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The Kyrie Irving trade rumors involving the Suns won’t go away

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving (2) steals the basketball from Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) as Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) and Suns' Alex Len (21) of Ukraine, watch during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

LISTEN: Empire of the Suns

Eight days have passed since John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station reported the Suns would not include rookie Josh Jackson in a trade for Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. Similar news was reported out of Cleveland this week by Joe Vardon of cleveland.com.

So if Cavaliers’ ideal trade package of Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson and a first-round pick for Irving is off the table, one would think the Kyrie-to-Phoenix rumors would cease.

They haven’t.

If our poll is correct, the majority of Phoenix fans are worried an Irving trade could still happen. To protest such a thing, one fan even traded Irving on NBA 2K17 only to have him jack threes in a Suns uniform.

There’s logic to worrying Phoenix might still trade for Irving, disrupting the ground-up rebuild. There’s also logic to their fears about his fit.

But let’s explain why this is still a thing, and why Suns fans should maybe settle in.

Keeping on #TheTimeline and acquiring Irving — even for two years only — aren’t mutually exclusive.

WHY IT’S STILL A THING

There’s a reason that Phoenix remains one of the most likely destinations for Irving to land — even if Vegas won’t put the Suns on the list.

Bledsoe’s fit in Cleveland is the obvious connection keeping the Suns attached to such trade talks.

There’s no other point guard on the market even close to Bledsoe’s talent who could replace Irving and satisfy James in the final year of his contract, before he eyes free agency next summer. Furthermore, no other team with such a point guard also has the Suns’ collection of draft picks that could help prepare the Cavs for a post-LeBron world.

But teams like Phoenix are no longer gouging into their rosters to acquire stars.

Cleveland.com columnist Terry Pluto reports Irving has no desire to commit to a contract extension with any new team he’s traded to.

From the Suns’ perspective, that’s fine. It makes the cost lower and it means the Cavs could become desperate.

Pluto’s story from Wednesday might indicate just how deeply rooted Suns GM Ryan McDonough’s front office is in not dealing the farm for Irving. This is apparently where trade negotiations might have begun.

6. The Suns would love to put together a package with Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren and Bledsoe for Irving and some others such as Iman Shumpert or Channing Frye to make it work on the salary cap. That has little appeal to the Cavs. Knight has a torn ACL knee injury and will miss the entire season. So forget him.

7. I still think Phoenix is a likely destination for Irving. The Suns can be tempted at some point to give up Jackson, an athletic small forward who would help the Cavs. He was the No. 4 pick in the draft. But right now, it appears the two teams are just waiting to see if anything else comes up, such as a third-party deal.

Phoenix changing its mind regarding Jackson doesn’t appear likely.

But the longer this goes, the more pressure will be on Cleveland to get a trade done.

THE CASE FOR TRADING FOR IRVING AND STAYING ON #THETIMELINE

If Irving is only around for two years, there’s no reason for Phoenix to dump an insane amount of assets to get him.

That doesn’t mean the Suns shouldn’t keep an eye on their options.

Irving is an upgrade over Bledsoe, an intriguing piece next to Devin Booker in the backcourt. And even if he doesn’t move the needle enough to put Phoenix in the playoff mix these next two years, there are business and basketball reasons for the Suns to keep Cleveland a phone call away through this process.

So beyond including Bledsoe and picks, what else would entice Cleveland beyond Jackson if they get desperate?

The debate lies in how many assets should be included, and how each young player or pick is valued.

T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss could be keys to a trade. However, their inability to contribute immediately or significantly enough this coming year might scare the Cavaliers.

As for picks, the Suns would likely benefit more by keeping their first-rounder (and perhaps Miami’s to move up) and select their favorite player in the 2018 class, which could feature five cornerstone players: Michael Porter Jr, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba and potentially Marvin Bagley III. Bagley is trying to reclassify and attend college a year early.

ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh and Bobby Marks previously proposed two Suns-Cavs trades involving Irving. Both protect the Suns’ draft picks to various degrees.

Marks suggests a direct deal where Phoenix gives up Bledsoe, Jared Dudley, Warren, the Suns’ 2021 pick from Miami (unprotected) and first-round swap rights for the Suns’ 2018 pick with a top-six protection.

Haberstroh throws out a three-way trade including the Knicks. Phoenix would only trade Bledsoe and Dudley, receiving Irving and two role players from New York — Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez — while Cleveland would acquire Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks would receive Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert in the deal.

Arguably, neither of those trades would deviate Phoenix too much from its timeline of contention beyond the length of Irving’s or Bledsoe’s current deals.

The most hopeful thing to note in all this: look at the four superstar trades of late, where the price for each has been underwhelming.

The Suns can still hope that trend would continue for a Cavs team desperate to move Irving.

If not, sticking to the plan isn’t a bad option.

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