The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly going to consider a new direction for the first time during LeBron James’ last three seasons with the team.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers are approaching trade scenarios for Kyrie Irving with the idea that James will not be on the team.
Wojnarowski reports that in light of Irving’s trade request and the uncertainty surrounding James’ future, the team is looking for a young star in return and pieces to help with a rebuild.
This would be a different approach than the Cavs have had the last three years, since James’ return in 2014, when they have acquired win-now veterans to surround James. This was seen, for example, when they traded 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, or in smaller moves, like trading a draft pick for Kyle Korver.
Now, however, according to Wojnarowski, the Cavs are not simply going to acquire veterans to surround James at the expense of preparing for the future. The Cavs would reportedly still prefer to sign James to a long-term contract and continue to pursue championships, but James’ silence on a long-term commitment has them leaning the other way.
According to Wojnarowski, the Cavs have targeted a few young stars like Kristaps Porzingis, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets, and Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns. The Celtics are reportedly an intriguing trade partner to the Cavs, and they can blend win-now players with future assets, but Boston is unlikely to jump out with a big offer.
According to Wojnarowski, the trade market the Cavs were hoping for for Irving has yet to emerge.
With or without Irving, James believes the Cavs failed to make up ground on the Golden State Warriors this summer. An earlier report from USA Today said James is “frustrated” with the Cavs offseason, and this came before Irving’s trade request.
If the Cavs have their way, they may trade Irving for a serviceable player, a young star, and a future draft pick. That will help them remain competitive this season, while also re-tooling if James leaves in the summer of 2018.
As Wojnarowski notes, it would mark a new place for the LeBron James Cavs – good enough to compete, but likely not all that close to championship contention.