The 2022 NBA offseason could either be very exciting or very boring. Many of the big-name targets in free agency have player options, meaning they hold most of the power this offseason. If they stay put, this could be a quieter offseason. If they decide to test the market, we could be in for some fireworks.
Early on, it looks like the fireworks could be on full display this offseason. The Athletic’s Shams Charania dropped a groundbreaking column this morning that stated one of the top potential free agents, Kyrie Irving, and the Brooklyn Nets are currently at an “impasse,” which has opened the door for Irving to at least test the waters of free agency. Irving had recently stated his desire to stay in Brooklyn for the future, but that has apparently changed over the past month or so.
Irving hitting free agency would be detrimental for the Brooklyn Nets
This report from Charania has enormous implications for the entire league, but no team will be more affected than the Nets. They have put so much effort into assembling their squad as currently constructed, as Irving was supposed to team up with Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons next season to finally put all the pieces together for Brooklyn.
But that appears to be up in the air now. Irving and Durant were primarily considered a package deal at this point, and losing Irving not only means you lose one of the top players in the game, but you may also have an unhappy Durant. Despite all the commotion surrounding Irving and the Nets since they got swept out of the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics, everyone kind of figured it would blow over and Irving would be suiting up for the Nets come next season.
Apparently, the issues are more profound than initially expected. Irving’s availability during his initial three-year stint with Brooklyn has been a cause for concern, and the Nets appear to have some real problems with Irving moving forward.
The problem for Brooklyn is that Kyrie offers them the best path towards a championship despite all his off-court drama. Given all they have committed to building around Irving and Durant, they really have no way to replace a player of his caliber.
Sure, they probably get Simmons back on the court next year, but nobody knows what type of player he will be. And as we saw in the playoffs, Irving and Durant are not good enough to beat the best teams in the league on their own. This could be a massive roadblock for Brooklyn, and while their gripes with Irving are reasonable, losing him would be catastrophic for the organization.
Who could Irving sign with in free agency if he chose to hit the market?
Irving needs to decide on his player option by June 29th, so this is something that will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming week or so. Even if he opts into his current deal, this won’t go away because some teams interested in him won’t have the cap space to either sign him or do a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets.
Charania’s report lists the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers as three teams leading the pack for Irving’s services if he were to leave Brooklyn. Each team is an intriguing option considering their current state, and their levels of interest will become much more apparent in the coming days now that there is a real possibility Irving will be headed out the door.
Of those three teams, the Lakers and Clippers would need Irving to opt into his deal and then pull off a trade for him since they don’t have the cap space to sign him outright or make a sign-and-trade deal. The Knicks could offload a couple of current contracts on their roster and sign him outright or send them to Brooklyn in a sign-and-trade.
The problem with Kyrie hitting free agency is that it would limit his options, considering the amount of money he wants and the number of contenders that can offer him that money. Opting into his deal would make things easier for Brooklyn, but it remains to be seen where Irving’s head is regarding this situation. In a way, he holds the balance of the Nets franchise in his hands with this decision.
The Lakers will probably be the team most eager to land Irving, partially due to their desire to get rid of Russell Westbrook and reunite him with LeBron James, but their path to land him is the most difficult of the three teams mentioned. Ultimately, this will come down to what Irving wants to do. He could pick a team and force Brooklyn to make a move so that they avoid losing him for nothing. But for now, Irving is still in Brooklyn, although it doesn’t appear like that will be the case for much longer.