Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (July 29) -- The trade machine on possible destinations for Kyrie Irving

Plus, middle class free agents may feel squeeze in summer of 2018 and other news from around the NBA

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Kyrie trade scenarios? Surely you’ve seen or heard them all by now, meaning, possible landing psots for Kyrie Irving, the disgruntled Cavs point guard. According to reports, at least 20 teams have called the Cavs about Irving, and the public stance by the Cavs is Irving is not available. But of course, anyone’s available at the right price. Therefore: What price can you put on an All-Star with sick handles and a history of winning games in the clutch? A panel at ESPN.com came up with some scenarios and a few sound pretty reasonable:

What Kyrie Irving trades would make the Cleveland Cavaliers better, and where should the star point guard land?

With Irving making a reported trade request earlier this month, our NBA Insiders present five deals that work, featuring seven teams and six All-Stars.

Destination: Phoenix Suns

Suns get: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson

Cavaliers get: Eric Bledsoe, TJ Warren, Jared Dudley, Miami’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick and first-round swap rights with Phoenix in 2018 (protected for picks Nos. 1-6; converts to second-rounders in 2018 and 2019 if not conveyed)

Bobby Marks: Cleveland is built to win now but also has to consider a possible rebuild in 2018 if LeBron James leaves. This deal should accomplish the Cavs’ goals (and get Irving out of the East): Bledsoe is a starting point guard in his mid-20s, Warren’s contract is controllable because he’ll hit restricted free agency next summer, Dudley brings a veteran presence, and the Cavs could use the extra draft picks.

Unlike in 2010 when James left for Miami, Cleveland would be well-positioned for the 2018-19 season. A core of Bledsoe, Warren, Dudley, Kevin Love, Thompson and JR Smith would be good enough to compete for a playoff spot. This also would drop the Cavs’ luxury-tax commitment from $78.4 million to $59.6 million.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough would need to figure out whether Irving is willing to commit long term before using significant assets to acquire the point guard. To find that answer, Phoenix has to have a conversation with Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler. The Cavs also could give the Suns permission to meet with Irving. Although Irving is under contract, the Suns would use the meeting similar to a free-agent visit to sell the All-Star on the benefits of playing in Phoenix. For two years the Suns would need to treat Irving as a free agent under contract and use the next 24 months to recruit him in-house.

Pairing Irving with rising star Devin Booker would give the Suns a formidable duo. Shumpert would replace Dudley, and Jefferson would return home. In 2019, when Irving and Booker are free agents, Phoenix could have $30 million in cap space to land an impact free agent and also bring back its backcourt.

Destination: Phoenix Suns (with help from the Knicks)

Suns get: Kyrie Irving, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez

Knicks get: Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert

Cavaliers get: Carmelo Anthony, Eric Bledsoe and Jared Dudley

Tom Haberstroh: Let’s kill two birds with one stone, shall we? LeBron gets his man Carmelo Anthony while also arming himself with a pair of two-way players in Bledsoe and Dudley. Bledsoe can defend both guard positions, and Dudley unlocks some much-needed versatility on the other end.

Above all else, the Cavs need a defensive upgrade, and this deal would achieve that for a team that ranked 29th in defensive efficiency after the All-Star break. Even more, Anthony’s presence could entice James to re-sign with his pal in Cleveland rather than bolt for greener pastures.

The Knicks would do this deal to get a fresh start in the post-Melo world while not having to give up Kristaps Porzingis. Phoenix gets a star to replace Bledsoe and a promising young stud in Hernangomez. Devin Booker and Irving would rival Portland, Golden State and Washington as the top scoring backcourt in the league. While I like a straight-up deal of Irving for Bledsoe and Dudley, this trade would also bring a welcome conclusion to the Melo-drama in New York.

Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves (in December)

Minnesota gets: Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith

Cleveland Cavaliers get: Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins

Note: Teague can be traded on Dec. 15.

Kevin Pelton: Of the teams on Irving’s list of preferred destinations, as reported by ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the Timberwolves have the best shot at offering the Cavaliers reasonable return for Smith.

Destination: Detroit Pistons

Clippers get: Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and a future Pistons first-round pick

Pistons get: Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson

Cavaliers get: DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Jackson

Jeremias Engelmann: Any trade the Cavaliers do would have to include a point guard going to Cleveland. While Jackson is quite a downgrade from Irving, the Cavaliers would get a significant upgrade at center by replacing Thompson with Jordan. Jordan is one of the best centers in the game and would give the Cavaliers a much-needed rim protector.

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Next summer looks tight for free agents: Let’s be very clear about this. If you’re a superstar in this league, you will get paid, no matter what the marketplace says. However, the NBA middle class will surely feel a squeeze next summer when and if the salary cap, as expected, takes another dip. When the player’s union refused to accept a “smoothing” of the cap two years ago, the money was amazing — Luol Deng is making $17 million a season as a result — but it wasn’t designed to last. Sure enough, the money this summer was tight and next summer the pinch could be for real. Here’s Tim MacMahon and Bobby Marks of ESPN.com on what lies ahead financially:

The Grizzlies, like many franchises and their players, are feeling the effects of a steep market correction following the frenzy of spending last summer.

“If you’re a team, you’re sitting there saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to negotiate off of someone else’s mistake,'” a general manager from a team not linked to any of those players told ESPN. “That was the problem. Players were going to try to hold teams and agents to these comparisons. We’re coming out of a bubble.

“You had faulty logic all across the league. The league and the players association, though this would be a rainbow that was never going to end. You had a lot of parties that were guilty of a gold-rush mentality. It’s always going to come to an end.”

Almost $5 billion flew into the hands of NBA free agents last summer. That was the result of the players’ association’s rejection of a smoothing proposal that would have gradually implemented the massive revenue increases from the league’s rich television deal into the salary cap, which instead soared from $70 million to $94 million.

More than a decade’s worth of normal inflation occurred instantly.

Twenty-seven teams entered that July under the cap. (Two teams without cap space spent big to keep their own stars, with the Cleveland Cavaliers maxing out LeBron James and the Toronto Raptors re-signing DeMar DeRozan to a nine-digit deal. The LA Clippers, the third over-the-cap team, were backed into a corner and had to overspend on bench players Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson, pushing the franchise into the repeater tax.)

This summer, only 14 teams entered free agency with cap space, and about $3 billion has been spent on free agents in this cycle, a figure that already includes $169 million extensions for James Harden and John Wall and eight rookie extensions signed before the Halloween deadline. Only 22 players have been signed with cap space, down from 60 last year.

The early projections for 2018-19: nine teams with cap space, and potentially 10 teams paying luxury tax.

“The real story is the nuclear winter for free agents coming next year,” one team executive with authority to make personnel decisions told ESPN. “Teams planned the last two summers for the cap to be much higher. The fact that it went way down from the projections crushed teams.”

Nuclear winter,” or summer, is probably a bit apocalyptic. Nevertheless, the consensus among several team executives was that the market correction would continue into next offseason. In particular, they projected the market to be tighter for the NBA’s middle class in a star-studded free-agency crop.

“Free agents will get squeezed,” a general manager said.

“What I see all the time is players not understanding why, ‘This player got this, but I get that?’ They want it to make sense and it just doesn’t make sense. I think you’ll see a lot of agents get fired.

“The top guys will always feed first and then the year of the cap spike, there was a lot left for everybody else to feed. Next year, the top players will still get theirs, and then there will be not much left.”

Some agents, projecting plenty of frustrated clients in the near future, are second-guessing the union for creating this situation by not working with the NBA on cap smoothing.

“It forced teams to spend all their money and gave free agents false hope of what’s to come,” one agent said.

“If you weren’t a free agent last summer, those deals aren’t ever going to come again. … They f—ed everybody. They f—ed the teams and f—ed the players.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Brandon Jennings says he’s headed to China on a one-year deal to play overseas. Jennings started his pro basketball career abroad and might just end it there, too … Kevin Durant wishes Kyrie Irving happiness, except, we assume, whenever he plays the Warriors … Here’s a good story on Nick Van Exel, the combatant player-turned coach who now knows how tough the job is … Niko Mirotic is still available on the shrinking free agent market; at what point will such players find contracts? Clock is still ticking … At least Mo Buckets found a landing spot and not too far from his hometown of St. Petersburg … The Heat are denying that they’re offering a package including Justise Winslow for Irving … The Hornets are ready to unveil their new uniforms next week and here’s hoping the stick with the teal … The final approval for the Pistons’ move from the suburbs to city is expected to be easily approved in a few days.

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