Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has been the subject of speculation throughout the 2013-14 season. Whether he plans to stay in Cleveland long term or bolt for another destination in the future is up for debate, but Uncle Drew shot down the idea of getting traded rather emphatically.
“I’m on my rookie deal," Irving said in a video interview via USA Today. "The team that can extend me is the Cleveland Cavaliers, and, you know, for me to even think about getting traded is blasphemy. It’s ridiculous.”
Although the All-Star floor general referred to being traded as "blasphemy," the 22-year-old has been tied to rumors that he wants out of Cleveland.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford wrote the following of the Cavs' situation in January:
Chemistry is a major issue there and some of that is on Mike Brown. But more of it is on the collection of players in Cleveland at the moment. Something has to happen quick. Kyrie Irving has been telling people privately he wants out. Cleveland can't afford to lose him and LeBron. They know the urgency. I expect them to be major players at the deadline.
The Cavaliers elected not to trade Irving at the midseason mark, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He's still under contract through the 2014-15 season, which gives Cleveland the opportunity to sign him to a long-term extension in the meantime.
If Irving refuses, he could become a restricted free agent next summer. However, that would allow Cleveland to match any offer he receives, which wouldn't be ideal for the former Duke standout if he intends to play elsewhere.
Refusing to sign an extension this summer and into next season allows Irving to enter restricted free agency in 2015. The problem there is, the Cavs are able to match any offer he receives, effectively forcing him to demand a trade, since Cleveland won't likely let him walk for nothing.
More drastic measures could be taken, though.
Accepting the Cavs' $9.2 million qualifying offer for 2015-16, and subsequently playing out that season, allows him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016. At that point, he'll have his pick of the litter, able to sign with whomever he pleases, including Cleveland.
Truth be told, pundits and fans won't know of Irving's intentions until the 2015 offseason—unless he signs a long-term extension before that point. If he accepts that qualifying offer for 2015-16, the Cavs may have no choice but to swap the youngster for value in return.
At 30-45, the Cavaliers are 2.5 games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That losing narrative has dictated more of the same, as Cleveland is 75-148 since Irving entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2011-12.
So, is the thought of Irving being trading blasphemous? Perhaps, but the answer to that question will become increasingly clear moving forward.
If Irving refuses to sign a long-term deal with the team that drafted him, he'll force the organization's hand. It will have no choice but to trade him.