When and if Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert hires a GM, that GM may be forced to trade Kyrie Irving to a different NBA team per Gilbert’s request.
Few know how bad the grudge between Gilbert and LeBron James is right now, but everything you’ve been hearing lately is that the relationship is not getting any better, and LeBron has never been more interested in heading to Los Angeles. So, we’re about to find out just how vengeful a person Gilbert can be. If he is convinced LeBron is leaving next summer, he may opt to gut the team and force LeBron to play with second rate talent this coming season – essentially holding No. 23 hostage through one ugly year.
The latest regarding the Cavs’ GM search is that Gilbert is ready to promote assistant GM Koby Altman. Altman is the definition of green, so one would think Gilbert would be the one pulling the strings this upcoming season. There’s no way that Gilbert will allow LeBron, with the looming threat that he’ll bolt in the summer of 2018, to walk all over Altman like he did with David Griffin. If there is going to be a puppet-master in this whole thing, it will be Gilbert.
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If LeBron does leave, Irving would no doubt be the next out the door. He can become a free agent in 2019, and the Cavs surely would want to get future draft picks and young players in return for a player of his caliber. Irving has expressed interest in leaving Cleveland on numerous occasions, most recently in June. That was around the same time that Gilbert reportedly tried to trade Irving in a three-way deal that would have netted them Paul George and Eric Bledsoe.
If Gilbert is intent on running the LeBron train back one more time in the 2017-18 season in hopes of toppling the Golden State Warriors, he’s running out of options. George is in Oklahoma City and it looks as though Carmelo Anthony is headed to the Rockets.
A Spurs trade involving LaMarcus Aldridge heading to Cleveland in exchange for Irving (he would be a perfect fit in San Antonio), makes a little bit of sense, but it remains highly unlikely.
The Heat are another longshot. We highlighted this week that Pat Riley may be kicking around the idea of bringing LeBron back to South Beach (what a kick in the nuts that would be for Cavs fans). What better way for Riley to lure LeBron to South Florida than to land Irving in a trade?
The Heat would have to part with young assets like Justise Winslow to make a trade work on Cleveland’s end, but you’ve gotta believe Riley would jump at that opportunity.
What this all will boil down to is how Gilbert sees the future of his franchise going in the next few years. For all his faults, Gilbert is no dummy – and he knows that Cleveland without LeBron is not an appealing destination, even if they keep Irving and Kevin Love. A complete blowup in Cleveland may be coming sooner rather than later.