The dog days of the NBA offseason are now in full swing. Sure, things have been relatively quiet of late, but with training camp expected to start in a little over a month, the league is bracing itself for another 10-month run of nonstop action. For now though, the biggest story in the league still revolves around Kyrie Irving’s status with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is he staying? Is he getting traded? Even more intriguing, what does the Irving situation tell us about LeBron James' own future with the team?
Recent reports have indicated that LeBron's as close to gone next summer so that's another headache the Cavs have to deal with. Here's the thing, though. What if Cleveland, presumably wiser from losing James for next to nothing—it did get trade exceptions—to the Miami Heat back in 2010, pre-emptively took control of The King's future and traded him instead of Irving?
It's a ridiculous notion on the surface, but it does make sense for the Cavs to get some returns for this generation's greatest player instead of losing him out for the equivalent of bread crumbs when he leaves next season. Trading James not only gives Irving his own team, but it would also help the Cavs shed some crippling contracts and restock a barren cupboard that came about because of the win-now edict that the team was in since James returned in 2014.
Don't sleep on this actually happening, as dumb as it sounds now. In this vein, we've come up with a few trade scenarios that the Cavs could look into. Remember, though, that since LeBron has a no-trade clause in his contract, he has to sign off on any deal he's involved in. So let's work on the premise that he waives his no-trade clause for any of these teams.
Trade scenario #1: Portland Trail Blazers
LeBron James for CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, and two future first-round picks
The Blazers are an unlikely trade partner, but if they can swing for the fences and land LeBron in exchange for McCollum, Harkless, and a couple of first-rounders, it might do it in order to vault itself to full-fledged contender status. A team of James, Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, and a deep bench could give the Warriors something to think about. As for Cleveland, there's probably two off-guards in the league that has a game that matches well with Irving. One of them is McCollum, who firmly established himself as a big-time scorer last season. Plus, he's just 24 years old so that checks off the Cavs' list of getting a younger stud in return for LeBron. Oh, and Nike's headquarters is in Beaverton, Oregon, a stone's throw away from Portland. That has to count for something for LeBron, right?
Trade scenario #2: Washington Wizards
LeBron James and Richard Jefferson for Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre
This could be another good trade for both teams. The Wiz get LeBron to team up with John Wall and Otto Porter. They still retain some of their depth, even if at comes at the cost of letting Oubre go in a deal. The Cavs, on the other hand, get Beal, a potent shooter to play opposite Irving. Morris is a versatile big that can play multiple positions when called upon. He should make for an interesting three-headed big-man lineup with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. And Oubre is a young prospect that showed signs of progress last season. This trade is probably the best haul Cleveland can get for James, who in turn goes to a team that instantly becomes contenders by virtue of his addition and the fact that he gets to stay in the Eastern Conference.
Trade scenario #3: Houston Rockets
LeBron James and Richard Jefferson for Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela, and two future first-round picks
This trade would finally unite LeBron with best bud Chris Paul to form an insane Big Three with James Harden. Sure, they lose valuable role players in Gordon and Anderson, but a team with Paul, Harden, and James could prove to be very lethal provided that there are enough balls to go around for these three ball-dominant players.
Cleveland in turn gets quality depth on decent contracts to go with a rising prospect like Capela and two valuable first-rounders that can help the Cavs jumpstart its future. Imagine a lineup of Irving, Gordon, Anderson, Love, and Capela. It's not as potent as having James in there but it could still help the Cavs make a deep run in the playoffs given how weak the Eastern Conference is right now.
Trade scenario #4: Golden State Warriors
LeBron James for Klay Thompson and Draymond Green
For the record, this trade is never going to happen so don't dust off those pitchforks just yet. But this exercise is largely reliant on big imagination. And there's no more foundation-shattering trade out there than for the two teams who have met in the last three NBA Finals to orchestrate a blockbuster of a trade that sends LeBron to the Warriors to team up with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
In return, the Cavs get Thompson and Green in the equivalent of a playground trade for the ages. Again, it's never happening in the real world, but imagine what the ramifications would be if it did happen. Might as well just let the Cavs and Warriors play in a best of 100 series.