In recent weeks, the Brooklyn Nets had emerged as one of the top contenders for the touted free-agent duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But with the Warriors’ Durant suffering an Achilles tear in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, there has been widespread speculation that the superstar forward might choose to remain in Golden State while possibly sitting out the entire 2019-20 season due to his injury. With that in mind, a new report suggests that the Nets might choose to pass on Irving if they aren’t able to land Durant in free agency once the 2019 offseason formally kicks off.
On Wednesday, Brian Lewis of the New York Post wrote that the Nets are still hoping that they could sign both Durant and Irving this summer, but also noted the dilemma the team currently faces — should they sign Irving from the Boston Celtics and make him their new point guard going forward, or should they hang on to first-time NBA All-Star D’Angelo Russell as their top playmaker? Given this dilemma, Lewis wrote that per his sources, the Nets “might have qualms” about signing Irving if he won’t be “bringing” Durant to Brooklyn with him.
Although Durant’s injury issues were mentioned by Lewis — the New York Post writer noted that the Warriors forward would essentially be sitting out a “redshirt year” with Brooklyn if they sign him — he also stressed that there are other teams that are now more wary of signing Irving for completely different reasons. According to Lewis, these teams have “similar concerns” with the Nets over how Irving’s relationship with the Celtics had allegedly deteriorated in his two years with the organization.
In addition to the above concerns, Lewis noted that the Nets would possibly have to trade some of their key players, such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and/or the recently-acquired Taurean Prince, in order to afford both Irving and Durant. Brooklyn had traded for Prince earlier this month, sending backup guard Allen Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks in a move that was designed to clear salary cap space for two maximum-contract free agent signings, per ESPN.
If the Nets aren’t able to land Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant this summer, the team could save money by re-signing D’Angelo Russell as a restricted free agent. According to Lewis, Russell would earn $27 million in the 2019-20 NBA season if he signs the four-year, $117 million contract he will be eligible for — this is considerably less than the $32 million or so Irving would earn if he signs a maximum four-year, $141 million deal with Brooklyn.
In lieu of Durant, the Nets could also consider frontcourt players such as Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris or Boston Celtics big man Al Horford, as further noted. Both players have close ties to Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson, with the former also being a Long Island native and the latter having worked with Atkinson when they were both with the Atlanta Hawks.