Entering this offseason the biggest question for the Wizards was whether they would re-sign Otto Porter to what was almost certainly going to be a max contract, which it ultimately was, or let him go and risk acquiring someone else.
The latter option, letting him walk in free agency and taking the longview or the unlikely scenario of a sign-and-trade, may have been enticing to some who wanted the Wizards to strike now for a third star, one even John Wall has publicly admitted they may someday need to win a championship.
Taking risks can be fun for fans and are sometimes completely necessary for a sports front office, but by just standing pat the Wizards appear to be in good shape moving forward into 2017-18.
They kept a steady course while turmoil and change affected just about every team around them in the Eastern Conference.
The conference has already been shaken up significantly and Kyrie Irving hasn't even been traded yet.
Irving right now represents a major catalyst in the East. If he goes and where he goes could indirectly determine the outlook of the Wizards and many other teams.
Reports out of Cleveland have Irving almost certainly to be dealt after Irving told the organization he wanted out from LeBron James' shadow. Despite making it to three straight NBA Finals and reaping the reputational benefits of those playoff runs, Irving would like a fresh start in a city where he can be the No. 1 guy. Though one could argue he is better off both on and off the court by playing with James than without him, his mind seems to be made up.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, all of this is coming after free agency has played out and after many NBA stars were already dealt. Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Paul George, the most available stars entering this summer, have all found new homes. All three would have made at least some sense in a potential deal with Irving, though the Cavs did reportedly turn down an Irving-George deal.
The question is which stars are available, knowing the Cavs are in win-now mode and Irving is a very attractive trade piece. Not only is he a 25-year-old NBA All-Star who scores 25.2 points per game and shoots 40.1 percent from three, but he's making $39 million over the next two seasons. His $18.8 million salary for 2017-18 isn't even in the top 40 among NBA players. Even if he opts out of the third and final year of his deal, which he likely will given the money, that's a solid contract for a player of his caliber.
As for whom the Cavs could net for Irving, there are a few obvious names that come to mind: Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Both are good enough to be worthy of such a trade, have been involved in rumors and New York is in transition mode as a franchise. There are also probably a few wild card candidates people could speculate about like DeMarcus Cousins or LaMarcus Aldridge, guys who may not fit into the long-term picture in the places they are currently at.
No one truly represents a perfect option, which leaves Cleveland in an interesting spot. They remain the best team in the East given how they plowed through the playoffs, but trading Irving represents a major risk, one that could put James' run of seven straight NBA Finals in jeopardy. And if they keep Irving, who's to say they can get over the drama and discord that appears to be quite serious at this point?
There is also the longterm uncertainty with James they need to consider. Do they trade Irving for a veteran like Anthony to win now or shore up their future with a younger player just in case James leaves next summer in free agency? Title chances like they have this coming season are fleeting, but they don't want to go from James and Irving to rebuilding in a short period of time.
The Celtics made some major additions this summer with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, but lost defensive star Avery Bradley in their trade to net Marcus Morris. Like the Wizards, the Raptors and Bucks mostly stood pat, hoping to gradually improve year-over-year. Those four teams represent the second tier in the East behind the Cavs, but whatever Cleveland decides could have a major domino effect on their chances for next season.
James' run of dominating the East with consecutive NBA Finals appearances will come to an end eventually. The Irving situation represents a real threat to that continuing.
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