The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. After losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat the year prior, Irving was supposed to be this team’s new franchise centerpiece, ultimately leading Cleveland to the promised land.
Coming into the league in a lockout season, Kyrie only played 51 games in his first season as a Cavalier. Cleveland seemed to be in good hands as Irving had a very impressive rookie season. Kyrie would go to average 18-and-a-half points a game, with about five-and-a-half assists, while shooting a sturdy 47-percent from the field in only his first year of play.
Irving’s ability to win has always seemed to be in question considering he was never a part of a winning unit before the return of LeBron. Although that seems to be the case, the narrative is quite deceptive. Through the first three seasons where Irving was handed the keys to the franchise, the best player he ever played with scoring-wise, was a 35-year-old Antawn Jamison. Irving was also recently entering the NBA, meaning like many other young players, Kyrie was clueless upon know how to win.
Kyrie Irving had three seasons to significantly grow on his own; LeBron was busy winning championships in South Beach. Once LeBron decided to make the move back to his hometown of Cleveland, the Cavaliers traded Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins in exchange for Kevin Love to make an attempt on finally delivering the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy to Cleveland.
After acquiring James and Love, the Cavaliers had formed one of the most dangerous “big threes” of all time. This would mean Irving now had to take a backseat and obey James’ commands. Irving was been well-known for his demanding of the ball when on the court, much like LeBron. Surprisingly enough, it worked out well on the court, but with new recent reports, it seems Kyrie wasn’t too content with sharing the ball with LeBron after all.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2017
This report came as a surprise to many. Everyone was aware of the dysfunction in Cleveland’s front office, but no one guessed it would be this bad. With all the media attention towards LeBron James (rightfully so as he may leave in the upcoming offseason), no one was too concerned with what Kyrie Irving was doing or thinking.
To clarify, this is not the same situation as Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. For one, Kyrie does not possess a no-trade clause as Carmelo does. Also, the point guard still has two years left on his contract with a player option for his third year. With all that being said, this means Irving holds no type of leverage against the Cavaliers. If their hearts desire, Cleveland can keep Irving for as long as his contract expires.
Irving is only 25 years of age, with his prime still awaiting him. Since he is so young and competing at an All-Star level, it makes him one of the most valuable players in the entire National Basketball Association with a bountiful amount of fans believing a player of his caliber would be considered untouchable.
Kyrie getting buckets during the Taipei stop of his summer tour (via sung_ghl/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/IFZDzGM4x4
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2017
On the other hand, LeBron James is still the greatest current player in the league. LeBron is 32-years-old and has yet to show any signs of being on the inevitable decline. A great portion of the basketball community believes James’ downfall is a year or two away. Unlike Kyrie, LeBron has a no-trade clause in his contract which makes Cleveland’s ability to move him slim to none. Even if LeBron decided to waive his no-trade clause, the aftermath of trading the greatest player to ever wear a Cavaliers jersey, would result in an absolute nightmare. The streets of Cleveland would be a dreaded disaster and a dangerous environment for civilians in the area.
Many fans drew the parallel of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. To recap, fans and media were challenging Kobe Bryant’s legacy due to the fact he never lead a team to a championship on his own. Shortly after, Kobe asked the front office for a trade so he can finally go prove himself to the world. Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak felt he was too valuable to trade. Instead, they bit the bullet and dealt Shaq to Miami to retain Bryant and granting his wish of being a leader to a championship contending team. He finally fulfilled what the rest of the media deemed impossible as he won himself and the Lakers a championship in 2010 while averaging 27 points per game on 46-percent shooting from the field.
Obviously, when comparing Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Kyrie would be in the same situation as Kobe was, but LeBron cannot be traded without his own consent, unlike O’Neal.
The Cleveland Cavaliers can play out the next season while holding on to both LeBron and Kyrie. If James decides to leave Cleveland once again, Kyrie would get his wish of leading his own team. If James re-signs, the Cavaliers can deal Kyrie to another team. Doing so would lessen the value of Kyrie as he would be on an expiring contract; nevertheless, they would get a great return package for him. Without a doubt, Cleveland has some real decision-making to do, but it may not be as urgent as we initially thought.