LeBrOn aND KyRie nEeD tO reUnite tO sAvE tHe LakErs!!!
Counterpoint: James Harden and Kyrie Irving should bury their own hatchet, rewrite their narratives, and cement their legacies in Philly. Joel Embiid may want Kevin Durant, but this team doesn’t have the trade goods to make that happen. So he should push for the more available, wayward All-NBA talent.
There’s probably few Sixers fans who are clamoring for this type of move. I’m content on lonely Philly Kyrie Peninsula.
You could be taking all that halcyon, gooey, Philly-Rockets-Petri-dish-chemistry and adding a frothy, bubbly, combustible foreign strain. And you could be doing so amid Embiid’s prime, instead of just watching some western rival go up in flames.
They don’t have the culture or infrastructure to handle this you say, they need a wing not more scoring guards, sure:
To my eye, the Sixers have only a Reggie Bullock sized hole left to fill on the roster and they’ll be set— Marty Teller (@mwteller) July 3, 2022
Those perfectly reasonable voices might think of this more as some unrealistic, contrarian, Joker-themed, heel turn bit more so than a viable winning strategy.
Those pragmatists don’t care Irving listed the Sixers on his six-team short list of preferred destinations because they remember that a week ago ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said: “with [Kyrie] I don’t think you say, ‘That won’t happen, that’ll never happen.’ But I think that list in terms of Dallas, Philadelphia, the Clippers - I don’t think there’s interest there.”
But now, a week later, the Athletic’s Shams Charania hopped on “The Rally” and said the Sixers are among three “suitors for Irving,” along with the Mavs and Lakers.
Shams Charania mentioning again how the 76ers are one of three suitors for Kyrie Irving. pic.twitter.com/2Hy78f2zBA— Aidan Doc (@AidanDoc_) July 3, 2022
Hark, me thinks me hears mutual sniffings!
Daryl Morey does have the reputation as someone who values star power over chemistry and fit. This would certainly push that philosophy to its threshold, but still, it’s Kyrie bleepin’ Irving. Could Doc Rivers manage the star personalities in a way Steve Nash perhaps could not?
Here would be the basic gist of a framework I’d reckon, via Fanspo:
Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris (who is “very likely” to remain with the team despite rumors) and the team’s 2029 first (if you needed to include it). Anyone? Don’t all jump at once. C’mon, half of you have been salary dumping these two for three weeks already.
Thybulle doesn’t seem like a lock to earn huge minutes next season and his trade value must be very low or I suspect he’d be gone already. And the difference between Irving and Harris is, like what? A top 12-20 vs. a top 40-60 ranked player when both are available? That’s really the only difference here, one massive upgrade.
Availability is not Irving’s middle name, I realize. If it were he would not be available for trade.
Kyrie Irving has played 103 out of a possible 218 games for the Brooklyn Nets (47.2%) pic.twitter.com/CUqHOVuYJZ— Jac Manuell (@JacManuell) April 26, 2022
But given his make up and injury history you could actually offer him 15 regular season games off if you wanted. It would be optimal to occasionally load manage him anyway.
Irving is eligible for an extend-and-trade, where he could receive two years tacked onto his current one-year $36.5M deal. But maybe Daryl and Elton would prefer a one-year deal. Heck, Kyrie could call JJ Redick and ask about living in the NYC area and commuting.
Irving, when healthy and available, puts the fear of Zeus into opposing defenders
As of now, the Sixers may not have a player who is utterly immune to hostile environments and the most intense pressure. But this quirky little guy?
Kyrie Irving 39 PTS, 6 AST, 5 REB Highlights at Celtics | Game 1 NBA Playoffs pic.twitter.com/aobiEfhkxe— DukeLights (@duke_lights) April 18, 2022
Sometimes it’s really hard to get Embiid the ball when he’s being doubled, tripled, and fronted. In the past Harden has fallen well short in some high intensity playoff elimination games.
Here’s a guy who can create something out of nothing, whose mere presence would drastically limit the number of doubles Embiid would see, and who has arguably hit the most clutch shot in league history.
Embiid, Harden, Irving, Maxey, Tucker, Melton? That might just be an unbeatable squad, or one that could at least take Durant’s next team to seven.
Irving is injury prone, unreliable, difficult to get along with and that’s putting it all mildly:
Kyrie signed with Brooklyn for $137 million. If he’s traded he will have have played 116 of a possible 324 games for Brooklyn over that contract. He used his freedom of choice to not play most of last year and he’s tweeting about being caged. Wild— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) July 1, 2022
If you thought nothing could wipe the smile off Tyrese Maxey’s face, you can almost imagine Irving saying hold my beer. The vibes could be shaky. But remember how much better people told us the vibes would be when Jimmy Butler left? Winning provides some vibes too.
So again, it’s a major, major risk.
2017 - forces trade from a team with Lebron near his peak— Real Hooper Pilled Trill (@TrillBroDude) June 27, 2022
2018 - gets hurt for like the 5th time in his career
2019 - quits on young Boston team + leaves
2020 - gets hurt again
2021 - gets hurt again + refuses to get vaxxed so he can play
2022 - wants 5 year max
Irving has left a bunch of stuff smoldering in his wake.
Counterpoint: the Sixers current situation involves major risk too. Meeting in the Hamptons now to hash out huge $100M bets on Harden’s aging 33-year old legs, etc. This is more All-Star insurance.
Plus Irving, 30, won the title in 2016, and if the 2021 Nets Big Three all stayed healthy they would have smoked the Hawks, beat the Suns, and he’d probably have two. As long as we’re in this “Harden never got hurt” fantasy, the Nets might have won the title again in 2021-2022. “If, woulda, and coulda” do nothing for the Nets, but if you’r’e trying to predict the future they can provide golden clues your rivals may be ignoring.
I’m not saying landing Kyrie would make the Sixers a super team but by my math super teams do win about half of the time which is better than the Sixers current implied 5.8 percent title odds.
So if you think that there’s a decent chance there won’t be a new vaxx mandate in Philly for next season... might I interest you in some data?
The top players last year, per EPM, via Dunksandthree’s:
EPM, like any other sole measure is far from perfect, but dude, the analytics ranked Mr. Mercurial 7th in the entire league, behind the same three guys old-fashioned humans voted on for MVP. Tobias Harris ranked 170th to Russell Westbrook’s 235th.
“Even had the 76ers on the phone, willing to give him a 3-year deal, but there was no way in hell he was interested in going to Philadelphia and rejoining James Harden or anything like that, so that was a smokescreen”— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) June 30, 2022
About that opportunity cost, if you aren’t satisfied with the current roster and don’t want Kyrie, would you prefer something like our Bryan Toporek cooked up?
or even one rolling with Harris and doing:
Those deals may not be available. But if they were, how comfortable could you feel betting on Gordon Hayward or T.J. Warren to play a ton of games anyway?
OK, the elephant: Harden would never.
Probably not, and I wouldn’t even be thrilled to check after he took a huge pay cut. But maybe you could remind him what Alex Schiffer once reported: “[Harden] came to Brooklyn expecting to be part of a three-headed monster, yet has played a similar role to what was required of him in Houston: having to be the guy.”
Or stuff like this, from B/R’s Jake Fischer:
“Harden also wanted Irving’s help and made several public jabs at Irving’s vaccination status during media availabilities.”
So yeah, there are the hilarious sage burning stories, but basically all of Harden’s reported beef was because he was busting his butt on a bum hammy, desperate for a ring, while Irving was not available to play full time on some odd mandate crusade.
Could Kyrie somehow, some way convince Beard he’s ready to make up for lost time and slay now that he’s eligible to play in 29 of 30 arenas? (Imagine if the Sixers got Kyrie but the Raptors got Durant and Philly had to visit that one vaxx-only arena?)
It’s probably a non-starter with Harden deep in contract talks. Or maybe their offer was already shot down and this is dead in the water.
But holy mackerel, if the Nets are seriously about to trade Kyrie Irving to the 17 ring Lakers for Russell Westbrook!?? Brodie will make $47M next season, just shot sub 30 percent from deep, and turns 34 in Nov. The price must be nearing some kind of right.
“Joe Tsai would rather have a team that plays hard that he's proud to own that wins 40 games and fights for the play-in than have a team that has way more talent that he's not proud to be a part of.”— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) July 1, 2022
- ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the Nets’ owner
(h/t @Krisplashed ) pic.twitter.com/WMnwfHPq8L
If Tsai is exasperated with divas, then he literally couldn’t find a more hard working, embodiment of sportsmanship, leadership, and maturity than the Long Island native Tobias Harris.
Tobias Harris over the last 5 seasons:— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 29, 2022
Only KD, PG13, KAT and Tatum have recorded that statline or better since 2018 pic.twitter.com/qm2LIrPIzr
If Brooklyn wants to win ballgames, which they probably will since so many of their picks belong to Houston, Harris is the better bet and fit than Russ. He has an extra year on his deal, but if you’re retooling ‘cause you’re unwilling to appease KD, that may not be unappealing.
Find your why: because you’re just not good enough yet dude!
The Sixers had a terrific free agency after Harden opted out yet their title odds have only slipped. They recently went from +1300 down to +1600 with rumors the Lakers could land Kyrie with Miami pushing for Durant.
The Boston Celtics, who were already favorites to repeat as Eastern Conference winners, just acquired Malcolm Brogdan. Unlike the Sixers, Boston’s title odds improved since Friday.
The Celtics, Heat, Clippers, Suns and Raptors all have solid offers to acquire Durant. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton thinks wherever KD lands will be regarded as a super team.
The Sixers might have to stay healthy and beat one really good team, two great teams, and one super team in order to hoist cup.
Here is what Daryl Morey said back in Dec.:
“If you have to be the best out of 30, by definition you have to inject more variance into your system. You have to take bigger bets. If it’s the Ricky Bobby of the NBA where ‘if you ain’t first you’re last’ you have to inject more variance into your system, all the time. In fact, no team even injects enough. Like if you actually take the actual math of the NBA, teams should be doing radical things constantly....you don’t actually see that behavior however.”
If the key players were magically open to the idea, if it’s the Ricky Bobby of the NBA, I’m picking up the phone before GM LeGOAT and the Lakers do.
The expected value of staying pat might be higher. But the less likely, higher-ceiling outcome is the one you need. Morey says you must get radical. As we approach the six year anniversary of KD joining the Warriors this Independence Day, I can think of nothing more radical than trying to reunite Harden and Irving as part of a four-headed monster in Philadelphia.