On January 15, after a 112-102 loss to the Oklahoma City
Thunder, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving was asked about Kevin
Durant's absence. More specifically, he was asked how the
circumstances (and the locker room) differ from last year. This is
what he had to say.
There was a hint of irony to the response in light of
his absence for large portions of last season due to
New York's vaccine mandate, as well as the suspension he served
this season due to sharing antisemitic content. Secondarily, it
felt like a clear shot at former Nets guard James Harden, who
ultimately requested a trade before last year's deadline.
On January 15, Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes relayed word from Irving's
agent, expressing their desire to reach an agreement on a
long-term extension in Brooklyn. From the piece:
"Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to
the Nets regarding this," his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher
Report. "We have had no significant conversations to date. The
desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension,
which means the ball is in the Nets' court to communicate now if
their desire is the same."
It would appear the desire isn't mutual. With no extension
agreed to, Irving has reportedly requested a trade from the Nets
ahead of the February 9 trade deadline.
Zooming out, that's three separate trade requests the Nets have
received from stars over the past calendar year. And before digging
into potential destinations from Irving, it's worth taking the step
back to acknowledge how wild things have been in Brooklyn during
the 7/11 Era.
(Also, the clock is going to start back ticking on Durant, no?
Irving requesting the trade now is unfortunate timing. Depending on
what they could get back, this deal could take the Nets out of the
contention conversation through absolutely no fault of Durant's.
Considering Irving's role in Durant's trade request in the summer —
he wants, or wanted, his guy there with him long-term — it would be
understandable if he got antsy again.)
Irving has been tremendous on the court this season, averaging
27.1 points (career-high 56.9% on 2s, 37.4% on 3s), 5.3 assists and
5.1 rebounds. His blend of ball-handling, pull-up shooting and
finishing is almost unrivaled in the league — and in league
history. And to Irving's credit, his buy-in on the defensive end is
as consistently high as it's ever been in his career.
Irving's availability and contract status — he'll be an
unrestricted free agent this summer — will complicate his trade
value. The receiving team, if he's moved, will have to be confident
in retaining Irving long term. And from there, they'd have to be
confident that Irving, who hasn't appeared in 70 games since the
2016-17 season, will be consistently available. His injury history
and off-the-court controversies in back-to-back seasons make that a
tough bet on the surface.
Of course, the bet being tough — and likely untenable
for some franchises — doesn't mean it won't be made at all. There
will be teams that check in on Irving and push their chips to the
middle of the table.
We have to start the conversation with the Los Angeles Lakers.
They were linked to Irving in the summer, when it felt like both
Durant and Irving could be moved. There's an obvious link between
Irving and LeBron James. The two played in Cleveland together for
three years, winning a title in 2016. LeBron also stood up for
Irving during his suspension earlier this season.
We don't have to spend much time here. The Lakers would build a
package headlined by Russell Westbrook and one or both of their
future first-round picks (2027, 2029) for Irving. That doesn't mean
the Nets would get Westbrook; three-team frameworks would likely be
discussed, and it's worth noting that Haynes reported earlier on
Friday that the Lakers and Utah Jazz re-engaged in talks surrounding
Beyond the Lakers, there are a few teams that come to mind that
make on-court — and I stress on-court — sense for the star
Priority number one for the Dallas Mavericks, for example, is
finding a legitimate co-star to pair with Luka Doncic. He's clearly
good enough to handle a gargantuan offensive load; he leads the NBA
in points (second in scoring average, 33.4) and ranks fifth in
assists (8.2). Only the Cavs play at a slower pace than the
Mavericks this season, mostly due to Doncic's surgical cadence in
Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood (when healthy) have filled
in well as secondary scorers. Dinwiddie is averaging nearly 18
points a game while bombing away from three (40.3% on a career-high
6.4 attempts). Wood's inside-out dynamic has helped him become the
second half of the NBA's most prolific pick-and-roll duo, per
Second Spectrum tracking.
Neither of them garner the same defensive attention that Irving
does, nor can they take over games in the way that Irving can. A
framework built around former-Net Dinwiddie and
currently-in-the-rumor-mill Dorian Finney-Smith could intrigue the
The Miami Heat were reportedly on Irving's summer list of teams
he'd be okay getting signed-and-traded to, per ESPN's Adrain
Wojnarowski. A certified third star alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam
Adebayo could lift their ceiling, especially one as dynamic
offensively as Irving. As of writing, the Heat rank 25th in overall
offensive rating, excluding garbage time, and 22nd in half-court
While Tyler Herro has taken steps as a creator and first-time
starter — 20.3 points (49.9% on 2s, 37.3% on 3s) and a career-high
4.4 assists is nothing to sneeze at — his ability to generate
traction downhill and deal with in-your-jersey defenders on an
island pale in comparison to Irving. Among teams that may show
interest in Irving, Herro may be the best young piece that could be
offered in a deal — though his inclusion would be complicated due
to the "poison pill" element of his
current contract status.
Because Herro's rookie extension (4/120) hasn't kicked in yet,
the Heat and Nets would be dealing with different cap numbers in a
potential trade. For the Heat, they'd be sending out Herro's
current-year salary ($5.7 million). The Nets (or a third team
receiving Herro) would be accounting for $25.1 million — the
average of Herro's total salary owed.
Without Herro, Miami would likely try to use Kyle Lowry as the
headliner to a package. With somewhat limited pick ammo and
young prospects -- how much would Nikola Jovic appeal to this
version of Brooklyn? -- the Heat feel more like a long shot
compared to Los Angeles and Dallas.
- The Suns and Nets were linked during the Durant Sweepstakes,
but I wonder if they'd check in on Irving. This would be a deal
centered around Chris Paul, which begs the question: how much more
would Brooklyn want? Would a Paul + Cam Johnson package appeal to
both parties, in light of Phoenix's need for half-court
- The Clippers will always — or at least should — be mentioned in
these kind of conversations. Their roster is littered with quality
players on mid-level salaries, making them an appealing
keep-us-competitive option for the Nets.
- I'm sure the Knicks are content with Jalen Brunson, but hey.
Just ... hey, I'm sure they'll think about it. Even if the answer
is ultimately, "Nah, we're good", I find it hard to believe they
wouldn't think about it.
- Normally there's a "won't happen, but these pieces make sense"
team to choose from in trade discussions like this, but I'm
struggling with this one. Would the closest be something
surrounding an Irving-Zach LaVine swap? Like, sure?