The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a difficult spot.
It’s possible that at this time next year, superstars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who have led the Cavs to three straight NBA Finals and won the team’s first ever championship in 2016, will not be playing in Cleveland.
James has a player option for the 2018-19 season that he is unlikely to exercise, and Irving reportedly has requested a trade. Irving’s situation might be resolved first, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported Monday what exactly the Cavs are hoping to acquire if they deal the star point guard.
“Cleveland is seeking a bundle of assets, but the highest priority right now is snagging a blue-chip young player, according to sources across the league,” Lowe writes.
“That is not necessarily a signal they think James is leaving. They would like to get everything: one or two veterans who can help LeBron dethrone Golden State, that blue-chipper, and picks. They want to prepare for a worst-case scenario of LeBron leaving without shoving him out the door by acquiring players he deems unready. Even so, the blue-chipper appears to be their guidepost, sources say.”
This certainly makes sense.
Aside from Irving, who’s still just 25 years old, the Cavs have zero talented young players. That’s what happens when you’re in win-now mode and keep moving first-round draft picks for veteran help at the trade deadline. Cleveland also hasn’t done a great job finding value/talent in the second round of the draft.
If the Cavs trade Irving for veterans and then James leaves next summer as a free agent, the franchise would be stuck without a solid foundation to build for the future.
Cleveland was left without much young talent when James bolted for the Miami Heat in 2010. The Cavs ended up getting lucky in the aftermath of “The Decision” by winning multiple draft lotteries, including one that got them Irving. It’s unlikely they’d be as fortunate a second time.
Acquiring a young impact player with time left on his contract is the ideal situation for the Cavs, but teams rarely give up on those players, even when the return is a star of Irving’s caliber.
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