Can the Cleveland Cavaliers Actually Trade All-Star Kyrie Irving?

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Updated: April 17, 2014

Now that the disappointing 2013-2014 season is finally over for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the whole city can focus their attention on what truly matters—the nonstop rumors of the team possibly trading All-Star, Kyrie Irving.

Thanks to rumors and reports continuously surfacing during the second half of the season about his displeasure with the team, certain teammates and the likelihood he will not sign his contract extension this offseason, the speculation has really taken it to another level the last few days. In fact, the reports have gotten so far out of hand that some of the most respected NBA analysts and writers both inside and outside the team are starting to believe it as well.

To put it plain and simple, it is a very real possibility the Cavaliers entertain the thought of trading Irving. Emphasis on the “thought” part.

If the Cavaliers front office was not working out every possible scenario to improve this team now and in the long run, I would actually be more worried than I am about the rumors of potentially moving Irving. It shows they realize how far losing a star player to free agency can set you back (four years and 200-plus losses to be exact). So the fact that they are kicking the tires on possibly dealing Irving should not worry fans.

What should worry fans is how Irving truly feels about a future in Cleveland.

Obviously the losing is difficult on anyone, but despite a season marred in turmoil this team actually did—believe it or not—improve from a year ago. Nine wins, meaningful basketball in April and an increase in points scored per game by 1.5 per night. So for those of you who belittled Mike Brown for his offensive shortcomings and begged for Byron Scott to return, the Cavaliers actually averaged more points this year than any year in the post-LeBron James era.

It may seem like nothing but a silver lining on another losing season, but there was clearly growth with this young team under Brown this season. However, Irving does not seem to be committed to learning to play two-way basketball, and that is not going to fly for Brown—especially since he is the guy who got James to buy in on the defensive end as a young player.

If Irving does not view the growth this season and Brown as enough to extend for the max with the Cavaliers, the team will absolutely have to get serious about entertaining real offers for him. It may seem like a blow to the fans, but being left high and dry twice by No. 1 overall picks is not good business and it can actually benefit the Cavaliers in the long run if Irving’s intention is to leave anyways, just ask the Denver Nuggets.

For all the people who blasted the Nuggets for moving Carmelo Anthony in a trade when it was apparent he wasn’t going to stay there long-term, the team did not really miss a beat after trading him until this year. During the 2010-2011 season they finished 50-32, they finished 38-28 in the strike shortened season of 2011-2012 and in 2012-2013 season they finished 57-25. Yes, they have made three consecutive first-round exits from the playoffs since trading Anthony, but then again they only made it out of the first round once with him.
The main reason for the urgency with Irving is that he is heading into the final season of his rookie contract at $7.4 million dollars next season. Cleveland will have the option to extend him a qualifying offer of around $9.5 million for the 2015-2015 season as well. For the Cavaliers, having a young All-Star with a relatively cheap contract is the ultimate trade chip to leverage for both proven young players to build around and draft picks in what is supposed to be a loaded draft class this summer.

Let’s make something clear here, nobody—including the Cavaliers—actually wants to trade Irving. We can all see the potential and how good of a player he is now, as well as the potential and ceiling of the player he can become. But if the rumblings of unhappiness are true, the Cavaliers are doing the best thing they can do for their future—operating with a business mindset and not the passion of a fan.

The Cavaliers operated with the passion of a fan when James was heading toward free agency, refusing to believe the kid from down the road would abandon the team he revived as just an 18-year old kid. For this very reason, the Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert cannot afford to have the wool pulled over their eyes for a second time with Irving.

Will the All-Star point guard actually be traded? Only time will truly tell, but Cavaliers fans need to accept the reality that it is a very real possibility now and will be a very real possibility in the coming months as well.

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