Kyrie Irving is back in the news and once again it is related to the long and drawn-out saga that was his vaccination status. After he missed more than half of the season, in large part because of that decision, the Brooklyn Nets are reportedly wary of giving him a contract extension. Well, for that, and other reasons, as detailed by the New York Daily News.
The bottom-line is that Irving may not be in the Nets' future plans and even though he has a year left on his contract (a player option), usually disagreements of this magnitude only go in one direction and that is towards a split. So, if the Nets and Irving do move on, where could he go?
While some might argue his stock is lowered by the season that was, he's still one of the best scorers in the league and, while controversial, somebody will take him. He's still a future Hall of Famer in his prime who is remarkably efficient for the volume he shoots and scores.
Now, it's not like the entire league will be lining up to acquire him, but I found it difficult to widdle the list down to five. For instance, I don't have the Lakers or Clippers, though I could see both teams considering it. The problem is how they would make a trade work given the Nets would have little reason to want what they can offer.
With that in mind, here are five teams and the reasons they could talk themselves into the man Basketball Reference lists a nickname for as 'World B. Flat.'
If they want to, Miami has a chance to add a really good player this offseason in a sign-and-trade. They have a ton of depth highlighted by shooting and defense and a young player on the rise in Tyler Herro, who just won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. He is constantly mentioned in sign-and-trade scenarios and in this case, could go to Brooklyn in a package for Irving. The Heat have a top-5 defense and the 10th-ranked offense, but as we've seen in the playoffs, could use a dynamic scorer who can create for himself like Irving. Whether he could meld with their system and culture is a fair question, but he seems like the perfect player to get them over the top and combat the suffocating defenses of the top teams in the East.
Like the Heat, the Mavs have made it to the conference finals and may be entering the offseason soon looking for a missing piece to win a championship. And like Miami, Dallas has a terrific defense (ranked sixth in NBA) and an offense that lags behind. The Mavs were 15th in offensive rating and may lose point guard Jalen Brunson in free agency this offseason. They need someone to take the scoring pressure off of Luka Doncic and, while Spencer Dinwiddie has done a solid job of that, Irving is a few levels above him as a player. If Dallas could keep their top-tier defense in order and have Doncic and Irving trading buckets, that would be a difficult formula to stop.
This is entirely predicated on the possibility Zach LaVine leaves in free agency. There seems to be some momentum behind that happening, between reports out of Chicago and also LaVine saying publicly he's always been a Lakers fan. Whether it's L.A. or not, it seems entirely possible he bolts and leaves the Bulls with a roster ready to win and a hole in their backcourt. Irving could fill that spot nicely, the problem would just be making a deal work to get him there. It wouldn't be easy, but Irving would be an ideal replacement for LaVine if it comes to that.
Sacramento is riding the longest postseason drought in NBA history at 16 years, so long that the last time they made the playoffs Peja Stojakovic and Bonzi Wells were on the team. It is a desperate situation and they have the fourth overall pick, plus a decent group of young players to deal from. If they want to make something happen soon, an aggressive move like trading for Irving could do the trick. The problem would be whether they could keep him long-term. Every time Irving has had a chance to choose his next team he has always gone after a chance to win a title, even despite the fact he already has a ring. The Kings would probably make the playoffs with him, but he's not going to make them contenders.
Like the Kings, this one is a bit of a wild card but Minnesota could make sense in part because they have a player at the same position on a similar contract in D'Angelo Russell. Russell, of course, used to play for the Nets before he was sent to Golden State as part of the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. Russell would work just fine alongside Durant and Ben Simmons in Brooklyn, while the Timberwolves could move up in the Western Conference with another star like Irving. Some issues for Minnesota to consider would be 1) they are already better on offense than defense, 2) Irving is a higher usage player than Russell, and 3) he has some overlap with Anthony Edwards as an attacking guard.