If several people around the NBA had to give their firm predictions today, they would predict that Kyrie Irving ends up back on the Brooklyn Nets.
However, there has also been a ton of recent reporting that suggests that the Nets may let Irving walk if he isn’t willing to compromise on a new potential contract.
The Nets are reluctant to give Irving a long-term deal due to his tendency to miss games due to injury and not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, which kept him out of all but 29 games during the 2021-22 season.
Instead, the Nets prefer that Irving opts into the final year of his contract, which would pay him $36 million, or he re-signs on a two-year deal worth $42 million annually, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
It’s totally understandable why the Nets are hesitant to lock him into the full five-year extension that would pay him over $200 million. He’s missed more games than he’s suited up in since arriving in Brooklyn and willingly refused to sit out games because of his stance against the vaccine.
However, the Nets run the risk of Kevin Durant asking out of Brooklyn if they don’t bring back his best friend, as a huge reason why KD chose the Nets over the New York Knicks is because of Irving’s desire to suit up for his favorite team growing up.
It’s one thing if the Nets had the means to go out and replace a talent like Irving. However, they don’t have the cap space, nor do they have many trade assets to offer opposing teams at this particular point in time, as a significant amount of those assets went to multiple destinations in the trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn.
Benefits of Keeping Irving
As previously stated, the Nets don’t have a clear way to improve the roster around KD if they let Irving walk.
They have Ben Simmons, who gives the Nets a switchable defender who can shut down the opposing team’s best player and can run the offense with his ability to get out in transition and make plays for others. That type of presence was clearly missing during the Nets’ season, which was a huge reason why the Nets got swept by the Boston Celtics.
However, Simmons cannot be relied upon for offense at all. In fact, his jump shot is almost non-existent, and if you clog the paint enough, it’s hard for him to get the runway needed for him to get to the rim.
Irving’s presence shifts the opposing defense’s focus to the perimeter, which will then allow Simmons to not have to force his offense and let lanes open up naturally for him.
Not only will Simmons benefit from having Irving out there, but KD will also benefit as well. We saw KD burn out in the playoffs not only because the Celtics threw a group out there that was willing to provide just the right amount of physicality to get him off his game, but because he was tasked with carrying this offense due to the number of games Irving missed.
Every transcendent superstar needs to have another great player by their side to win a championship. Heck, the Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn’t have won in 2016 if LeBron James didn’t have Irving next to him.
With the Nets not being known as a household franchise around the NBA, it is incredibly rare for them to draw not one, but three superstars if you count Harden to want to play for them.
That is something the Nets cannot forget when it comes to the Irving negotiations, no matter how frustrated they are with the mercurial point guard.
KD still has plenty of years left in him, and with a golden opportunity to keep him on board until 2026 and compete for at least one championship during this decade, they can ill-afford to do anything that would make him unhappy and ultimately want to request a trade.
The last thing the Nets and their fans want to see is KD winning a championship on a completely different team.