The distinct possibility exists that Kyrie Irving won’t play until January because of the left kneecap fracture he suffered in Game 1 of the Finals, a source told Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. He’s unlikely to be ready for opening night even though his rehab remains on track, Haynes hears from multiple sources.
The Cavs spent more on Mo Williams than any other outside free agent this summer, signing him to a two-year deal that will pay him $2.1MM this season. He’ll ostensibly become the starter in Irving’s place, though Cleveland retained Matthew Dellavedova, who stepped in and performed admirably for Irving during the Finals, at the value of his qualifying offer. Iman Shumpert, who re-signed for four years and $40MM, has also seen time at the point, and LeBron James has plenty of experience as a ball-distributor, too.
Still, the Cavs face a challenge to replace Irving’s elite all-around offensive game, one that earned him a max extension that kicks in for this coming season. Cleveland has 13 fully guaranteed deals, leaving two openings for the regular season, though one of those is likely earmarked for Tristan Thompson, who lingers in restricted free agency. They have only $1.276MM on the taxpayer’s mid-level exception to give free agents more than the minimum salary, and because Irving’s injury isn’t thought to be season-ending, they don’t qualify for a disabled player exception. They do have a trade exception worth more than $10.5MM as a vestige of Brendan Haywood‘s contract. The team is encouraging a slow approach for Irving’s rehab, with the goal that he be 100% come the postseason, Haynes writes.
What do you think the Cavs should do, if anything, to offset the loss of Irving for the start of the season?