The Miami Heat would reportedly be on Kyrie Irving’s list of teams for a potential sign-and-trade if things don’t work out with the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to his sources, Wojnarowski also cited the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers as potential S&T partners.
Though he immediately followed-up by saying that this doesn’t mean Irving’s “necessarily a priority” for these aforementioned organizations.
Those are teams who Irving has interest in, but he isn’t necessarily a priority for all of them, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2022
The Heat, however, are “believed to” have some level of interest in Irving, should be made available over the next several days, according to NBA insider Marc Stein. The two were linked together in 2017, when Irving listed Miami as one of his four preferred landing spots with the Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs.
In 2017 on ESPN’s First Take, Jimmy Butler said Irving was his “favorite player” who wasn’t himself and the player he wanted to play with the most.
Jimmy Butler, during a 2017 appearance on First Take, was asked who he would pick if he could play with anyone in the NBA. (h/t @TheSteinLine)— Locked On Heat (@LockedOnHeat) June 22, 2022
"I probably have to go with my favorite player -- who is not myself -- and that's Kyrie [Irving]. I just love Kyrie's game, man." pic.twitter.com/bOAWiM2qu2
Irving has until June 29 to either accept or decline his 2022-23 player option for $36.9 million. So this is going to be an ongoing storyline as long as there’s a stale mate in Irving’s contract talks with Brooklyn.
If he were to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, none of the six teams listed would be able to sign Irving to the max with outright cap space, like Woj mentioned. To avoid being hard-capped, a team could pursuade him to opt to sign for less than the taxpayer’s mid-level exception ($6.4M), although that’s significantly unlikely.
Conversely, a sign-and-trade would hard-cap the team receiving Irving, meaning the organization could not exceed the projected ~$155 million tax apron under any circumstance. That adds complication for Miami, who’s cap sheet is top-heavy.
Here’s what I wrote yesterday about the complicated obstacle of acquiring the 30-year-old guard, if it wanted to:
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.
There’s an avenue for Miami to land Irving, but it takes two to tango.
He would hypothetically be a great fit basketball-wise with Butler and Bam Adebayo, but there would be an immediate cloud of skepticism that blankets everything else. Not to say that it wouldn’t work — because, believe it or not, it could — but Irving has played just 45.5 percent of the Nets’ possible regular season games since joining Brooklyn due to various injuries and the refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He’s also been perpetually surrounded by additional drama since his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers after the 2016-17 season.
If Irving ends up departing, it could prompt star forward Kevin Durant to leave; Durant’s “monitoring’ the Nets’ situation and considering options for his future, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Though Woj mentioned before the draft that Durant hasn’t officially said he’d ask out if Irving leaves (yet). He’s got four-years with at least $192 million left on his contract.
Sources: Kevin Durant is monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ situation and considering options with his future.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 23, 2022
This now opens the path for Kyrie Irving to proceed on finding a new home via opt-in and trade.
While the reporting suggests otherwise, it’s fair to assume the Nets and Irving work something out because it could cripple the franchise if it doesn’t. It is, however, a situation still worth monitoring because of the ripple effects it could have on the Heat and throughout the NBA.