With a Kyrie Irving trade demand and LeBron James’ future with the team in the balance, the Cleveland Cavaliers are at a crossroads despite coming off three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and one championship.
But if the super team is on the verge of breaking up—or at the very least losing their point guard in Irving—a reported trade offer from the Phoenix Suns could soften the blow of the four-time All-Star’s departure.
According to ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, the Suns are willing to depart with point guard Eric Bledsoe, young big man Dragan Bender, and a 2018 first-round pick to land Irving, who has three years left on his deal, the last of which is a player option.
“The Phoenix Suns are the team to watch on Kyrie Irving. Now, they won’t offer Josh Jackson plus that Miami 2018 first and Eric Bledsoe. I’m told they’ll do Bledsoe. They’ll do the pick. Plus, Dragan Bender.”
That’s an interesting haul.
Bledsoe isn’t better than Irving, but he might be a better fit with the rest of the Cavs roster. Irving is a pure scorer, but offers little else, particularly on the defensive end, a fact that’s compounded by Kevin Love’s presence as a similarly weak points preventer.
In Bledsoe, who averaged more than 20 points per game in each of the last two seasons, the Cavs would have an approximation of Irving’s offensive production while adding a tenacious defender, ensuring the squad’s most potent lineups don’t include two defensive sieves—a position that killed them in last year’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
If this trade were to come to fruition, what the Cavs choose to do with Bender and the draft pick is another issue entirely.
Bender was the fourth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He struggled in his rookie year before suffering a season-ending injury, but that’s to be expected when the youngest player in the league plays with such an inexperienced squad. Still 19 and flashing the ability to shoot, dribble, and pass in his fluid seven-foot frame, he’s still one of the most intriguing projects in the NBA.
But the team might be too concerned with winning in 2017-18 to develop Bender and give him all-important floor time, so the Cavs could use him and the Heat’s 2018 first-rounder as trade bait to improve their roster for the upcoming season, or to see Phoenix and Cleveland try to rope a third team into the above deal.
Then again, if the Cavs are fairly confident LeBron truly is leaving via free agency next summer, this haul in a Kyrie Irving trade could jumpstart what last year would have seemed unthinkable: a rebuild in Cleveland.