If Kyrie Irving joins the San Antonio Spurs, he would help lift them over the Golden State Warriors.
On Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the San Antonio Spurs as a potential destination for Kyrie Irving. He’s rumored to want off the Cleveland Cavaliers, with a desire to be a leading man on another NBA team. It comes after three seasons playing with LeBron James, who joined the team in 2014. They won the 2016 NBA championship together.
If the Spurs are a serious suitor, then it makes for an interesting scenario. Teams geared up this offseason to stockpile talents, in order to top the Golden State Warriors who ruled the Western Conference since 2015.
The Houston Rockets arguably made the biggest splash of the offseason, and a way of challenging the Warriors. They acquired Chris Paul in a multi-player deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, which will team him with MVP runner-up James Harden.
The Minnesota Timberwolves already had young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in place. However, they added Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Chicago Bulls, which gives them a solid “Big 3.” It’s a “Big 4” if the Jeff Teague acquisition is included, too.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, one year after losing Kevin Durant, acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. He’ll team with Russell Westbrook to try and top the Warriors.
However, If Irving goes to San Antonio, there’s a chance he’s the reason for any team that tops Golden State. The competition will be there, but he’s good enough to lift the Black and Silver over the others and even topple the reigning NBA champions. Let’s get into why, though.
Next: What's already in place
3. What’s already there
Even without Kyrie Irving on the San Antonio Spurs, the team already has a solid set of players. It starts with one of the best players in the NBA, and includes a handful of veterans.
Kawhi Leonard is the top player on the Spurs. He’s developed into the leading man for the past two seasons, as Tim Duncan retired and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aged (and suffered injuries). It led to an MVP-caliber season for Leonard in the 2016-17 season, along with heading the charge for a 61-21 season. This was second-best to the Golden State Warriors.
LaMarcus Aldridge is already there, too. Despite his poor Western Conference Finals performance, he remains one of the top powers forwards in the league. His size and skills around the basket can outdo the Warriors’ big men, if he steps up next season.
Veterans remain as well, like Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili. The former could start at center, while the latter is a leadership presence and has the championship pedigree from four NBA titles.
Young pieces are in place, including Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. However, they’re players that could leave in a potential Irving trade.
What’s already available to the Spurs would help them top the Warriors, along with the addition of Irving. They would have depth to match the opposition, leading to an exciting series in the NBA playoffs.
Next: Home-court in the playoffs
2. Potential home-court advantage in the playoffs
For the past three years, the San Antonio Spurs have been behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings. The past two were in second place, while 2015 was sixth place.
So the 2017-18 season will be a battle for first place in the Western Conference. It’s also for the home-court advantage in the playoffs, which can be critical toward the end of a series.
With Irving on the regular season roster, he can give the Spurs that extra handful of wins they need to leapfrog the Warriors in the standings, which was six in 2016-17. It’s difficult to say Irving is worth six wins, but he would at least keep them competitive in a few more games and make the race for the top seed in the West that much closer.
With the No. 1 seed, the Spurs would get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, giving them a potential edge in a Game 7. That go a long way for a team that was 31-10 at home in the 2016-17 season — second-best in the conference.
While playing on the road hasn’t destructed the Warriors much in recent years, home-court can play out favorably for a team at their own arena, playing in front of 15-20,000 of their own fans in a comfortable environment.
Next: Matchup with Curry
1. Evening the odds with Stephen Curry
While the San Antonio Spurs can match Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green against Stephen Curry, it leaves matchup issues against Kevin Durant (if Leonard guarded him), and someone not enough to match the scoring of Curry’s (Green). The team’s current crop of point guards aren’t equipped enough to match the two-time NBA MVP’s scoring, either, as they’re inexperienced or injured.
However, Irving would be the guy to step in and match Curry. If anything, he’s one of the few point guards that can do this.
Curry became a perennial 25-30 point per game scorer in the NBA over the past few years. Irving took a few seasons to get above 20, but reached 25.2 per game in the 2016-17 season. He did this in the 2016 and 2017 playoffs, too.
Can Irving consistently beat out Curry on the offensive side of the ball? Maybe not, given the shooting talents of the latter. There’s every chance he can match him, though, leading to fun head-to-head matchups. Just being able to equal the production may be enough for the Spurs, who can rely on other players to handle the load and rely on top-notch defense that led the way for the past two decades.