After an unsteady and ultimately disappointing 2013-14 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to add a measure of stability to their future by maxing out Kyrie Irving at their earliest opportunity.
My sources tell me that the Cavs have had no doubts about offering Irving the 5-year deal, and will do so. Once July 1 arrives -- the first date that an extension can be offered -- the Cavs will set up a meeting with Irving. They will present their All-Star guard with a contract extension, a 5-year deal in the $90 million range (or whatever is the maximum number).
Well, I guess we're all done here.
Except we aren't.
See, forking over maximum coin to Irving puts a stopper in one short-term problem—the current uncertainty surrounding the Cavaliers' best and most cornerstone-like player—but it also creates a whole new set of issues.
Maxing out Irving very much puts the franchise in his hands—to the extent it wasn't already there—and that's a scary proposition.
Yes, Irving is an exceptionally talented offensive player whose handle and shot give him the ability to score and create few can match. But Cleveland still can't be sure about his makeup, leadership skills or commitment to defense, which are things you'd probably like your most important (and richest) franchise pillar to provide.
Look, nobody's saying Irving won't ever mature into what the Cavs need him to be. But the point is, we aren't sure he will.
And that's a little worrying.
Cleveland is entering a critical phase in its development. Young players like Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson need a leader. Disappointing rookie Anthony Bennett needs to see an example worth following. And the incoming top overall pick's growth might be stunted if Irving's locker room (and it will be his locker room—more than ever—if he agrees to the extension) has the same kind of fractured feel as it did last year.
The Cavaliers hope the early commitment (July 1 is the first time they can offer Irving his extension) adds stability and promotes a clarity of vision like the Washington Wizards got when they extended John Wall last summer. That's the ideal goal, but it might also be nice to get a happier Irving whose numbers don't continue the downward trend they started last year.
At any rate, Irving has been positive about sticking around, which isn't surprising since everybody in his position wants (and takes) the max when it's offered.
After the final game of the 2013-14 regular season, he said of a potential max offer, per Bob Finnan of The News-Herald:
It's a big deal for me if they do offer me that. It will be exciting. I'll make the best decision for me and my family. That's what it will boil down to. I've been part of this, and I want to continue to be part of this," he said. "We've made some strides in the right direction, especially as an organization. I want to be part of something special.
You'd have to assume the Cavaliers have a better handle on Irving's potential as a player and leader than anyone on the outside, but the decision to pay him like a superstar is still a tough one.
The only thing scarier than uncertainty heading into a big decision is uncertainty after making it.
The Cavs are about to trade one for the other.
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