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ESPN’s Pelton: Suns ‘might be best option’ for potential Kyrie Irving trade

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Washington. The Cavaliers won 140-135 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In an NBA offseason that has been full of massive bombs dropping left and right, perhaps the biggest hit Friday when it was reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving requested a trade.

The 25-year-old All-Star is one of the 20 best players in the NBA no matter how you split it. He averaged 25.2 points, 5.8 assists a game last season while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three-point range.

His reported availability sent a shockwave across the league and made everyone shuffle as to which team made the most sense for a potential Irving deal.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton was one of those and in a well-articulated article detailing the reasons for and against trading Irving followed by possible trade options, Pelton ended on the Phoenix Suns as the possible best fit for a deal because of Eric Bledsoe.

The best option, then, might be a Phoenix Suns package centered around point guard Eric Bledsoe. While his effort tends to wax and wane during the regular season, Bledsoe is the kind of physical defender Irving is not, and he’s become a credible enough 3-point threat to play off the ball. (Bledsoe made a career-high 104 3s last season, albeit at a below-average 33.5 percent clip.)

As Pelton and Twitter noted Friday afternoon, Bledsoe has a relationship with LeBron James as well.

There are other reasons to believe a Bledsoe deal could work. He’s a client of Klutch Sports, the agency founded by James’ business partner Rich Paul. Phoenix also has ample cap space to take a contract like Channing Frye or Iman Shumpert off Cleveland’s books, reducing the Cavaliers’ tax bill. A deal of Irving and Shumpert for Bledsoe and T.J. Warren would save Cleveland nearly $60 million in payroll and taxes this season.

There is also Phoenix’s new vice president of basketball operations James Jones as a link, who played with Irving in Cleveland and spent the last three years of his career with the Cavaliers.

While Pelton does got over many positives, the end result in a thought exercise involving the Cavaliers is their inevitable Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors, and Pelton does not believe the trade — or any other feasible one — would help Cleveland there.

Unless the Cavaliers can get another star point guard who is unexpectedly available in a trade, an Irving deal might help them in the regular season but not in the playoffs.

The Suns, without a doubt, have the assets to pull the deal off. Recent first-round picks Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss also join the team’s own first-round picks in the future and two firsts owed from the Miami Heat as assets who could push a deal over the top.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweeted his idea behind the structure of a deal involving Irving.

The Suns are able to check all three of these boxes.

Bledsoe is the top-20 point guard, Jackson and T.J. Warren are both on their rookie contracts and they have plenty of good first-round picks.

The problem with acquiring Irving, however, is his well-noted defensive woes combined with Devin Booker’s well-noted defensive woes would not add up to a contender. The Suns’ perimeter defense would simply be too weak.

Irving is also 25, just two years younger than Bledsoe and does have his fair share of injury history as well.

Irving has three years remaining on his contract, making more than $18 million a year over the next three seasons.

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