How Should Nets Handle Kyrie Irving’s Expiring Salary?

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets, NBA Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

One of the surprise teams during the 2018-19 NBA season was the Brooklyn Nets. They were doing their best to climb out of a rebuild that was brought on by the ill-fated trade for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics.

There is no other way to put it other than the Nets got fleeced. They traded away a ton of players and draft capital, sacrificing the future of the franchise to make a run with veterans who ended up being over the hill. The Nets snapped a five-year playoff drought following that trade but won only one playoff series with that trio.

A lengthy rebuild was on the horizon and the Nets weren’t going to even reap the rewards of a high draft pick as they were all traded to the Celtics. It resulted in an ugly stretch of basketball, but the 2018-19 campaign signaled that things had turned around.

Led by All-Star D’Angelo Russell, the Nets made the playoffs in Kenny Atkinson’s third season with the team, ending a three-year playoff drought that many thought would go on for much longer. Following that first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise’s trajectory would be changed once again.

While all of the focus was on what the New York Knicks could do that offseason, as grand plans of landing Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA Draft and then signing Kevin Durant were hypothesized. Instead of the Knicks, it was actually the Nets who landed Durant and paired him with Kyrie Irving.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Kyrie Irving & Brooklyn Nets Updates

Just as with the trade with the Celtics, the Nets once again mortgaged their future and it proved to be the wrong decision. Following their signing, the Nets also traded for James Harden, which was a disaster as well.

That has all led to the point we are at now. The Nets no longer have Harden, as he was traded to the 76ers. Durant has requested a trade and provided the team with an ultimatum about keeping him or the duo of general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash. Keep in mind, that Nash is who Durant and Irving helped pick.

Brooklyn now has a decision to make with Irving. Irving scoped out the league earlier this offseason to see if there was a long-term deal to be had out there. He was making a decision about his player option for the 2022-23 season and when he was met with a cold market, he opted in.

But, that hasn’t stopped rumors from flying around about where he could end up. As pointed out at The Athletic, all signs point to Irving eventually landing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether it is via trade between now and the deadline or as a free agent in 2023, it sounds like he is heading west at some point.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Kyrie Irving & Brooklyn Nets Updates

That raises the question, what should the Nets do with him and his expiring contract? For now, they should hold tight. There is no reason to trade him just to make a trade. Expiring contracts have value around the league no matter who the player is. 

If the Nets are focused on bringing back draft capital, they can try flipping Irving for a longer contract a team wants to shed with a draft pick attached. Knowing he wants to end up in Los Angeles, they could re-engage the Lakers in trade talks centered around Russell Westbrook, but only on their terms.

Brooklyn has no incentive to budge from their asking price of two first-round picks to take on Westbrook. The Lakers are the team desperate to make a move.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Kyrie Irving & Brooklyn Nets Updates

If they do not step up to the plate, another team could during the season. It would not be surprising if a team needs a point guard at some point and is willing to engage the Nets in trade talks. A team in the playoff race could believe Irving is worth the trouble for a few months to make a championship push.

Right now, the Nets’ best course of action is to exhibit more patience. The Durant and Irving era was a failure, there is no reason to compound that by making an ill-advised trade. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Brooklyn to just let his contract expire and let him be on his way as a free agent in 2023.