Who the Jazz would have to give up to get Cavs' all-star guard Kyrie Irving

Who the Jazz would have to give up to get Cavs' all-star guard Kyrie Irving

Since LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers three years ago, the team has made the NBA Finals every season, winning their first championship in 2016. But for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, the team’s collective success hasn’t been enough.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Irving has asked Cleveland’s management for a trade because he’s seeking a bigger role — something he won’t get alongside James. Irving told the team’s management that he’d prefer to play for the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves or New York Knicks, but since he doesn’t have a no-trade clause attached to his current contract, Irving has virtually no say in where he’ll end up.

Enter the Utah Jazz.

Before the NBA draft in June, Deseret News’ Jody Genessy reported that Utah had exploratory talks with Cleveland about a trade that would send Irving to Salt Lake City. At the time, it appeared as if Irving would remain a part of Cleveland’s core, so any trade discussions around him likely wouldn’t have gained ground, but things are different now.

Irving, 25, has made the Eastern Conference All-Star team four times since being picked first overall in 2011. Cleveland won’t get a player of his caliber in return, but the Cavs are looking to acquire a blue-chip talent who could potentially reach his level, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. If the Jazz still have interest in getting Irving, they might have what it takes to complete the trade.

What the Jazz could give up

To get someone like Irving, the Jazz will have to part ways with promising players, including guard Donovan Mitchell. However, since Mitchell is technically a new signing, the Jazz wouldn’t be able to complete a trade with the Cavaliers until Friday.

Mitchell was a summer league standout and helped soothe the pain of losing Gordon Hayward. At times, Mitchell, who the Jazz traded up to select 13th overall, looked like a player worthy of a top-five pick. Against the Memphis Grizzlies in Las Vegas, Mitchell scored 37 points and racked up eight steals in just 34 minutes, displaying a rare knack for defense and unmatched explosion.

Losing Mitchell would hurt, but it’s going to take years for the 20-year-old to reach Irving’s level, if he ever does. Cleveland has the depth and James’ leadership to lean on throughout the process of his development. Mitchell would be carefully brought along and would play less minutes in Cleveland than he will in Utah.

The previous report mentioned that Cleveland is also seeking a veteran player capable of starting and future draft picks for Irving. Utah would be able to flip newly acquired point guard Ricky Rubio, whom the Jazz received in a deal from the Minnesota Timberwolves in June, to Cleveland, filling the Cavaliers’ void after Irving departs.

James has been yearning for another “playmaker,” and Rubio fits the bill. Averaging 9.1 assists per game last season, Rubio would alleviate some of the pressure on James to initiate and create offense, but he wouldn’t step on his toes. Unlike Irving, Rubio would be more inclined to accept a sidekick type of role in Cleveland and would also shore up the team’s perimeter defense.

Why the Jazz would accept the trade

Losing Hayward to the Boston Celtics will sting, but Utah’s identity won’t shift. Coach Quin Snyder will continue to preach defense and a pass-first offense. With Rubio in the fold and the additions of Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and the focus on Rudy Gobert intensifying, Utah will continue to be one of the league’s leaders in passing and defense. But to win games, someone has to score the ball.

Putting up 21.9 points per game, Hayward made up a large chunk of Utah’s offensive production. Hayward led the team in total points scored, total shots made, 3-point shots and free-throws made. Since none of Utah’s offseason additions excel in those categories, the Jazz will have to replace it by committee.

The Jazz were the third-worst scoring team in the NBA last season, despite Hayward’s breakout offensive season. Given the loss of its best scorer and the lack of scoring added this summer, it doesn’t bode well for Utah’s offense next season. Adding Irving would instantly clear up any offensive troubles the Jazz will have without Hayward.

Irving, yet to hit the prime of his career, averaged 25.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.1 percent from three last season. Irving was accountable for 30.2 percent of Cleveland’s total offense, which is one of the highest usage ratings in the NBA (higher than James’), but was still relatively efficient. Cleveland had the third-highest offensive rating in the NBA last season.

Defensively, Irving leaves a lot to be desired, but his offensive output more than makes up for it. His weaknesses defensively could be hidden in Utah, where that side of the ball is highlighted and anchored by Gobert.

The improved state of the Western Conference will make the path to the playoffs for Utah that much more difficult than it already was. Both the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves added All-Stars to their respective rosters, while the Jazz lost their lone All-Sar and failed to adequately replace him. Saying goodbye to Mitchell and Rubio would be difficult, but the team getting the best player in return is usually the one that’s said to “win” the trade. In this case, the Jazz would be the clear winner if they could land Irving from Cleveland.

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Published at Thu, 03 Aug 2017 19:10:00 +0000