Although a move which would send Kyrie Irving to the Utah Jazz more than likely isn’t in the works, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst did recently confirm that the Jazz have expressed interest in him over the past few years.
Just when it seemed like the NBA offseason was slowing down as we neared the long and tedious months of August and September, a surprising report surfaced that made things interesting once again – according to several sources, Kyrie Irving has requested to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Apparently the former number one overall draft pick is fed up with playing second fiddle to LeBron James and wants the chance to become a team’s cornerstone.
Of course, the news sent multiple teams, fans and media outlets into a frenzy as several speculated what the future could hold for the coveted point guard. It was reported that Irving’s four preferred destinations included the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves – four very different and unique teams to be sure.
However, obviously at the end of the day, should the Cavs decide to appease Irving and trade him off the team, they’ll likely look to do so in exchange for whatever lands them the most profitable haul in return, regardless of whether that package comes from one of those four teams or elsewhere.
Not to mention, Irving has two guaranteed years left on his contract with a player option in year three, so Cleveland could also opt to hold on to him, at the very least until December 15th when free agent signings from this offseason can be traded or around the 2018 trade deadline.
In other words, the future of Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, including that of LeBron James, is far from certain right now. Just days ago, Irving himself stated that the Cavs organization was in “a peculiar place” and the declaration of his desires to no longer play there certainly adds to that description.
In terms of how this relates to Utah Jazz fans, my J-Notes colleague Ryan Aston perfectly summed up the situation in a recent piece, stating that while acquiring Irving at this point is little more than a pipe dream, there were rumors that such a discussion took place at one point and Utah could still be involved as a player in some sort of transaction, albeit as a third team to help facilitate a deal.
The Kyrie Irving-Jazz connection originally came about from Sporting News’ Mitch Lawrence who brought up Irving ending up in Utah as part of a sign-and-trade for George Hill and as part of a three-team deal that would have sent Paul George to Cleveland.
However, the report was quickly debunked as several pointed out that the salaries in the trades wouldn’t line up and although the Deseret News’ Jody Genessy mentioned that there may have been some merit to such a conversation taking place, a deal was never forthcoming.
Interestingly enough, in wake of the recent Kyrie Irving news, a recent article by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst with contributions from Chris Haynes and Zach Lowe shed a great deal of light on the whole situation, including a few tidbits involving the Utah Jazz.
First of all, Windhorst indicated that a three-team trade that would have sent Kevin Love to Denver, Paul George to Cleveland and a haul that included Gary Harris and the number 13 pick to Indiana was all but a done deal, but at the last second, Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard got cold feet and sent out a text putting the kibash on the deal.
From there, as Jazz fans all know, that same number 13 pick from Denver ended up being traded to the Jazz for Trey Lyles and the number 24 overall pick, and was used to acquire rookie Donovan Mithchell who has already become an instant Utah Jazz fan favorite. In other words, if Mitchell ends up turning into the star player Jazz fans hope he will be, they’ll have Kevin Pritchard and the Indiana Pacers to thank.
Windhorst also mentioned that at one point during this offseason, the Utah Jazz were indeed in conversations with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the defending Eastern Conference Champions looked for a way to add George to their ranks and needed a third team to make it happen. However, clearly that never came to fruition as Paul George instead ended up with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It could be assumed, though, that the piece that the Jazz were hoping to come away with in such a hypothetical trade was indeed Kyrie Irving as, interestingly enough, Windhorst stated that “the Jazz had expressed interest in Irving for the past few years.” However, it should be noted that he was quick to add after that statement that discussions of a trade to send Irving to Utah never actually became serious.
This comes as little surprise given that Utah’s trade assets didn’t ever really seem to line up with being grandiose enough to land a guy like Irving, but it’s still intriguing to learn that the situation was at least discussed, and even more so that Irving is apparently a guy the Jazz have had on their radar for quite some time and have expressed interest in for a few years.
Irving is without a doubt an offensive wizard who averaged a career high 25.2 points and nearly six assists last season that would help the defensive-minded Jazz add some much-needed scoring punch. With Irving’s recent announcement expressing his desire to be traded, it is possible that Utah’s long-time interest could be piqued once again and discussions could come back up.
However, with that being said, as my colleague Ryan Aston pointed out in the aforementioned piece, that is still little more than a pipe dream. The Jazz would likely have to include recently acquired Ricky Rubio in a trade as well as other valuable young pieces and although they may be “interested” in Irving and like his fit with the team, unless they felt comfortable that he would stay in Utah beyond the two years on his contract, it likely wouldn’t make sense to go for broke to get him. Not to mention, they still may not have enough to get Cleveland to pull the trigger anyway.
Nevertheless, Windhorst’s confirmation of Utah’s interest in Irving is certainly something to keep an eye on. It’s incredible to think that two of the league’s biggest names – Carmelo Anthony and now Kyrie Irving – are both very much in the middle of trade discussions and if Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz can find a way to get involved in a way to better the team, you can bet they won’t hesitate to do so.
As crazy as this offseason has been already, the NBA landscape could still shift dramatically based on what happens with a few big names. And although Utah’s mere interest in Irving doesn’t mean a whole lot in and of itself, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of the situation that might affect Utah’s roster heading into 2017-18.