The Cleveland Cavaliers traded four-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to their chief rival in the Eastern Conference, and we’re learning now that they reportedly also offered him to the Golden State Warriors, so it appears new Cavs general manager Koby Altman really did exhaust all his options.
Altman called the Warriors about swapping Irving for All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson, according to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. We don’t know the particulars of the deal discussed, and they don’t much matter now. What’s important here is that the Cavaliers even called the Warriors.
It is due diligence, yes, but two conference finalists swapping All-Stars was strange enough. Just imagine if the teams who met in the last three NBA Finals traded secondary stars for each other.
It tells you a lot about how much both the Cavaliers and Warriors respect Thompson. Irving was by far Cleveland’s second-best player, and Thompson falls at least third behind former MVPs Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s depth chart — and possibly fourth, depending on how you feel about Draymond Green. Think about that for a second. On some level, the Cavs felt the Warriors’ third- or fourth-best player represent equal value for their second-best player — and Golden State said no.
If the Warriors aren’t already striking fear in NBA hearts, that should drive a stake through them.
From Golden State’s perspective, it makes sense to turn down that offer. They just gave their own perennial All-Star point guard a $201 million contract, and Thompson — already one of the most prolific shooters in NBA history — fits seamlessly into an offense that must also make room for Durant. He’s also a versatile, 6-foot-7 All-Defensive-caliber on the other end, something Irving is certainly not.
Thompson, while two years older than Irving, will make almost $5 million less through 2019, when both players can become free agents. And the Warriors would have to be concerned about how a player who reportedly wanted out from behind LeBron James’ shadow for a chance to shine elsewhere would fit onto a team that’s been a lesson in chemistry for the rest of the league the last few years.
Thompson was asked about the brevity of that phone call between the Cavaliers and Warriors:
Klay Thompson on recent rumors: "It shows the Warriors believe in me and other teams want me to be a part of their success." pic.twitter.com/B6leAYfW5a
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) August 23, 2017
The Warriors somewhat famously turned down a Minnesota Timberwolves offer of Kevin Love for Thompson back in 2014, when the Wolves ultimate dealt Love to the Cavaliers for the draft rights to Andrew Wiggins. What a difference a few years make, since the Cavs reportedly upped that offer to Irving for Thompson this summer, and still got denied. Such is the value of a two-way wing who has averaged 22 points on nearly 60 percent true shooting during Golden State’s last three Finals runs.
That the Cavs called Golden State also shows how eager they were to find the right deal for Irving, who “let it be known that he would rather not report to training camp than begin another season with Cleveland,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. All of which makes you wonder why the Celtics were willing to give up so much — an All-Star in Isaiah Thomas, a starting 3-and-D wing in Jae Crowder, a promising young 7-footer in Ante Zizic and an unprotected pick from the lottery-bound Brooklyn Nets.
Other reported offers around the league included: Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender and a top-seven protected first-round pick from the Phoenix Suns; Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic from the Miami Heat, although the Heat emphatically denied that deal was ever on the table; and a lackluster package centered around LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and/or Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs.
The New York Knicks reportedly rejected an Irving for Kristaps Porzingis swap. The Minnesota Timberwolves made clear Andrew Wiggins was “not available to anybody in a trade,” which led former Cavs GM David Griffin to “scratch off one potential trade destination.” There are conflicting reports about whether the Milwaukee Bucks offered Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and a first-round pick. And the Los Angeles Clippers backed off when it became clear they didn’t have the assets.
So, why Thomas, Crowder and an unprotected pick? Excluding Thomas would have been a non-starter, and Crowder made sense both from a salary-matching and minutes allocation standpoint. Zizic was a throw-in to make the deal go through, but the lack of protection on the Nets pick is what’s surprising. Isn’t Thomas, Crowder, Zizic and a top-three protected pick still better than any other reported offer?
Maybe the Cavs had a deal waiting in the wings. Maybe they wouldn’t have dealt Irving to a conference rival without that unprotected pick. All we know is Altman exhausted all his options, and it paid off.
– – – – – – –