Kyrie Irving's Most Realistic and Most Desirable Landing Spots if He Leaves Nets

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2022

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Rumors have been swirling around Kyrie Irving for months, but they turned into a full-scale tornado during draft week.

Hours before the fates of 58 prospects were announced on national TV, The Athletic's Shams Charania sounded the alarm:

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: Kevin Durant is monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ situation and considering options with his future.<br><br>This now opens the path for Kyrie Irving to proceed on finding a new home via opt-in and trade.

Shortly thereafter, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski added to the madness and shared a list of teams "Irving has interest in."

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Those are teams who Irving has interest in, but he isn’t necessarily a priority for all of them, sources said.

Given Wojnarowski's caveat at the end of that tweet, it's safe to say each of those options is a long shot. In the end, the most realistic outcome of all this might be Kevin Durant and Kyrie remaining with the Brooklyn Nets.

But there's just too much noise to ignore, and with possible destinations narrowed down, it's time to look at two: the most realistic and most desirable.

Most Realistic: Miami Heat

Kyrie's trade value may be diminished by the last several years of drama, unavailability and aging (he turned 30 in March), but that doesn't mean Brooklyn is just going to give him away.

If he's healthy and engaged (big ifs, to be sure), he's the kind of talent who can lift you to a championship-caliber offense, which is why the Miami Heat should perk up at the thought of Kyrie being available.

Miami was the top seed in the East this postseason, but it finished in the bottom half of playoff offenses and looked stuck in neutral against the Boston Celtics.

That certainly had a lot to do with Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro only sharing the floor for seven minutes in that series (thanks to injuries), but it was hard to come away from that matchup without thinking there's too much offensive responsibility on Butler's shoulders.

Having a locked-in Irving in the rotation would certainly alleviate that. And of the teams listed above, the Heat likely have the most attractive trade package it could send Brooklyn's way.

The Deal: Kyrie Irving for Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick

If the Nets lose Irving, they're pretty much resigning themselves to the loss of Durant and, ultimately, a rebuild. Any packages for either player should probably have young players, draft consideration or both. And that's exactly what Miami is offering here.

Herro isn't Irving, but he's 6'5", 22 years old and just averaged 20.7 points in his third season. He has No. 1-option upside at the age of plenty of this year's draft prospects. Most of the other teams in Wojnarowski's list can't (or in the Knicks' case, shouldn't) offer that.

And while those picks don't figure to be high in the draft, you never know what can happen in the future. And again, Irving's value is a bit diminished right now. Teams on track for top-three picks aren't lining up to surrender them for Kyrie.

Finally, a rebuilding team probably wouldn't be stoked to have Lowry's contract on the books through 2024, but rules are rules. Brooklyn has to take some money back to satisfy the CBA.

For Miami, a lineup with Irving, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo offers terrifying offensive upside and two of the league's best defenders. Filling out the rest of the rotation with reliable role players might push the Heat back to the Celtics' level.

Most Desirable: Los Angeles Clippers

The idea of a reunion with LeBron James in L.A. is intriguing, but he's 37 years old. Recapturing the magic of 2016 is far from a given. And it's hard to imagine Brooklyn wanting anything to do with Russell Westbrook's contract unless it can reel a third team into a deal to take that on.

Playing at Madison Square Garden would be fun, but what would be left of that team after a Kyrie trade? Would the New York Knicks even want to give up RJ Barrett for the possible headache that Irving might bring?

Joining Luka Doncic on the Dallas Mavericks could create a pair with an offensive dynamic similar to the one Kyrie and LeBron had in Cleveland, but it might also lead to similar tension.

Then there's the Philadelphia 76ers, who figure to have James Harden on the roster. And, well, those two have been down that road before.

That leaves the Los Angeles Clippers. They, too, have ball-dominant wings in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but they may be past the individual prove-it phases of their careers that Luka is closer to. And the idea of Kyrie being surrounded by switchable, rangy defenders is intriguing.

The Deal: Kyrie Irving for Luke Kennard, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, a 2027 first-round pick swap and a 2028 first-round pick

This return is far from on par with Miami's (hence, not being in the "most realistic" slot). Kennard is four years older than Herro. Mann isn't quite the prospect Miami's Sixth Man of the Year is. And the salary filler (Powell) is on the books for two years longer than Lowry is.

This package does give Brooklyn some draft consideration, though. And it might be enough to get it done if every other team in the league is too scared to send any picks back. Brooklyn may just cut its losses and hope for more of a haul with a Durant deal.

For L.A., presumably getting Leonard and George back and plugging Kyrie into Reggie Jackson's role would make the Clippers one of the scariest teams in the West.


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