The Summer of LeBron officially arrives next July but LeBron James’ pending free agency has already had a huge impact on this offseason.
The Pacers and Bulls are rebooting, having traded their best players to Oklahoma City and Minnesota respectively and conceding the Eastern Conference to the Cleveland Cavaliers two months before training camp begins.
The Boston Celtics improved with the addition of Gordon Hayward while Washington and Toronto are playoff teams but not much of a threat to Cleveland.
LeBron and the Cavs still rule the East, with or without Kyrie Irving. Sure, the uncertainty of LeBron’s future hangs over a club that is hopelessly trying to close the talent gap on the Golden State Warriors. Still, the right approach is to go for it and worry about the future at a later date.
When you have LeBron, a once-in-a-lifetime player, you are always in a win-now mode.
For months, the NBA’s worst kept secret has LeBron relocating to Los Angeles with the Lakers and bringing Paul George with him.
That move may help LeBron’s movie career and lifestyle but it doesn’t help him beat the Warriors. Why go West in your early 30’s when the easier path to the NBA Finals begins in the East?
LeBron knows this as well as anyone so let’s not rule out LeBron re-signing next July for one more season and leaving his options open for 2019. That’s what the Cavs and their fans are praying for.
Which leads us to Irving, who informed Cavs management a few weeks ago that he wants to be traded.
Cleveland can simply ignore Irving’s request, hope for a reconciliation and win the East for as long as LeBron stays healthy and under contract.
The other option — trading Irving — can also be beneficial. The Cavs would be willing to trade Irving for a veteran starter, a young player and a first-round pick. That sounds reasonable enough.
ESPN reported that at least six teams have made offers, including the Knicks. The Miami Heat vehemently denied making an offer while the Knicks, who want their fans to know they are pursuing Irving, made no such denial.
A deal with the Knicks is complicated by the fact that the Knicks don’t want to trade Kristaps Porzingis and that Carmelo Anthony, who has a no-trade clause, wants to go to Houston.
Willy Hernangomez has attracted interest around the league but he’s still an unproven backup. First round pick Frank Ntilikina is also unproven and if you throw in a future pick a Knicks trade doesn’t help the Cavs in the short term.
A third team would have to be recruited but good luck getting a team that wants to help LeBron this season and get Irving to the Knicks.
The Cavs are still dealing from a position of strength since Irving is under contract for two more years. If the Cavs wait until after Dec. 15 to trade Irving – that’s when most free agents signed this summer are eligible to be traded – they can find a better deal.
At some point the Cavs will likely have to trade Irving because if and when LeBron leaves the Cavs won’t get anything in return for him. They can get something for Kyrie. The question is when?
And right now the Cavs would be wise to be patient.
Mark Hughes, the Knicks director of player personnel, recently interviewed with the Clippers regarding their vacant assistant GM position. He’s also interviewed with the Bucks. Hughes, originally hired by Isiah Thomas, remains one Knicks executive who continues to draw interest around the league yet Steve Mills passed him over to hire Scott Perry as the Knicks assistant GM. … OKC is confident it can re-sign Paul George yet a person close to the veteran forward describe the odds as “not very good. He wants to be in L.A. The Thunder are taking a huge chance.” … Timing is everything in free agency. Last year, Mike Conley Jr. signed a contract extension worth $150 million. Last week Derrick Rose, who has accomplished far more than Conley, signed a one year deal with the Cavs worth $2.1 million. Phil Jackson, who was fired days before free agency began, was intent on re-signing Rose. Mills, however, was ready to move on.