When Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, NBA fans feared it could be the start of the most dominant superteams of all time. Three seasons later, with very little to show for their time together, NBA insider Shams Charania is reporting Irving could be on his way out and headed to the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, or Los Angeles Clippers.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (and James Harden) together in Brooklyn has been a disaster
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s time together with the Brooklyn Nets has been shockingly unsuccessful. Add in the time the duo spent with James Harden, and it’s somehow even worse.
Irving came to Brooklyn for the 2019-20 season knowing full well that he’d play that year without Durant due to the Achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors.
Irving played in just 20 of the team’s 72 games without his running-mate during the pandemic-shortened season. And, when the NBA went to the “bubble” to finish the season, not only did Irving opt-out, he tried to lead a player boycott of the league’s return, per Andscape.
The following season, Durant returned, the Nets gave up a haul for James Harden, and Irving played his most games in a season (54) for Brooklyn. However, after beating the Boston Celtics in Round 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Irving sprained his ankle against the Milwaukee Bucks. Durant and an also-injured Harden couldn’t defeat the eventual champs.
The 2021-22 season may have been the biggest disaster of all.
Irving sat out the first 35 games of the season, refusing to comply with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He then played sporadically in 29 of the final 46 games of the regular season.
The Nets also traded an unhappy Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in early 2022. All told, the triumvirate of Irving, Durant, and Harden only played 16 out of a possible 113 games together. Ben Simmons, the player the Nets got in return, didn’t play a single game in 2022 for the Nets.
Irving and company needed to win in the 2022 Play-In Tournament to reach the postseason. And when they did, the Celtics swept the team in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
Irving could be headed to the New York Knicks, LA Lakers, or LA Clippers
NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Monday, June 20, that, despite Kyrie Irving telling the media, “I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” in April, “An impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace,” Charania’s source tells him.
Irving is currently on the clock as far as his contract is concerned. He has until June 29 to accept or decline his $36.9 million player option for next season.
Charania also reports that the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, and New York Knicks are Irving’s most likely suitors if he does, in fact, want out of Brooklyn. The fascinating part of the report is that what Irving does on June 29 will help us understand his intentions.
For those three teams opting in actually gives the mercurial guard more options.
The Knicks are the only one of those three teams that could sign Irving to a max deal if he opts out. Charania writes they could do this “by offloading salaries such as Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kemba Walker. But the Knicks could also offer some or all of those players to the Nets or a third team in a possible sign-and-trade.”
If Irving wants to reunite with LeBron James with the Lakers or try something new with the Clippers, he’d have to opt-in to the $39.9 million. Both LA teams are up against the NBA hard cap and “would need to send out between $29.3 million and $45.8 million to the Nets and/or a third team” to make the deal work.
With all this in mind, that June 29 date now looms large for three of the richest NBA franchises.
Are the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, LA Lakers, or LA Clippers the best fit?
After all that’s gone on in the last three seasons, it appears Kyrie Irving moving on from the Brooklyn Nets would be best for all involved. The problem is, sending Kyrie to the big-market, cap-strapped franchise of his choice isn’t the best play for Brooklyn.
The New York Knicks, LA Lakers, and LA Clippers would all offer a somewhat similar package of highly-paid veterans and mid-level (at best) prospects for Irving. The Nets would get future picks, too, but that doesn’t help the Kevin Durant win now.
The Knicks would essentially give Irving his own team, which he seems to want. That hasn’t worked out during his opportunities to lead the Boston Celtics or Nets, though. So NY probably isn’t the best option.
Reuniting with LeBron James is interesting. But going from the little brother role under one megastar in Durant back to the one he started with doesn’t seem great. Plus, Irving seems like a 60-games-a-year nowadays at best. The Lakers already have two of those in 37-year-old LeBron and the oft-injured Anthony Davis.
If the Nets truly are limited to these three options, the Clippers are the best for both sides. They can give the Nets the best package of vets on decent contracts and intriguing young players. And Irving with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard‘ is the best fit, basketball- and personality-wise.
Also, while the Clippers do play in a major media market, the organization isn’t covered with anywhere near the fervor of the Knicks or Lakers. This would be a good thing for Kyrie (and all NBA fans) as well.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference