With LeBron James getting older, the Cavaliers’ contention window closing, and a complete lack of certainty as to what the roster will look like in the next several seasons, Koby Altman and the rest of the front office appear focused on youth and draft selections as much as anything when it comes to trade talks surrounding point guard Kyrie Irving. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski lays out several trade scenarios for the Cavaliers, but one variable is much, much different compared to any trade discussions in the past: With LeBron James not committing to the team beyond 2017-18, the Cavs will not allow a repeat of 2010 where the roster is littered with overpaid, aging veterans who were meant to be role players. They want young, cost-controlled players who will allow the team to be competitive well beyond this coming season.
Among the names listed as potential players of desire for Altman and Co.: New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Denver’s Jamal Murray.
The process of building out the franchise’s roster long term has accelerated with Irving’s trade request. The Cavaliers have witnessed James’ exit strategy twice — once to leave Cleveland and once to return — and the Irving trade request has left them unwilling to squander the opportunity to replenish young assets on a roster that could be crippled in a post-James Cavaliers era that is stocked with high-priced veterans.
The Cavaliers find themselves far more fixated on a young star, including New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Denver’s Jamal Murray, league sources told ESPN.
The Golden State Warriors have affected the way the NBA and its stars do business, and no one — not even a franchise that possesses the generation’s greatest player — wants to be left compromised long term for what’s a fleeting chance to beat Golden State in the short term.
Cleveland is determined to get an elite young player for Irving, which means this: The trade plan that the Cavaliers would have prioritized, with James committed for the long term — veterans to surround James and draft picks — isn’t in motion.
Porzingas would be a huge win for the Cavaliers front office, a potential top-15 player at a premium position who also happens to be one of the league’s most marketable players, but acquiring him would depend on a combination of the Knicks finally budging, and Dan Gilbert being willing to pay the taxes necessary in also obtaining the ridiculous contract of center and notorious Cleveland-hater Joakim Noah. Tatum appears obtainable, but it will have to become clear that other teams are in the mix before Boston is willing to part with any of their younger pieces. Jackson and Murray have, to this point, been reportedly unavailable, but the fluid nature of anything in the NBA could quickly change this if either the Suns or Nuggets felt they would be able to keep Irving beyond his current contract.
Wojnarowski also lists a host of players who have been rumored to be on the move (San Antonio’s Danny Green, Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge), but none are enticing enough in the way of youth and cost for the Cavaliers to budge. The difference between this set of discussions and most others are rooted in the experience and readiness of those on the other end. Typically, the team has acquired veterans who are on second or third contracts, but those who have typically provided LeBron James with players who can step into high-leverage situations and help the team compete for a title. Had James committed beyond this coming season, things may have been a bit different, but Altman realizes his entire legacy as general manager of the Cavaliers will hinge upon whatever he gets in return for Irving. Conversely, if the Cavaliers are hoping to sign James to a long-term contract after this season, having a core of players who will help the team compete beyond 2018 —as opposed to the cavalcade of aging veterans who plagued the roster back in 2010 — may be the best way to do so.