The very top of this year’s class of free agents is going to be determined by what happens at the June 29 player option deadline, as the biggest names that could potentially come available decide whether to opt back in for one more season, sign an extension with their current team, or hit the open market.
Bradley Beal, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are the most intriguing among them, and the latest news regarding the latter indicates he might end up on the market. Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving’s discussions with the Nets regarding his future in Brooklyn have grown “stagnant” and the two sides have reached an “impasse,” as neither
However, multiple sources tell The Athletic that conversations about Irving’s future have gone stagnant between him and the Nets. An impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace, those sources said.
Charania mentions the Lakers, Knicks, and Clippers as the three top suitors for Irving, all of whom would have to acquire him via a sign-and-trade — unless the Knicks could unload max cap space on a team like the Thunder.
The Lakers, of course, would provide a reunion with LeBron James, who Irving rather famously wanted to get away from in 2017 when he requested a trade out of Cleveland. Time heals all wounds though, and the two have reconciled and James would not hesitate to sign off on replacing Russell Westbrook with Irving, even fully understanding the potential headaches that come with him. While the Lakers have not wanted to send picks out in salary dump moves with Westbrook, adding Irving is a completely different story, but if there are multiple suitors for Kyrie, one has to wonder if Westbrook plus picks has any chance to entice the Nets over a different offer — although, reuniting LeBron and Kyrie as well as Russ and KD would be an all-time trade from a narrative perspective.
The Knicks were the runners up for Kyrie’s (and KD’s) services in 2019 when they were deciding on their future, and could send Brooklyn a combination of veterans and young players along with future draft picks that might be more enticing than a Westbrook-centric deal. New York’s desperation for a point guard is well known, and they were expected to make a run at Jalen Brunson but he now seems destined to return to Dallas. Kyrie would be quite the consolation prize, but it remains to be seen what Brooklyn would prioritize in return.
The Clippers can put together the best “win-now” package in return for Irving, but also have the most delicate cap situation of them all. Charania notes for the Clippers, the best option would be for Kyrie to opt in and be traded on his current deal rather than a new contract. They can send out a number of players that the Nets might believe could surround KD and keep the team competitive (and by proxy, KD happy), with a potential package being led by Reggie Jackson and one of their various wings (Norman Powell, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris).
With nine days until the player option deadline, there’s time for Kyrie and the Nets to work out a plan for the future, either one that keeps him in Brooklyn or one that sends him elsewhere and sets the Nets up for their best path forward. This report certainly feels like a warning to Brooklyn that options are available for Kyrie, but after the year they just went through with Irving, the Nets might just not be willing to play hard ball with the star. If Irving were to leave, the Nets would truly become one of the all-time “what if?” teams after seemingly setting themselves up to be one of the league’s elite only to never fully realize that potential and crumbling from the inside.