As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst pointed out, the Cavaliers are planning to offer Irving a max contract extension this summer. If he doesn’t sign it, he would hit restricted free agency in the summer of 2015 with the strong possibility of being traded before the Oct. 31 deadline for third-year players to extend their contracts.
The NBA has become a league of stars. Elite players join forces with other elite players to bolster their chances of winning championships. Players also have more power now than ever, where teams are forced to trade them if they can’t re-sign them before free agency.
Irving, the top pick in the 2011 draft, has developed into an elite point guard. He was the All-Star Game MVP just 11 days ago in New Orleans, outshining James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant for the award.
Before the season even started, a few teams were able to solidify their future by locking up young stars to long term extensions. In September, the Indiana Pacers extended Paul George who is an MVP candidate in his fourth season. The Sacramento Kings extended DeMarcus Cousins, the top scorer among all centers and also top five in the league in rebounding. Lastly, the Washington Wizards gave John Wall a max contract to lead them back into the playoffs while they’re currently the fifth seed in the conference.
Comparing Irving’s situation, one has to look at the staying power beyond the money that each team had. George is the best player on the top team in the conference and has one of the all-time greats in Larry Bird working in the front office. Shaquille O’Neal is serving as part owner of the Kings franchise and mentor to Cousins. Wall has an entire city behind him and a developing sidekick in Bradley Beal. What’s the appeal for Irving in Cleveland – Dan Gilbert, the owner, and Anthony Bennett, last year’s no. 1 overall pick?
There’s still a lot of time for Irving to mull his options. Should he opt to not sign the extension, he would become one of the first young stars to turn down that type of money in order to seek a better opportunity to win. Like ESPN’s Amin Elhassan highlighted in his insider article, “you can’t put a price on happiness”.
New York state of mind?
If he doesn’t sign an extension, Irving will hit restricted free agency in 2015. The Knicks will have close to $50 million coming off their books and rumors are out there that Irving longs to play in New York. Say the Knicks re-sign Anthony this summer, he could recruit his fellow All-Star teammate to join him in New York.
Irving in purple and gold?
Another potential option would be the Lakers where Irving could play with Kobe Bryant one last season before his retirement. Again, it would be in restricted free agency where the Cavaliers could match any offer the Lakers throw at Irving. Former Laker Mychal Thompson talked about the possibility of Irving joining the Lakers on ESPN LA radio earlier this month. It’s also worth noting that a few years ago, Irving challenged Bryant to a game of one on one in July, 2012. Three years later, he could try to help Bryant capture that sixth title.