On Friday we got some earth-shattering news. Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets has requested a trade.
Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the bombshell:
And in a follow-up piece, Shams, reporting with The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer, notes that:
“-The franchise has been informed that Irving prefers to leave Brooklyn ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline — or he will leave via free agency in July.
-The Nets recently offered Irving an extension with guarantee stipulations, according to league sources, an offer that was declined.
-League sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations who have been granted anonymity so that they could speak freely say that the extension offer was not well received and that there have been significant differences that have emerged between the Nets and Irving.”
The Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have emerged as potential suitors for Irving, per league sources.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was next on the scene to tweet out that contending teams are salivating at the thought that KD may be revisiting his July trade request:
And in his report, Woj notes that:
“Irving, who’s in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he is eligible to sign a two-year $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.
No teams are privately expressing a desire to make that investment into Irving, especially after the turbulence of an eight-game suspension for him failing to initially rebuke an antisemitic film shared to his social media platform.”
So if Irving might wind up going down the same road that James Harden went down a year ago, hinting he won’t re-sign longterm, forcing Joe Tsai and Sean Marks to make a difficult decision at the trade deadline, then it makes sense teams might wonder about KD, Kyrie and other Nets as well.
Joel Embiid has hinted as to how he feels with his most recent “like” on Twitter:
“Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor,” is the quote on Daryl Morey’s Twitter. And time marches on. For 22-year-old Tyrese Maxey that’s a good thing for Philadelphia. For Joel Embiid (set to turn 29 in a handful of weeks) that may or may not be a good thing.
Most players’ primes begin around 26 years old and last until they’re 30 or so. Players taking better care of their bodies these days certainly lengthens peak years. Durant has had a historic bounce-back from his ruptured Achilles tendon. Hakeem Olajuwon was in his age 31 and 32 seasons when he won a pair of world championships and back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs. Embiid may have another handful of years to be an All-Star or even MVP candidate. But you never know.
For James Harden (33) and P.J. Tucker (37) this time thing is less good.
So how aggressive at this NBA Trade Deadline do the Sixers want to get? How much risk do they want to take on? Do they feel they have a three-to-four year title window? Or is it more like one or two years? What if Harden departs in free agency leaving them with almost no cap-space to replace him? Could Irving, the least reliable player in the entire league, somehow become an “insurance policy” they’d at least have a shot at one co-star for Joel if they’re legitimately, secretly terrified about Harden leaving? Or would Irving simply force Harden (who would much prefer to stay) to flee? Could they keep both long-term plus Maxey and pursue multiple titles?
With all of those questions in mind, Philadelphia needs to at least conduct due diligence and call Nets GM Sean Marks and see what’s going on over in Brooklyn.
Woj mentioned that all of the upheaval has teams wondering about Durant’s future.
We looked at this stuff back in the summer along with some Irving extend-and-trade scenarios.
Charania, reporting back in August, nearly a month after Durant requested a trade:
“The Philadelphia 76ers expressed recent interest in Durant while the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets also inquired with the Nets in late June and early July to gauge the price tag, according to sources.”
The reason these talks didn’t gain much traction is because their best non-Embiid, Harden offer was basically a package involving Tobias Harris ($37.6M), Tyrese Maxey ($2.7M) and maybe a future pick swap. They could amend some protections on picks already owed and perhaps find a way to cough up that 2029 pick. But all of this stuff starts to feel highly unrealistic.
The Sixers probably just don’t have a way to land Durant if he were put on the market. Now KD might try to force Brooklyn’s hand a bit. It was reported that Durant is open to playing for the Sixers. Stars as bright as Slim Reaper tend to enjoy a certain amount of influence, so maybe he could give the Nets a shortlist of teams he’d like to play for and try forcing his way to Philly. But again, it doesn’t seem likely to happen. Still, he’s KD so it’s absolutely worth calling about. Sorry. Tyrese. But you understand.
Next up is the highly-controversial Irving. He’s been a one-man wrecking ball at times in his career, one that swings into opponents as well as his own team.
Irving has — by his own behavior — been the center of ludicrous, appalling, or hate-filled scandals.
If you’d rather the Sixers not win a title than win one having traded for Irving, I respect that completely. Let’s make it abundantly clear that the video Irving shared and what it represents is abhorrent and that Liberty Ballers vehemently rejects those values. We as a blog understand why fans, especially Jewish fans, may have zero interest in Kyrie. This is one writer’s basketball specific opinion.
If the Sixers as an organization have non-starter moral qualms on-boarding such a difficult to root for weirdo, and one who may well clash in the locker room with Harden, that makes sense. I’d support that position completely. They can move right along to some other possibly available Nets.
But if they did not, if the Sixers wanted him, and he was somehow affordable, again just purely evaluating this from a basketball perspective, well, let’s just say they wouldn’t be the only ones at least curious what the Nets might ask for in return.
The Sixers still don’t have a great package here if we’re having that conversation. Kicking in Tyrese Maxey, who Philadelphia could sign for a long-term deal this summer, makes it too pricey.
But if Daryl Morey and Elton Brand ran the idea up (to Josh Harris) and down (to Joel and James) the chain of command and got a green light, and a package like Tobias Harris, a role player, some amended pick protections, or a distant future swap got them into the ball-park?
You know the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks would prefer to defend this current version of the Sixers than one with Irving swapped in over Harris.
It probably doesn’t need to be said but the talent difference between Harris and Irving is vast. Irving currently ranks in the top 15 of the KIA MVP Ladder, a handful of spots below Harden, who sits a handful of spots below Embiid. It wouldn’t be the most seamless on paper fit, but they’d be the most talented team in the game — warts, baggage, tension, sage and all.
I may just be the only Liberty Baller with this opinion, but regardless of the defensive and size limitations of a Harris-plus-assets-for-Irving swap, it would dramatically enhance this team’s title odds, in large part by permanently diminishing the Nets’ and thwarting any other would-be contending suitors. It would blow up the chances a Durant-Irving led team eliminates these very Sixers from the playoffs in a few months.
Before Irving’s request the Nets (who’d rattled off 18 wins in 20 games last time KD was regularly in the lineup) enjoyed the East’s second-best title odds at +600. They’ve now slid down to +1400, and thereby boosting the Sixers up to +1100, the sixth best odds in the league.
But if Tsai and Marks can steady the ship again this time like they did last July, they’ll likely climb back to the top of the heap and present a dangerous threat to Embiid and co. Even if you didn’t fear them as a title threat, they might well make the Sixers’ eventual road to the Finals that much harder. They called Durant’s bluff back in July and it worked. I think the same thing happens again here, and Irving is just hoping for leverage with a pending free agency period. I don’t expect major change in Brooklyn.
On top of that, the Sixers probably don’t have enough ammo/assets to land Irving without parting with their core, so it’s all hypothetical, and for many of you, likely somewhere between annoying and appalling.
If you’re a Nets fan reading this, you’re probably laughing that I spent so much time on it while dreaming of bigger return packages. But if the Lakers get into the conversation with Russell Westbrook, Harris is certainly the type of model citizen that might be a refreshing change of pace, no?
So let’s say both of those conversations last all of 10 seconds between Morey and Marks.
There’s another compelling reason to call: Seth Curry. You just know both Morey and Seth’s father-in-law Doc Rivers would absolutely love to bring home Steph’s brother, one of the best shooters in the league, and all time. If there is indeed some type of Nets fire sale dominoes that this Irving thing kicks off, Seth would be a great target.
Embiid recently struggled vs. the Orlando Magic to find his open spot-up shooters. Harden is improving but still reluctant to shoot triples off-the-catch. Seth would provide floor-spacing in droves for both of them and make trapping opponents think twice about leaving him. Curry earns $8.4M in salary and something tells me he would fully welcome a return to Philly. Matisse Thybulle and Danuel House Jr. with the Hornets second-round pick? If Curry hinted tomorrow he wouldn’t be re-signing come July amid all the turmoil and drama that might appeal to the Nets.
If nothing happens between Philly and Brooklyn this year that could still work out for the Sixers if the Nets just blow it up. Their misfortune in and of itself is likely a major boon for Embiid and co. You just don’t want to see Durant land on a contender. Because then you’d wish Kyrie didn’t rock this tipsy boat. The Sixers had the eighth-best title odds just hours ago. Now they’re up to six. Let’s hope the Nets continue to flame out. And let’s hope Morey and Brand at least check the price tag on some division rival talent.
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