For several weeks, many of the NBA’s most plugged-in reporters have penciled in the Nets as Kyrie Irving‘s probable landing spot, and that still appears true, sources around the league tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link) conveys a similar sentiment, suggesting that – of the two New York teams – the Nets are the significant favorites over the Knicks for Irving.
However, as Lowe notes, the Nets’ preference has long been to pair Irving with a second star, with Kevin Durant widely assumed to be that second star. Now that Durant is set to miss 2019/20 due to an Achilles tear and his free agency intentions remain uncertain, Brooklyn must weigh whether Irving would be worth a substantial investment on his own, Lowe writes.
Irving’s projected maximum salary ($32.7MM) is more than $5MM higher than Russell’s ($27.25MM), but he’s also the better player, and most executives who spoke to Lowe agree that Kyrie is the better value if both players get max deals — even taking into account his potential to shake up the Nets’ locker room. However, if Russell’s new deal comes in at a few million below the max, those execs aren’t quite as sure that Brooklyn should opt for Kyrie over D-Lo, according to Lowe.
Here’s more from Lowe on the Nets and Russell:
- The Suns are in the market for a point guard and Devin Booker has advocated for Russell, who is a close friend. However, Lowe hears that “other voices within the Suns” may not be as enthusiastic about pursuing Russell.
- Sources tell Lowe that there’s “at least a kernel of truth” to rumors of the Lakers‘ potential interest in a Russell reunion. L.A. still has a lot to sort out though, Lowe cautions. The Knicks, meanwhile, are likely to pursue shorter-term deals if they strike out on this year’s elite free agents, meaning they likely wouldn’t be a suitor for Russell, says Lowe.
- If the Nets don’t end up landing Irving or Durant, re-signing Russell and adding a second-tier free agent like Tobias Harris would be another potential path for the franchise. However, Lowe writes that Brooklyn won’t want to risk locking itself into a “pretty good” roster and is more likely to swing for the fences.
- Lowe’s prediction: If Irving wants to come, the Nets will sign him with or without Durant, and will figure out the rest later.