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Report: Heat ‘believed to’ have interest in Kyrie Irving

Buckle up, folks.

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Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Joseph Guzy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat are “believed to” have “some level of” interest in the sweepstakes for current Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Marc Stein reported in his latest substack article (subscription required) Wednesday.

Here’s a snippet of what Stein wrote:

“Miami is believed to have some level of interst in joining the chase for Irving — should the Nets reach the point of actively trying to trade him — and would figure to be a more legitimate landing spot than the teams intitally mentioned given the Heat’s various trade assets. While it certainly ranks as another strain on the imagination to try to picture Irving finding daily comfort in Pat Riley’s rigid South Beach operation, it’s likewise true that the heat have never shied away from the starries of stars or personalities painted as challenging.”

Irving has until June 29 to either accept or decline his 2022-23 player option for $36.9 million. If he opts in, it would mark the last year of his deal and he would enter unrestricted free agency next offseason. But Irving, who has played 45.5 percent (103-of-226) of Brooklyn’s available regular season games since joining the franchise, is attempting to leverage a max extension from the Nets this summer which has reached a reported “impasse”, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Monday.

For Miami, this isn’t its first rodeo with Irving, who labeled the Heat as one of his four preferred landing spots in 2017, along with the Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs. When he was apart of the Chicago Bulls in 2017, Butler chose Irving on ESPN’s First Take when asked if there was a player he wanted to play with the most, dubbing Irving his “favorite player” who wasn’t himself.

Do with that information what you please.

For the Heat to hypothetically acquire Irving, it would be all that certain that Miami would send out Kyle Lowry in the package, who’s set to make $28.3 million in 2022-23 and $29.7 million in the final year of his contract in 2023-24. Along with Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent/Max Strus/Omer Yurtseven (presumptively its most valuable assets not named Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo), Miami’s eligible to trade three first-round picks — 2022 (No. 27 overall), 2023 and 2028 — outright with pick-swaps available in 2024 and 2027.

The Heat obviously wouldn’t be the only team involved for pursuing Irving. Among the rumored to be in the potential sweepstakes are the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks — the three teams Charania initially cited in his report.

Irving, in my opinion, is one of the flashiest and tantalizing stars to watch in the league — and would hypothetically fit great with Butler and Adebayo.

In his Brooklyn tenure, he’s tallied 27.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He’s posted near 50/40/90 shooting splits over that span: netting 49.0 percent of his attempts, including 40.6 percent from 3-point range (7.4 attempts) and 92.0 percent from the charity stripe — good enough for a remarkable 60.4 true-shooting percentage.

But, naturally, with the great comes the not-so-great.

Irving elected to sit out a majority of the 2021-22 season because he didn’t want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it was a New York mandate. The policy was eventually levied, limiting Irving to just 29 games.

He missed 19 games in 2020-21 and 52 games over the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season due to various injuries. Now, it would be hypothetical of me to acknowledge this without pointing out that Miami has a similar superstar — Jimmy Butler — who’s failed to play 60 regular season games in four of the last five seasons. But Butler has still been more reliable than Irving at this stage of their respective careers.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets “clearly” want Irving back “on a shorter deal”, whether it’s for his $36.9 million player option or a new two-year raise worth $42 million per year on average. Woj also noted that Irving cost himself “approximately $17 million” by sitting out because of his vaccine refusal while potentially losing several million dollars elsewhere if he loses his shoe deal with Nike.

Whether it’s the Nets or the team that trades for the 30-year-old guard, Miami included, a team might have to — and be more than willing to — pay him the max in-part because he wants to recoup his losses. Heat president Pat Riley has never been shy about seeking the “big fish” — but will that be Irving under this umbrella? Time will tell.