Sunday February 5th marked the official start of Super Bowl week, with the Eagles being the first of the two Conference Champions arriving in Phoenix a week prior to kickoff. However, that was not the biggest news to come out of the sports world on this Sunday. It was not the sport of football at all that produced the biggest headline, despite the NFL's attempt to rework the pro bowl into a more appealing event for fans. Instead, in almost poetic fashion, Kyrie Irving once again stole the show. Irving, after requesting a trade on Friday, was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks for, what many feel is, a ho hum package of Dorian Finney Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 unprotected first round pick, and a few second rounders. This trade is the NBA equivalent of a young professional in her mid twenties declaring she can fix the down on his luck former college bro with a checkered dating history because of a few redeeming qualities that blind her to his past. That being said, this may have been the domino the league needed to fall in order to get this trade deadline out of neutral, so let's dig into the ripple effect it may cause.
First things first. The Mavericks. In an ode to the early 2000s Cavaliers, the Mavs have gone all in on Luka yet again, kind of. This trade, much like the Christian Wood one that proceeded it this off season, screams Antwan Jamison to the Cavs for Big Z and a first round pick in 2010. A flashy enough name to get the fan base buzzing and (hopefully) please your young future H.O.F talent, yet not an impactful enough piece to put you over the top. Sure, the peak of this could see Kyrie returning to his 2016 form playing next to a heliocentric creator who can score and distribute at will, allowing him to attack off secondary actions and defensive recoveries much like he did as LeBron's sidekick. But that may be a short cited view. That was seven years, 3 teams, a handful of surgeries, and off the court distractions ago for Kyrie. Even at his best, Irving is no longer that player and even if he can get close, the rest of the roster does not even compare to those Cavalier teams. Which ultimately should lead the Mavs to a first or second round exit at the hands of a deeper more seasoned team. Not dissimilar to the fate LeBron faced on his rookie extension.
Luka, much like LeBron, was too good too quick for the Mavericks to acquire the draft capital to build around him with complimentary pieces within his peer group. The Mavericks, aware of this situation, made their big attempt to get Luka a running mate with the Kristaps Porzingis trade of 2018. Unfortunately for the Mavs, Porzingis could not stay healthy and when he was on the court, could not coexist with the fast improving Doncic. Now the Mavericks, like the Cavaliers before them, must revert to the pile of damaged goods and just not good enough pieces that are available, like the aforementioned Jamison trade from 13 years ago. I ultimately see this relationship ending very similarly to that first LeBron stint in Cleveland, where Luka realizes the Mavs have blown all their assets on good but not great attempts at a running mate for him, leading him out of town in a pursuit of a ring.
The other, and much more interesting side of this trade, is the Brooklyn Nets. When Irving and Durant signed with the up and coming Nets, fresh off a playoff appearance, in 2019 it was viewed as a triumph. Despite losing the picks that were used to acquire Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in a short cited trade with the Celtics, the Nets were able to quickly rebuild and position themselves in a spot where they became the destination of choice for one of the best players of all time (Durant) and his hand picked running mate with championship pedigree (Irving). This team was going to be different than past "super teams", as the Nets had a collection of young role players and culture cemented by Kenny Atkinson that was going to elevate these stars to a title. Neither of these lasted even half a season with Durant and Irving healthy. Atkinson was fired and that young core, as well as draft picks, was sent to Houston in exchange for former Durant running mate James Harden. The Harden experiment did not last either as he was shipped out to Philadelphia for a package centered around embattled star Ben Simmons prior to the 2021 deadline. Just like that within 2 years the process the Nets seemingly sold these two stars on back in 2019 was damn near unrecognizable, but at least they still had their two stars.
Well, that least piece finally fell apart on Sunday with the Irving trade, now leaving Durant as the lone pillar left from the 2019 triumph. Leading many to ask is KD the next to move?
As much as I would like to see Durant go full MVP mode with a cast of solid role players in Brooklyn and drag them through the East, at the age of 34 with his injury history this is simply not a feasible option for neither him nor the Nets, and it makes sense for both parties to explore a trade. The question then becomes where do you trade him and for what? Most contenders cupboards are bare when it comes to the young talent necessary to acquire an asset like Durant and if you are the nets after all you have been through how attractive is a series of what promises to be first round picks outside the lottery. That leads me to one team that makes sense for both parties: The Cleveland Cavaliers.
By acquiring Donovan Mitchell this offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers had officially set a timeline for themselves. Mitchell has two more years on his contract following this season, as well as a player option, which just so happens to align directly with Evan Mobley's rookie deal. That essentially gave them 3 seasons where Mitchell would be locked up and Mobley would be cheap for them to push for their first post LeBron title.
The issue with the Cavs of late his been the black hole they have on the wing and lack of closer on offense leading to a losing record in games decided in crunch time.
What if I told you both those issues could be solved in the snap of a finger by one of the greatest, if not the greatest, one on one scorer of all time who could be very available this week. The only thing it will cost you is... Evan Mobley. Most cavs fans who read that line have already closed their laptops, citing the fact that Mobley is the future of the team and, at the ripe age of 20, could grow into one of the best players in the league. However, the key word in that statement is COULD. Durant is already that player right not and will continue to be for the next 2 years following this that coincide perfectly with Mitchell's contract. The Cavs could ship Mobely along with Kevin Love straight up to Brooklyn for Durant, without any draft picks, and get the deal done, as no one else in the market can dangle a trade chip nealry as attractive as Mobley, I do not care how many picks the Pelicans have. This trade would also still leave them pieces like Caris Levert and Okoro that could be used to acquire a player like Harrison Barnes that could complete their playoff crunch time lineup. Sure you risk Mobley growing into a KG like player that dominates the league, but the Cavs have been here before with the Andrew Wiggins trade and that one ended with some jewelry. You never know if young players will develop on your timeline, and that is exactly what the Cavs are on right now, a three season timeline that could very easily produce a ring in this wide open league if they go for the throat and get this deal done. Garland Mitchell Barnes Durant and Allen can win you a ring this year and maybe even another in the next two after this, when an opportunity like this comes along you have to take it.
There you have it, in a meme worthy domino effect, this Kyrie Irving trade could result in Kevin Durant hoisting another Finals MVP trophy in (the since renamed) Quicken Loans arena, this time as a member of the home team. Imagine someone telling you that in 2018.