How Valuable Is Kyrie Irving to the Cleveland Cavaliers?
At first it seems like a simple question.
Exactly how valuable is Kyrie Irving to the Cleveland Cavaliers?
We know that Irving is the franchise centerpiece, and all possible future success begins and ends with the 20-year-old point guard.
We also know the value of a franchise player, and the impact he can make on a team and a region in general, especially Northeast Ohio.
Let's compare Kyrie and Cleveland to other significant player-city relationships around the league.
Is Irving more important to Cleveland than Derrick Rose is to Chicago?
What about Kevin Durant to Oklahoma City? Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles?
How many teams could afford to lose their star player and not be set back as far as the Cavs would be if they lost Irving?
The answer, to me, is no one.
Think about it: Irving is the future of basketball, and maybe sports altogether, in Cleveland, a city without a pro sports championship since 1964.
If the Lakers traded Kobe Bryant tomorrow, he'd still go down as one of the greatest ever and leave with a five-championship legacy. Los Angeles would recover because they're a huge, attractive market that has a long history of superstars.
If the Thunder lost Kevin Durant in free agency, they would still have a proven superstar in Russell Westbrook to fall back on.
If Derrick Rose was lost for an entire season with an ACL injury, the Bulls would still probably be around a .585 winning percentage and fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Just a guess.
If the Cavaliers lost Irving, however, it would represent a monumental loss for the franchise, and likely set them back at least another five to10 years.
Why you ask?
Clevelanders already know his value, but it case you're from out of town and only caught the one game the Cavs have played on ESPN this year, here's a quick reminder:
Irving is averaging 23.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists in under 36 minutes per game this season. His PER of 22.37 is already fourth among all point guards and good for 14th among all NBA players.
At 20 years of age, Irving has been named an All-Star, Rising Stars Classic game MVP, Three-Point Shootout Winner, and 2011-2012 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Another statistic that stands out is his usage percentage. This stat is an estimate of team plays used by a player while he is on the floor.
Irving's percentage comes in at an even 30, according to basketball-reference.com. This puts him at fifth in the entire NBA, above such players as Kevin Durant, James Harden, Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce.
To think that he's still eight years away from when most NBA players hit their prime is slightly terrifying.
If I'm general manager Chris Grant, there is not one player in the NBA who I would trade Irving for straight up.
Some, like Durant, Westbrook, Rose and Chris Paul would be tempting, but ultimately not worth it.
Irving coming to Cleveland happened out of luck, but I believe ultimately happened for a reason.
Remember, it was the first round pick acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Baron Davis trade that landed Irving to the Cavs, not their own that fell to fourth overall.
That pick had a 2.8 percent chance of landing first overall.
In the last 20 years, only one time has a lower percentage pick turned out to go first overall.
While some people may go crying about a league conspiracy, we in Cleveland prefer to call such an act of kindness from the basketball gods as "karma."
With such a valuable player on the Cavs, it's now up to them to ensure Kyrie will want to stay. He currently sits in year two of a four-year rookie contract. If the Cavs extend a qualifying offer to him for a fifth year, they have the right to match any deal he receives due to him being a restricted free agent.
Quite simply, it should never even come down to this.
The Cavs need to take the path of the Chicago Bulls and wrap up their star point guard immediately.
Upon finishing his rookie contract, Irving may be eligible for a Rose-esque pact. Rose signed a five-year, $94.8 million extension in December 2011 before even finishing up his rookie deal.
In this deal was born the "Derrick Rose Rule" for the new collective bargaining agreement. This states that a player coming off his rookie contract can sign a deal for 30 percent of a team's salary cap, or roughly $20 million a season. This is if the player has won an MVP award, been named an All-Star starter twice or been twice voted to the All-NBA team.
Kyrie could very well pull off one or even two of these requirements in the next two and a half seasons. If he doesn't, the Cavs can still offer a contract at 25 percent of the team's cap.
While this may seem like a lot of money to devote to just one player, consider the financial aspect a star player has on a team's value.
According to Forbes, here is where the Cavaliers stand in value over the past four years:
When the Cavs were winning and had their last superstar, they were fifth in the entire NBA in franchise value. When said superstar left, the value plummeted two straight seasons all the way down to 18th.
This past year, however, and the Cavs made a nice jump in overall franchise value, and in overall NBA standings.
Dan Gilbert recognizes Irving's importance to the team's success, but also to his wallet.
The key to keeping Kyrie, besides money, is putting a talented team around him.
If he doesn't feel like he can win championships here, we know what's likely to happen next.
The Cavs are off to a great start with the likes of Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and others. The next year will be critical in securing and developing even more talent to make Irving want to continue to call Cleveland home.
So exactly how valuable is Irving to the Cavaliers?
Cleveland fans already know.
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