It’s the day of the NBA Draft but you’ll never guess whose name has stolen the show... at least for now.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the 76ers were named on a (leverage) list of teams Kyrie Irving would be willing to play for if he cannot arrive on a long-term extension with the Brooklyn Nets.
ESPN Sources: If Kyrie Irving can’t reach an agreement to stay with Brooklyn, he has a list of teams he’d like them to consider on sign-and-trades, including Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, Mavs and 76ers. None of those teams have cap space to sign him without Nets’ help.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2022
This update came in tandem with one from Shams Charania of The Athletic, noting that Kevin Durant may feel a certain way about the entire thing too.
Sources: Kevin Durant is monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ situation and considering options with his future.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 23, 2022
This now opens the path for Kyrie Irving to proceed on finding a new home via opt-in and trade.
So one can understand if Nets’ owner Joe Tsai feels like playing some hardball in contract negotiations with Irving, the mercurial superstar out of Australia. Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated in one of the few cities where you needed to be in order to play home games was one of the most controversial situations in the NBA last year. And perhaps completely derailed their title hopes. Irving only appeared in 33 total games last season.
Maybe this is a pure leverage play from Irving, hoping to persuade the Nets to pay him the big bucks. Irving is represented by Shetellia Riley Irving, his step-mother.
On the other hand, if the Nets play too much hardball, few of us should doubt Irving’s willfulness, and unpredictability. Is it really a leverage play if he’s not bluffing? If he winds up feeling slighted by a team getting cold feet on offering a seven time All-Star and champion a fourth or fifth year, might he take a small Mid-Level exception to play for a contender like the Lakers?
That would really shake up the NBA next season.
Now it still feels like cooler heads will prevail and the Nets will cave and offer Irving the type of deal he’s looking for, even if he doesn’t get every penny. But if they do not, then they’d have to be fully prepared for Kevin Durant (who signed an extension recently) to ask for a trade as well. In which case, by not keeping in tact what figures to be a top contender in 2023 or beyond (at +800 the Nets currently have the third best title odds in the East behind Boston and Milwaukee) Joe Tsai would be staring at a possible lengthy rebuild situation. Is he ready to hit eject on a team that was favored to win the whole thing this time last offseason?
Is that something he isn’t scared to do? Would Tsai prefer that? Would he sell the team? It’s hard to know. For now, I’m taking the same stance I’ve had since last month that Irving, really really wants to be back. So the ball is basically in the Nets’ court.
"according to a source familiar with the Nets’ thought process, outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) May 25, 2022
For now I'm putting this on: Nets are willing to play hardball given how much time he's missed in order to save at least some $ on an eventual 4-5 year max. https://t.co/HA23IdvQci
But I am surprised Brooklyn’s ownership have allowed things to get to this point, where it seems plausible Kevin Durant would want to leave also.
From the Sixers standpoint, is Irving a player the team should want? Daryl Morey has long held dear the idea that star power over everything wins titles. And things like fit, or chemistry, the legend goes, don’t interest him as much. He might feel confident Doc Rivers could make most groups of stars work. But Irving might push some of those beliefs to the limit.
Complicating the matter is that James Harden reportedly asked for a trade from Brooklyn in large part because of how things went down with Irving’s lack of availability; first being out for every game, and eventually being allowed back as a part-time, road only player.
If there were to be some type of six team sign-and-trade bidding war, it seems highly unlikely the Sixers offer would win out. They are reportedly shopping Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, and Tobias Harris. While the Nets probably tried to acquire Matisse last Feb. they’d have their sights set on much bigger fish if Irving were on the table. And landing Harris for Irving probably would’t do much to convince Durant to not seek his own trade if this all somehow happened.
All in all, I do still think the Nets cave to a degree here and make Irving a big offer. Unless Tsai wants to rebuild and wait perhaps many years for a team as good as the one he currently has, what choice is there?
Durant, Irving, a possibly healthy Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry and a pair of draft picks to work with, that team has the potential to compete next season and beyond.
I’m not sure if this opinion will be popular. But if there were some way for the Sixers to acquire Irving, I don’t think they should hesitate. Maybe they can smooth things over with Harden by simply offering him more money to be fine with it. And pointing out to him that he might have enjoyed playing with Irving if he was around all the time. Few active players in the NBA would see their legacy enhanced more with one title than Harden.
"I wish him nothing but peace and love, we have a great friendship, but it didn't work out. Wish things could have been communicated better for all of us as men but hey, no hard feelings here with me."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) March 9, 2022
-Kyrie Irving's on how things ended with his James Harden #NetsWorld pic.twitter.com/BYpHjJOnLW
Part of the reason Harden was frustrated with Kyrie was because he wasn’t available full time. What if he somehow felt convinced he would be available for all of next season?
Kyrie is talented enough (he might even be the Sixers second best player from day one if here) to quietly explore this opportunity, no matter how much they love Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle, the guys most likely to get shipped in order to make it happen. But if Irving winds up in Los Angeles, what type of trade offer would they make to pair Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant?
"Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three [for MVP] and I'll probably go Joel. Jokic, you can throw throw Jokic in there. But I'll probably go Joel."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) March 19, 2022
-Sounds like Kevin Durant gives his vote for MVP to Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/755IgFVoMG