Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 3 hours, the NBA’s silly-season firmly kicked in to gear on Sunday afternoon. Amongst the maelstrom of news and unconfirmed scuttlebutt, the destination of two names rose well above the rest.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn.
The two perennial All-Stars – with three championships, 1 league MVP, two finals MVPs and a plethora of clutch shots between them – will join up to play for the Nets next season. Meeting them in Brooklyn will be renowned good guy and sub-par free throw shooter DeAndre Jordan.
According to Woj, Durant will sign a 4-year, $164M deal; Irving will sign for 4-years and $141M. The immediate implications of this league-altering move are obvious. Brooklyn instantly go from a fringe playoff squad in the East to a legitimate Finals contender, on the assumption Durant can get himself healthy. Durant’s injury timeline in his return from a shocking Achilles injury suffered in the NBA Finals is currently unclear, but he is likely to miss at least year’s regular season with an outside chance of returning for the playoffs.
It’s worth bearing in mind in that respect that fellow New York franchise the Knicks – according to reporter Ramona Shelbourne – were not prepared to offer Durant a max deal due to concerns around his recovery. Whether that’s another typically-incompetent move from owner James Dolan or a shrewd business decision based on the league’s history of failed Achilles rehabs (Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups etc.) is a question that may only be answerable 3-4 years from now.
In the meantime, the Nets have thrown all their cards on the table. In doing so, the league-wide weight of expectation on this squad is now immense. That may be a tricky situation for a team that for most of the 2018-19 season seemed to operate directly in spite of expectation. The lack of faith in their capabilities seemed to inspire guys like D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
With the additions of Durant and Irving, to go along with recent trade-in Taurean Prince and secondary free-agent signing Garrett Temple, here’s how the Nets roster for next season currently stands:
Kevin Durant 31 SF $38,199,000
Kyrie Irving 27 PG $32,742,000
DeAndre Jordan 30 C $10,000,000
Spencer Dinwiddie 26 PG $10,605,084
Joe Harris 28 SG $7,666,667
Garrett Temple 33 SG $4,878,049
Taurean Prince 25 SF $3,481,986
Caris LeVert 25 SG $2,625,718
Jarrett Allen 21 C $2,376,840
Dzanan Musa 20 SG $1,911,600
Shabazz Napier 28 PG $1,882,867
Rodions Kurucs 21 SF $1,699,236
Treveon Graham 25 SG $1,678,854
Almost needless to say, but that roster looks STACKED. A starting lineup of Irving, Harris/LeVert, Durant, Prince and Jordan with Dinwiddie, Allen, Temple and Napier as rotation guys will be one of the best in the East. Even if Durant doesn’t play at all next year, arguably that team is still plenty good enough to make a deep playoff run.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the fate of D’Angelo Russell. The 23-year-old point guard is a restricted free agent, with a cap hold of $21,059,094 sitting on the Nets’ books currently.
Despite some indications earlier this month that the Nets were looking at pairing Russell with Irving, that no longer appears to be on the cards. Woj reported yesterday that as soon as Irving signed, the Nets would be renouncing their rights to D’Lo. That hasn’t happened as yet but one would think it will only be a matter of time given the news that has already broken today.
Whilst ostensibly losing a freshly-minted 23-year-old All-Star for a more expensive 27-year-old with questionable locker-room influence is arguably concerning, the fact is that Kyrie Irving makes this team far better than the 42-40 record they chalked up last year. Kyrie, for all his flaws, has shown he is capable of running his own team (which he will have to do for the next twelve months), but also that he is quite happy playing second-fiddle to an out-and-out superstar (which is what he will have to do when Durant is healthy).
Russell, on the other hand, is a relatively unproven commodity. He has played good basketball for less than one full season, and went missing in playoff crunch-time. Kyrie has proven himself on the biggest stage, time and time again, He may not be the perfect leader, but what the 2016 Cleveland championship showed is that he can step up when it counts.
When Kevin Durant is healthy, and with another season of experience under the belts of LeVert, Allen, Prince, Kurucs etc., this Brooklyn squad may be ready to compete as early as next year’s playoffs.
What a turnaround by this franchise.
Written and produced for Sportstips.com by Eddie Dadds