. Jackson became trade eligible last week and recently joked at the Panini rookie photo shoot that he’d heard the rumors, but if it were going to happen, it would have happened by now.

There were reports this week which pegged the Clippers as Irving’s latest team of choice, however, a league source said recently that without the inclusion of a third team, there didn’t seem to be a combination of assets the Clippers had that could compete with anything currently being linked to Irving. While Irving may have preferences where he ultimately lands, he does not have much leverage in where the Cavs ultimately trade him.

While many fans may be hoping for closure on the Irving situation, there doesn’t seem to be anything any closer today than when this started in mid-July. Still, it does seem the Cavaliers have decided on a path forward and that obtaining a star-level young player seems to have moved up the list fairly significantly.

Insiders Podcast

In case you missed it, Basketball Insiders’ Larry Coon and Eric Pincus discuss the possibility of Kyrie Irving joining the Los Angeles Clippers, the chance the L.A. Lakers have of landing two stars in 2018 and the initial impact of the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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