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Kyrie Irving on the Spurs Makes Sense and Also Does Not Make Sense

Debating whether or not the want-away Cavs star would be a fit in San Antonio

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Kyrie Irving (reportedly) wants to be traded from the Cavs. One of the teams he (supposedly) would like to go to is the San Antonio Spurs. This is a Good Cop–Bad Cop argument for why he’d make sense on the Spurs/not make sense on the Spurs. Good Cop is arguing in favor of the move. Bad Cop is arguing against.

Bad Cop: Kyrie Irving on the Spurs makes no sense. It doesn’t make sense for the Spurs, who aren’t in a spot to accommodate Kyrie’s needs and wants, and it doesn’t make sense for the Cavs, who would do better by either (a) holding on to him, given that he has at least two years left on his contract and he can’t very well force a trade, or (b) searching for a better deal from a different team than what the Spurs can offer.

Good Cop: That’s incorrect. Everything fits together just fine for a Kyrie-Spurs union.

Bad Cop: Why? How? Explain it. Tell me one thing.

Good Cop: Well, because for one: Kyrie wants to go to the Spurs. Even with all of the success the Spurs have experienced these past two decades, a big-name player choosing them hasn’t been a thing that has happened a bunch. San Antonio has just never been a destination franchise. Kyrie Irving is one of the five best point guards in the league right now, and he chose the Spu —

Bad Cop: Wait, wait, wait. You have Kyrie as one of the five best point guards in the league right now?

Good Cop: Yes.

Bad Cop: I don’t know if I agree with that.

Good Cop: It’s Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and probably Chris Paul at five.

John Wall (Getty Images)
John Wall (Getty Images)

Bad Cop: What about John Wall? Damian?

Good Cop: Give me Kyrie over both of those guys.

Bad Cop: You’re nuts. And also are we really calling James Harden a point guard now?

Good Cop: Um, yes, I believe we’re going to call the player who led the league in assists last season a point guard. But you’re getting away from the point here. The point is: Kyrie chose the Spurs. So that’s at least one reason why it makes sense for him to go there. He wants to be there. He wants for it to work. That’s why it’d work.

Bad Cop: Do you think Kyrie knows that he doesn’t have a clause in his contract that allows him to veto any trades he’s involved in that he doesn’t like? I think it’s very cute that he told the Cavs he wanted to be traded and then also told them the teams he would like to go to. It’s like when my kids tell me they’re hungry and then they start telling me the different types of ice cream they’d like to eat for dinner.

Good Cop: Dumb.

Bad Cop: Kyrie wants to the centerpiece of a team, right? And he wants that so badly that he’s willing to walk away from not only the most talented player of this generation, but also the most talented player of this generation who is wildly unselfish. That doesn’t seem like a bad sign to you?

Good Cop: No. Imagine what it’s like to be in a spot where no matter what you do, no matter how great or charming or excellent you are, it’s never enough because there’s another person on your team who is always going to be a more magnetic and more pulverizing force than you. That has to be tough. And if that’s the reason Kyrie’s leaving — which, by all accounts, sounds like the reason he wants to — then let’s go ahead and drop him onto the Spurs with Kawhi Leonard, who is one of the four best basketball players in the world but also has an anti-personality. There’s no other team that can offer that. There’s no other team that can say, "Playing with our guy is about as close to playing with LeBron James as you can get without playing with LeBron James, except our guy has zero interest in any of the ancillary parts of being a basketball superstar that you’re hoping to grab a bigger hold of. Those can all belong to you."

David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich (Getty Images)
David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich (Getty Images)

Bad Cop: OK. That makes a lot of sense. Except there’s one big problem with your whole scenario: When in the entire history of the Spurs have they had a franchise player who that felt that way? David Robinson wasn’t that way. Tim Duncan wasn’t that way. Kawhi isn’t that way. It’s antithetical to what we’ve been sold on as the prerequisite philosophical guidelines for being a critical part of the Spurs organization. It’s part of the reason why the LaMarcus Aldridge thing hasn’t worked out as hoped.

Good Cop: I would argue that the Spurs would be fine and fully capable of navigating that kind of situation for a player with not only the pedigree of a Kyrie Irving, but also the upside of a Kyrie Irving. Here’s what we know about him right now: (1) He is absolutely deadly. (2) He appears to be entirely unafraid in the playoffs (which was really LaMarcus’s main basketball-playing problem). And (3) He’s still just a pup. He’s only 25 years old.

The Spurs got LaMarcus when he was turning 30. He’d already been in the league for nine years by then, so he’d already formed all of his big ideas and core beliefs. With Kyrie, you’ve got a player who knows what it feels like to win a championship, and also a player who can help you legitimately chase one for at least the next five years, and possibly the next decade if his legs hold up. Kawhi’s only 26. Just picture six, seven, eight years of them terrorizing everyone together. Plus, if anyone can talk Kyrie into believing he’s the best player and most important player on a team that has a player who’s better and more important than him, it’s Gregg Popovich.

Bad Cop: Then how’s this for another bad sign: Kyrie was on the Cavs for three seasons before LeBron got there. And during those three seasons, the Cavs won more than 30 games only once. That brings to mind two things: (1) Maybe Kyrie isn’t good enough to be the best guy on a team? (2) Kyrie knows what it’s like to be on a stinker. And three of the other teams he’s reportedly interested in are, at the moment, stinkers (Heat, Timberwolves, Knicks). That means he’s willing to walk back into that scenario. So maybe winning actually isn’t as important to him as he claims it is?

Good Cop: Kyrie was a tiny baby rookie back then. Of course that was going to happen. And I’d say him wanting to go the Timberwolves, who are going to be very good soon, speaks very well to his wanting to be a leader and not a loser.

Bad Cop: What about the Knicks? How about you explain why he’d want to go there?

Good Cop: How about if you shut up?

Bad Cop: Here’s another bad sign I’d be interested in hearing you talk down: Kyrie wants to be the focal point of a team’s offense and also the focal point of its future plans, too. But did you know that last season Kyrie not only averaged a career-high in points (25.2 per game), but also that it was the first time ever that a team with LeBron James on it had someone who wasn’t LeBron James lead in shot attempts per game?

Good Cop: Well, there’s a difference between being the guy who gets a bunch of shots versus being the guy who shoots the most important shots.

Bad Cop: LEBRON LITERALLY LET KYRIE GO ISO IN THE FINAL MINUTE OF A TIED GAME 7 IN THE NBA FINALS. WHAT ELSE DOES HE HAVE TO DO FOR KYRIE?

Good Cop: That’s fair. BUUUUUUUUUT, having said all that, the Cavs still entertained the idea of trading Irving when it looked like they might have a shot at getting Paul George or Jimmy Butler. That hurt Kyrie’s feelings. Do you know what team has never considered trading one of its stars? The Spurs.

Bad Cop: Didn’t they try to trade LaMarcus just a couple weeks ago?

Good Cop: …

Bad Cop: Separate of all of that, can the Spurs even make a deal for Kyrie?

Good Cop: Yes. It’s easy, too. There are a bunch of different packages they can put together. Probably the easiest one, though — and I’m just tossing this one out there because technically all of the numbers match up proper and you just brought him up — is the Spurs and Cavs can go one-for-one with a Kyrie for LaMarcus trade. Both guys are former All-Stars. Both guys feel like they’re being used incorrectly. Both guys can be kind of temperamental. It all lines up. The Spurs get to fill in the hole they have at the point guard position with a thunderbolt scorer and the Cavs get a 6-foot-11 banana peel who could stand near Kevin Love sometimes. Who says no?

Bad Cop: The Cavs. The Cavs say no. How about a three-team trade where the Cavs get Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, and a first-round pick in 2021 from the Clippers, and they also get Carmelo from the Knicks, who would of course waive his no-trade clause to go play with LeBron. The Clippers would get Kyrie and Iman Shumpert, which is good for the Clippers since they just lost Chris. And the Knicks would get boned big time (Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson), which makes sense since they’re the Knicks. That sounds way better for the Cavs than just getting LaMarcus. The Cavs would much rather do that, for sure.

Good Cop: What about a trade where the Spurs send LaMarcus and a first-round pick to the Suns, Eric Bledsoe and Danny Green and Dejounte Murray go to the Cavs, and Kyrie goes to San Antonio? I think that trade works. LaMarcus would do very well in the desert, given that he pretty much turned into a giant cactus against the Warriors in the playoffs, anyway. Does that trade work?

Bad Cop: I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. The Cavs say no to that one, too. Outside of including Kawhi somehow, there’s no trade the Spurs can put together to get the Cavs to green-light the deal. Kyrie on the Spurs makes no sense. And getting Kyrie to the Spurs makes even less. There’s no chance he’s there next season.

Good Cop: There’s a 100 percent chance he’s there next season.