"The idea of Kyrie as a solo act is not what this plan has been. It's been about getting that second star; it's about KD," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Tuesday. "...that will be the question about not just will they still take Kyrie Irving without a second star but whether it's Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, let's go down the list of free agents. I don't think they want to max any of those players out. Tobias Harris? Perhaps. But could they get those guys at a lower number to keep some salary-cap flexibility?
"There's going to be a moment of truth if KD doesn't come and Kyrie says I'm ready to go. As an organization, it may not be what you intended but you say: 'You know what? We have a chance to improve this team dramatically, and we'll take on that second star who may not be of All-NBA caliber.'"
Harris and Butler are both expected to command max-level salaries, whether it's from another team or the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers acquired both players during the 2018-19 season and reportedly want to retain them on the open market.
The Nets are the favorite to land Irving, who appears to be a near-lock to leave the Boston Celtics in free agency. Brooklyn has positioned itself to have two max-level contract slots for Irving and another free agent, and the team is also the favorite to sign Durant, who could miss the 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury.
The Nets are also playing a precarious game with D'Angelo Russell, their All-Star guard who will be a restricted free agent. The overwhelming sentiment is that Brooklyn would renounce Russell if Irving commits. However, if the Nets have to make a decision between maxing Irving and another lesser player or keeping Russell at a friendlier number, it could be a conversation in the Nets front office.
Essentially, free agency is a bunch of interconnected dominoes that are going to fall into place in rapid succession come June 30.