As the Cleveland Cavaliers shop disgruntled guard Kyrie Irving, they're doing so under the impression that LeBron James is entering his final season with the franchise, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
In an article posted on Tuesday, Wojnarowski outlined the predicament that Cleveland has found itself in ever since Irving reportedly requested a trade in early-July. Per Wojnarowski, the Cavs haven't yet given up on re-signing James, who can opt out of the final year of his three-year contract next summer, but are proceeding in trade talks centered around Irving as if he's not the only star they'll be losing in the next year.
According to Wojnarowski:
The Cavs aren't giving up on the possibility of re-signing James next summer, but they are no longer investing blind faith in the hope he will stay. For James, a reluctance to commit comes with an emerging set of complications. Beyond Irving's decision to ask for a trade, Cleveland has determined that it's unwilling to simply be reactive to James' possible departure.Of course, Cavaliers officials prefer to re-sign James to a long-term deal and chase titles together into his twilight, but the Cavs are treating his unwillingness to commit as a call to protect themselves long term in the Irving trade, league sources said.
That means Cleveland will likely focus its efforts on acquiring "an elite young player" in exchange for Irving, with Wojnarowski listing New York's Kristaps Porzingis, Boston's Jayson Tatum, Phoenix's Josh Jackson and Denver's Jamal Murray as targets, per league sources. According to the report, the Knicks would only be willing to trade Porzingis for Irving if it meant the Cavs taking on center Joakim Noah, who still has three years and $55 million left on his contract.
If Cleveland felt more confident in its ability to re-sign James, it would theoretically open it up to the idea of trading Irving for a more veteran-centered package in hopes of maximizing its championship window. For now, however, the uncertainty surrounding the Cavs -- both in the short and long-term -- has the franchise eyeing a potential youth movement.