You’d think that the team that has amassed more than $40 million in cap space, nearly double any other team, might control free agency once moves are possible starting at 6 p.m. Thursday. But, as usual, this is Kyrie Irving’s (flat) world and we’re just trying to live in it.
The mercurial point guard of the Brooklyn Nets has reached a contract stalemate to return, and The Athletic reports Irving has asked for an received permission to try and find an opt-in and trade.
Irving has a $36.9 million player option that must be exercised by Wednesday, and he’s hoping he can find a viable trade partner that would please Brooklyn so he can pick up the giant option and get traded to a new team. If not, he is reportedly at least considering opting out and signing for (much) less to pick his new team. The LA Lakers with former teammate LeBron James appear to be the frontrunners there.
What does this have to do with the Detroit Pistons? Like previously mentioned, Detroit has $40 million-plus in available cap space even after trading for Kemba Walker on draft night. The Pistons could be a valuable third partner in any potential Kyrie trade by being willing to take on salary that is of no interest to Brooklyn so long as the Pistons are enticed by receiving future draft picks, pick swaps and/or young players.
Also, considering the Pistons’ needs — veteran 3-point shooting, there is at least a decent chance they’d be willing to take on a player who could fill that role modestly well and find plenty of minutes for them.
A secondary consideration for Detroit, of course, is Kevin Durant. If Irving leaves that could mean KD attempts to force his way out of Brooklyn, and just about every contending franchise would be knocking on Brooklyn’s door to put something together. That, again, is where the Pistons could play a role as a clearing house for dead salary and bloated contracts so long as they receive adequate compensation.
The Pistons could provide the advantage of taking on salary and not sending anything out in return except for a valuable trade exception a team could use on a future deal and no long-term salary obligation. That is sometimes worth a future first-round pick or two.
"[The Brooklyn Nets] are prepared to lose both Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant. They would rather lose them both than go through what they through last season."— ’ (@_Talkin_NBA) June 27, 2022
— Brian Windhorst#NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/knkrFpUYXd
The loss of both seems much more than an idle threat at this point. Irving looks to have one foot out the door and Durant has reportedly not communicated with the team in weeks, and it’s logical to assume he doesn’t want to spend his late-30s chasing first-round playoff wins in Brooklyn.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN is reporting Monday that the Nets are “prepared to lose both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.” Is that aggressive posturing as negotiations continue or is it simply facing reality?
A deal is unlikely and it’s hard to put together even fake trades through the trade machine until you know which franchises are actually willing to step up to the plate to add Kyrie and to a lesser extent Durant. Also, in any potential deal, there would be a tricky balance of both Detroit and Brooklyn wanting some prime young assets in return.
Some franchises who have been rumored to be interested in offloading salary include the Lakers with Russel Westrook (yuck), the Miami Heat with Duncan Robinson (40% 3-point shooter over four seasons), and Brooklyn with Joe Harris (career 44% 3-point shooter but coming off of injury).
A deal is still extremely unlikely, but all it takes a team who thinks Irving is worth the risk but without the kind of cap flexibility to make an attractive offer. Another key question worth considering is just what Brooklyn would be looking for should their championship team of James Harden, Durant and Irving collapse so suddenly. Would they want to quickly regroup and get quality players to compete around Ben Simmons (remember him?) or would they tear it down to the studs and rebuild?
There are many advantages to being the team with the most cap space in the NBA, but one of the biggest is that it allows you to take advantage of the irrational exuberance of clubs trying to make a home-run swing.
The Pistons have had a few offseasons on the wrong side of that equation, but it’d be nice to see them on the right side of it for once.