The Cleveland Cavaliers made the wrong Kyrie Irving trade
In the midst of the 2017-18 season, NBA Champion Kyrie Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland, breaking up the pairing of himself and LeBron.
At the time, Irving felt it was time to step into a leadership role, no longer wanting to play second fiddle to James. Surely, for a player who was undeniably pivotal in the Cavs’ 2016 run, wanting to lead a team is a reasonable desire. Looking back, it was clearly an immature and unnecessary choice. Irving has yet to reach the level of success he found with James and has joined a number of different teams.
In return for Kyrie, the Cavaliers received All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 first round pick that turned into Collin Sexton.
For the era of the trade, this was an exciting package. Cleveland got an All-Star, multiple good role players, and a first round pick. The problem was that Isaiah Thomas was injured and never returned back to his former self.
The Cavaliers returned to the NBA Finals in 2018 but lost in four games to the Golden State Warriors. That summer, LeBron James left for Los Angeles (in a much less dramatic fashion than 2010).
Irving was almost sent to Phoenix, though, instead of Boston. In a three-team deal, the Cavaliers were reportedly close to completing a three-team trade (subscription required) to acquire Paul George and Eric Bledsoe in exchange for Irving.
Paul George at the time was one of Cleveland’s greatest adversaries, earning a reputation as one of the Association’s best two-way forwards, defending the greatest scorers while scoring endlessly himself.
Once again, it is impossible to know what would have been accomplished with George in the Wine and Gold, but the idea of a James, George, and Kevin Love big three is painful to have never witnessed in reality.
Finally, the Cavaliers traded for a superstar but might have rather kept somebody out of the deal.