Just when you thought the NBA news cycle was dying down after free agency, Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news that sent shock waves through the NBA.
It was then reported by Chris Haynes of ESPN that Irving gave the Cavaliers a list of teams he preferred to be traded to.
Now Irving doesn't have a no-trade clause, so the Cavaliers can trade him to whatever team they want. This list doesn't include the Phoenix Suns, though the Suns might be one of the teams with the assets that most intrigue the Cavaliers. Add in that Eric Bledsoe and Lebron James are friends and both represented by the same agency, Klutch Sports. It's easy to see why there is potential for a deal to come together. Does this mean the Suns should acquire Irving? Let's take a look into what a potential Kyrie Irving trade to Phoenix would entail.
The moves so far this NBA offseason has further shifted the power imbalance of conferences. The Western Conference has evolved into a gauntlet with the numerous stars moving from East to West this offseason. Golden State looks to be presumably reigning over the Western Conference (and entire league) for at least the next 3 years or so.
The Suns meanwhile, find themselves currently in the bottom feeder tier with the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference. The Suns as currently constructed aren't going to be making the playoffs in the next few years which is not necessarily a bad thing. They are playing for the future with their core made up of four lottery picks all still under 21 years old. This young intriguing core includes Devin Booker (20), Dragan Bender (19), Marquese Chriss (20), and Josh Jackson (20). In addition, they have all their own draft picks through 2024.
Any two team trade between the Suns and Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving would have to be centered around Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe since becoming a starter in Phoenix has been a solid player. Bledsoe but has had a history of knee injuries that have caused him to miss 107 games in his four years with the Suns.
At age 27, he does not fit in with the timeline of their core players. Phoenix should be looking to move him for future assets either this summer or around this year's trade deadline. The Suns would have to presumably add one of their young lottery picks (Chriss, Bender, or most likely Jackson) in the deal. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 reports that Phoenix doesn't want to include Josh Jackson in any trade deals.
If that is the case then it would seem unlikely a trade gets done. If the Suns changed their stance on including Jackson, then a potential trade could be Kyrie Irving for Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson, and a pick. Another possibility could be Irving and Channing Frye for Bledsoe, Jackson, Jared Dudley, and maybe a pick. The potential is there for a third team to be added if teams are serious about getting a deal done.
I don't think these deals would be worth it for Phoenix to acquire Kyrie Irving. Irving is a tremendous scorer who can score efficiently all over the court and especially in iso scenarios. He is a ball stopping high volume shooter which isn't ideal given how important ball movement is in today's NBA. Right now he's a very one-dimensional player. He is a very poor defender and seems more interested at times in shooting than trying to make his teammates better. Irving and Booker would be one of the best scoring backcourts in the league but would hemorrhage points at the defensive end.
With Irving, they would sell more tickets and become a bigger attraction but owner Rober Sarver just gave GM Ryan McDonough a contract extension through the 2019-2020 season. This would signal that they intend to be patient and give all their young players a chance to develop to see what they could become rather than cashing in those assets for a win now move.
Furthermore, trading for two years of Irving would only potentially add 2-5 wins a year to a Suns team that still wouldn't sniff the playoff race. Those added wins would likely get them a worse lottery pick and odds are that Irving wouldn't resign with the Suns if they aren't even in the playoff picture.
For at least the next 2 years the Suns' plan should be to continue to give all the young players minutes to gain experience which would help their development and give the Suns more opportunity to see which young players pan out. They will continue to struggle to win games but can potentially get a few more top 10 picks to add more young talent to the team. Odds are that at least one of Chriss, Bender, and Jackson don't pan out, so having more opportunities to get high upside prospects is always good.
It is always difficult to be patient with young teams like Phoenix but rushing to spend those assets to win now would be a mistake. Rebuilding teams can take a while and it's not always enjoyable basketball but potentially cashing in young assets for win-now players only to slightly improve the team is not worth it. It could set back the team rebuild even further.
Ultimately, it may seem hard for a team who is lacking star players to turn down the opportunity to acquire one. Especially a star in Irving who is only 25 years old and still under contract for two more years. He just isn't a great fit with Phoenix's timeline and wouldn't be a smart use of their resources.