Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving has played a grand total of 20 games this season. The high-priced free-agent signing will miss the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery, ending an injury-plagued year.
That’s the backdrop for Brooklyn coming out of the All-Star Break. It’s also going to lead to some major questions as the team finishes up what has been a disastrous season in the Big Apple.
The gist: Less than a year removed from signing a four-year, $136.5 million contract, Irving has become an enigma in Brooklyn. It’s not simply about the injury.
- Reports very early in the season indicated that the Nets’ brass was already put off by Irving’s personality. He’s been something of an enigma over the past several seasons.
- That did not start in Brooklyn. Other NBA teams questioned Irving’s personality during free agency last summer. In fact, it led to multiple teams deciding against targeting him.
- Irving will turn 28 years old in March. The idea that his personality had to do with a lack of maturity can be thrown out the window. There’s broader issues here that could impact Brooklyn’s team chemistry.
Success without Irving: The former NBA champ has not had the impact that Brooklyn hoped for when on the court this season.
- The Nets are just 8-12 in the 20 games Irving has suited up in this season. that includes losses to the hapless Timberwolves, Pistons, Suns and Wizards.
- Brooklyn boasts a 17-16 record in the 33 games Irving has missed up to this point. That includes wins over the Celtics, Nuggets, Sixers and Heat.
- It’s not a small sample size. Whether Irving doesn’t fit in the offense or something else, he has not had the impact the Nets hoped for when they signed the All-Star to a max deal last summer. That is as clear as day.
The Nets’ Roster: Brooklyn’s roster is set up for success moving forward, even if the team finds a way to trade Irving.
- Kevin Durant will be the face of the Nets when he returns from injury next season. That could have an impact on Irving’s mentality.
- Equally as notable, the Nets have an absolutely tremendous young supporting cast behind Durant that’s capable of contention.
- Spencer Dinwiddie is playing at an All-Star level. Jarrett Allen is a great young center. Caris LeVert could potentially be a good No. 2 scoring option.
- It’s in this that the Nets don’t necessarily need a “star” player to go with Durant starting next season.
How a divorce might look: It’s going to be hard for the Nets to move Irving’s contract without taking a bad deal and sending draft picks the other way.
- With that said, there are avenues for the Nets to move on from Irving without too much of a long-term impact on both their roster and cap situation.
- Irving and DeAndre Jordan to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a first-round pick. Taking on the injured Wall and his contract could work well for the Nets. That’s especially true if they can add a pick from Washington.
- Irving and DeAndre Jordan to the Thunder for Chris Paul and one of the first-round picks OKC squired in the Anthony Davis trade. Paul and Durant would make for a dynamic short-term duo.
- Irving to the Mavericks for Tim Hardaway Jr., Delon Wright, Seth Curry and a first-round pick. This would be much more about moving Irving’s contract than anything else. Though, it would also give the Nets more depth.
- These are just three of ample possibilities for the Nets should they decide to move on from the All-Star guard.
The writing is on the wall here. Irving’s marriage with the Nets has already proven to be a failure. We don’t need to look any further than the first five months of this relationship.
If I were running the Nets’ front office, I’d look to cut ties with Irving at the first possible moment this coming offseason. The relationship is not going to get better.
And in reality, this drama could derail whatever championship window the Nets believe they have.
Cut ties and don’t look back.