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Should the Cleveland Cavaliers Trade Kyrie Irving?

Kyrie Irving reportedly wants out of the Cleveland and this has been a nightmare season for the Cavaliers. Should they move Irving before the Feb. 20 deadline?

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This season has been a nightmare for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Entering the campaign, everyone in the organization believed that this would be the year that the Cavaliers ended their three-year playoff drought. They brought back a talented young core that featured Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, signed veterans Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum, hired head coach Mike Brown (who had coached his teams to the playoffs in every full season of his career) and added the No. 1 pick in the draft Anthony Bennett.

To say that things haven’t went as planned would be an understatement. The Cavs are currently 17-33 and the fourth-worst team in the Eastern Conference. Bynum was suspended and traded away in early January for Luol Deng, who has reportedly called the franchise a “mess” and decided to leave as a free agent this summer. General manager Chris Grant was fired on Thursday, and Brown is on the hot seat too. Rumors of Irving being unhappy in Cleveland continue to surface, and he hasn’t done much to dispel to notion that he wants out. Throw in many ugly losses, a confrontation between key players and a lot of drama, and you have Cleveland’s season in a nutshell.

So where do the Cavaliers go from here? Should they blow it up and trade Irving for a blockbuster package so that the new regime has more to work with while they rebuild? Basketball Insiders writers Lang Greene, Jessica Camerato and Joel Brigham weigh in:

Lang Greene: This is the fourth season for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James decided to take his all-world talents to South Beach and, in many ways, the franchise continues to regress. Despite drafting five players in the top 20 since 2011, the Cavaliers are still miles away from being relevant in the upper tier of the league – or even the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland emerged with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft and quickly selected the consensus top prospect in point guard Kyrie Irving.

To date, Irving has lived up to the billing as a strong player, earning two All-Star selections and quickly becoming a nightly 20-point performer. But you have to ask the question, seriously, have the Cavaliers improved as a unit with Irving serving as the alpha dog?

Sometimes we confuse a guy’s ability to put up gaudy stat lines, rivaling some of the league’s best, with that player’s overall leadership ability. Irving has one of the best handles in the game, is already a strong scorer, draws fan interest, is good at driving endorsement campaigns and doesn’t make waves off the court. Irving is a role model.

Those are extremely solid characteristics, but is Irving the guy you want as the centerpiece of your rebuilding project? Better yet, is Irving suited to be the true number one guy?

Oftentimes we make the assumption just because a guy has elite-level talent that those same attributes make the player an elite-level leader. This concept couldn’t be farther from the truth because those two dynamics are not related. History is littered with examples of elite-level talents lacking the necessary leadership ability to take a franchise to the next level.

Irving is charismatic and has the flashy game, but what do we truly know of his leadership ability?

Irving played just 11 games in his lone collegiate season at Duke. The guard then was drafted by Cleveland, where expectations were undoubtedly low post James’ free agency exit. This season marks the first time since Irving entered the league where expectations in Cleveland slanted toward making a playoff run.

But the fans who expected this season to be different have endured an absolute disaster and Irving’s inability to control his locker room is a primary driving factor in Cleveland’s struggles.

Earlier this season, there were reports of Irving and shooting guard Dion Waiters having friction and the latter wanting out of the organization as a result. Then came the suspension and trade of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum, who has subsequently been quoted as saying the Cavaliers’ locker room culture was dysfunctional.  Reports also surfaced from sources close to Irving himself suggesting the guard wanted out of Cleveland. Lastly, numerous players have been kicked out of Cavs practice this season, and the locker room turmoil was made even more real when it was reported that veteran forward (and class act) Luol Deng was frustrated within it.

The Cavaliers’ season has been a circus, to be kind. Taking things to the next level, general manager Chris Grant was fired last week in a move that is sure to bring even more change.

Irving is a likeable player but we can’t turn the blind eye to the fact his mind may already be on leaving the team at first opportunity.  Also, we cannot excuse Cleveland’s locker room deterioration when Irving is the team’s best player and the guy entrusted with keys to the franchise.

Players like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, guys who spend all of their careers with one franchise, are a rarity. The new normal are guys like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard who all left their original franchises at the first realistic opportunity.

Irving is a dynamic talent, no doubt about it, but no one in the league is above being in a trade discussion. So the Cavaliers should explore all of their options.

Joel Brigham: It’s absolutely fair to wonder whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers should trade Kyrie Irving because, let’s face it, there’s a reasonable chance that the Cavs continue to be awful and that Irving will one day start exploring greener pastures.  There’s a school of thought that says a team should trade a potentially disgruntled star like that while there’s still an opportunity to get a significant haul for him, but that school of thought isn’t really taking everything into consideration.

For starters, superstars are not often traded for other superstars in today’s NBA.  Take a look at the last handful of major stars that were moved via trade over the course of the last few years:

  • Orlando trades Dwight Howard to L.A. and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia in a four-way trade with Denver that returns them Nikola Vucevic, Mo Harkless, Arron Afflalo and three future first-round draft picks.
  • Oklahoma City trades James Harden to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick.
  • Denver trades Carmelo Anthony to New York for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Ray Felton, Timofey Mozgov, a first-round pick, two second-round picks, the right to trade first-round picks in 2016 and $3 million in cash.
  • Utah trades Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks and cash.

Here’s the trend with all of these deals: while there are plenty of nice assets moving to the superstar’s former team, not a single one of the players acquired in exchange for the superstar has made an All-Star team, and so far none of the draft picks have either.  Sometimes there’s some cap relief, and teams love young players and picks, but today’s trades involving an NBA superstar essentially amount to exchanging several smaller coins for a dollar bill (as Grantland’s Bill Simmons has always put it).

To make things even clearer here, with the exception of Harden, all of the aforementioned stars were traded at age 26, which for them was about the halfway point of their careers.  Only Harden was moved in his early 20s before the Thunder were able to make the most of his burgeoning talents, and guess which of the trades above have proved most regrettable for the team trading the superstar?

Kyrie Irving is a 21-year-old All-Star starter averaging 21.5 points and 6.3 assists in just his third season in the league.  This kid has tremendous room for growth but is already better than any player they’d receive back in trade or any player they’d be able to woo in free agency.  He is their franchise cornerstone, and to move him now would put the team back at square one only a few years after being at square zero.

Plus, Irving makes only $5.6 million this season and $7.1 million next season, meaning that even if he’s paired with someone like Anderson Varejao, it would be hard to return the sort of high-ticket talent that makes a trade worthwhile.

In other words, it’s not only silly, it’s also unrealistic.  Even in the midst of a nightmare season, trading Kyrie Irving would be a tremendous mistake.

Jessica Camerato: Point guards are a top commodity in the NBA. When a team has one of the best in their possession, it is crucial to get the max value in return should they decide to trade him. Regardless of how poorly a season is going, how dismal the outlook may be, dealing an All-Star, 20-point a night floor general is a transaction that should not be made until there is a clear direction of the organization’s future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ season has been a mess. Very little has gone right, yet Kyrie Irving’s performance has been a silver lining. They have a piece to build around, but how long that process would take and whether or not they actually want to do that is another story.

Irving will be sought after at the trade deadline. There are many teams around the league hungry to get their hands on a point guard of his caliber. But what would they be willing to offer the Cavs for him?

At 17-33, the Cavs are going nowhere fast this season. Their number one pick Anthony Bennett is averaging a whopping 3.4 points, adding him to the mix of former lottery picks who are not helping the team be competitive. The general manager was just fired, and do we even need to go back to the Andrew Bynum debacle?

The Cavs don’t have much leverage at the deadline. “Hey, we have this great young point guard, we aren’t winning, and we need to turn this team around, someway, somehow. Want to make us a highly lucrative offer?” Teams could lowball them on offers for Irving, hoping the Cavs will bite at an offer just to move him. Just how badly do the Cavs want to trade Irving? Opposing organizations will present deals to find out.

Before the Cavs make a drastic move and trade away a perennial All-Star, there are questions that need to be addressed. What do the Cavs want the team to look like in an ideal winning situation? Is Irving a player to build a contender around, or is he more valuable as a piece to acquire new weapons? Most importantly, who are the Cleveland Cavaliers?

It is unlikely Irving’s trade value will change in the near future. The Cavs don’t need to make a move for the sake of making one. They need to wait for the right decision for the future of their team.

Should the Cavaliers move Irving before the Feb. 20 trade deadline? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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