According to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, 75 percent of the execs he spoke to feel Irving is worth anywhere from "$8 million to $10 million more than Russell."
If that difference in salary holds true, half of the executives polled told Lowe they believe the Nets should stick with Russell instead of signing Irving unless they are able to sign Kevin Durant as well.
Brooklyn has been linked to both Irving and Durant, and there is growing belief that the Nets may be able to sign both superstars.
Last week on ESPN's The Jump, Brian Windhorst reported that the Nets are "gaining confidence" in their ability to sign Durant. Former NBA center Kendrick Perkins added that he believes the Nets are the "front-runners" to sign KD:
Similarly, SNY's Ian Begley reported earlier this month that executives of teams in pursuit of Irving feel the Nets are the favorites to sign him as well.
Both Durant and Irving are in line for max contracts as multi-time All-Stars and players who have won NBA championships.
Although Russell is a 23-year-old rising star who is coming off his first All-Star season, he is not yet viewed on the same level as Kyrie.
Russell averaged 21.1 points, 7.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last season and reached the playoffs for the first time. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Irving averaged 23.8 points, 6.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as the top dog for a Boston Celtics team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
Boston actually regressed, as it reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season despite being without the injured Irving during the postseason.
Kyrie has a much more impressive body of work than Russell, though, complete with the 2016 NBA title from his time alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there are concerns about his ability to be the top player on a championship team.
Irving also didn't seem to mesh well with young players such as Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, which could be an issue in Brooklyn since its core is led by young stars such as Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
The pairing of Irving and Durant—provided the latter returns to form in 2020-21 after healing from a torn Achilles—could make Brooklyn the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, but signing Irving without KD and losing Russell may not be a risk worth taking for a young, developing team like the Nets.