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Why the Miami Heat Need to Go All in for Kyrie Irving
- Updated: August 2, 2017
It’s not common to see NBA stars floating in the trade market. Yet, the 2017 offseason thus far has seen perennial All-Stars, such as Jimmy Butler and Paul George, dealt for fairly uneven returns. While the Miami Heat weren’t heavily engaged for the players above, they now have a chance to redeem themselves and make a franchise-altering move for the latest star to enter the market: Kyrie Irving.
Although different reports have conflicted each other regarding the Heat’s pitching interest, there’s no doubt president Pat Riley is engrossed with the idea of trading for the disgruntled star. Riley, more than anybody, understands the need to have a superstar to compete for a championship. When the legendary coach explained how to build a team to take down the Golden State Warriors just a couple weeks ago, his main takeaway was that building through the draft takes too long and that a championship-contending team needs to utilize trades and free agency.
Prior to the Heat competing in the mid-2000s, Riley traded for an unhappy star in Shaquille O’Neal which resulted in a championship soon after. In 2010, the president famously signed future Hall of Famers LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which led to two more championships and four Finals trips.
Again, Riley has the chance to now land a proven star.
Irving, 25, is heading into the prime of his profession. Last season, the 6-foot-3 point guard averaged a career-high 25.2 points along with 5.8 assists. He shot better from the field (47 percent) and three-point land (40 percent) than Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas and Damian Lillard. The young guard is easily one of the league’s best scorers as a dynamic three-point shooter and remarkable finisher around the rim.
The six-year veteran has been overshadowed by teammate James for a while; however, that should only entice the Heat more. While many say Irving would be less impactful without James, the evidence is simply not there to back it up. In his first three years in the league, the 2012 Rookie of the Year’s primary help came from a cast, which included a 35-year-old Antawn Jamison, Tristan Thompson and a just-drafted Dion Waiters. With players moving in and out of Cleveland and two different coaches in that three-year span, Irving still led the team in scoring, made the All-Star team twice and increased the team’s win total each year.
Even alongside the four-time MVP, Irving has shined immensely. Between the 2016 and 2017 NBA Finals, the guard averaged a stellar 28.3 points a game, more than two-time MVP Stephen Curry has put up in any of his three Finals appearances and Dwyane Wade in his four Finals trips with James. Irving hasn’t just been a sidekick to James, but he’s played a star role, tallying 40-plus points in the Finals multiple times, picking up the slack when the King rested and hitting that illustrious game winner in the 2016 Finals.
This is the proven champion Miami can add to their team.
In today’s star-driven league, you need superstars to win a championship. The Heat currently don’t even have a current All-Star. Adding a four-time All-Star like Irving can take the team to a whole different level. Not only will Irving’s game get better, possibly moving towards that coveted MVP level, but the Heat will benefit from the addition as well. Players like Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Thomas saw their games go from All-Star levels to MVP levels as the undisputed alpha of a team. Irving could be next in line.
Sure, the guard wouldn’t be setting up other guys in a traditional point guard sense, but with an essential scoring role, the Heat could make it work around him. With other prime core pieces like Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson in place, the team’s window to win is now. Acquiring Irving and acclimating him quickly would allow the Heat to get to the top of the East this season. If James struggles with the changes in Cleveland or bolts for the West next summer, the Heat would undoubtedly be the team to beat in the East.
Ripe stars just don’t come around every day. Since the Big 3 dissolved, the Heat have had trouble adding big-time players after failed free-agent pitches to both Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward. Not only is Irving available, but he’s reportedly made it clear the Heat is a team he wants to go to. On top of that, the Heat may have the best trade package available amongst that of their competitors.
The other teams the unhappy guard prefers to go to — Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs — can’t offer him the same treatment as the one he can get in Miami. Irving wants to be the guy, something Minnesota has committed to Karl-Anthony Towns and San Antonio to Kawhi Leonard. While Irving could be the best player now in New York, despite the Knicks’ allegiance to up-and-coming forward Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have the worst stability among the four preferred teams.
The Heat are known for their culture and championship pedigree. With the same brass that has run the first-class organization for years, headed by Riley and Erik Spoelstra, the Heat are an appealing choice for Irving’s stability needs. Furthermore, the Heat can promise the star the keys to run the offense as they cater a system around him in the weak East.
Even if the Heat were to part ways with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, the upside to Irving may be worth it. Dragic and Irving can both become free agents after the 2019-20 season, but Irving still won’t be 30 while Dragic will be approaching 35. Winslow, on the other hand, has failed to prove his worth in Miami. At most, the 21-year-old can be an elite defender, as he hasn’t yet shown the skills to own an offensive role. It’s a gamble the Heat would have to take, but Irving’s prime is now and there’s mutual interest in an extended partnership.
Unlike George, who’s reportedly made it clear he wants to go to the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent, Irving has no gold spot in mind other than the teams he’s reportedly interested in. Because the Heat are one of them, they automatically have an advantage.
Everyone in the Heat organization seems ecstatic about bringing last year’s group back together to see what they can truly do in one healthy season. However, Riley did say the players they have could be assets to trade if something comes along, much like in 2004 with the O’Neal trade. It appears something valuable has come along in Irving and the Heat may want to push to make it happen.
With the sensational guard available and very interested in Miami, the Heat should make a blockbuster trade for the blossoming superstar. The East’s competitiveness is at an all-time low, making this the key time to bolster the roster and go all in for a championship. After missing the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, it’s time for Riley and the Heat to bring the championship atmosphere back to Miami and obtaining Irving may be the biggest answer to that equation.