2019 NBA Free Agents: Kyrie Irving
House of Highlights
Kyrie Irving’s impending free agency is a tale of failed promises, collapsed relationships, and utterly shattered expectations. It appears very unlikely that he will re-up with the Boston Celtics this summer, despite public pledges to do so.
Irving and the Celtics struggled through a season marred by constant drama and contentiousness. Rather than the standard-bearers for the Eastern Conference, Boston and its idiosyncratic point guard flamed out in disastrous fashion during the second round of the postseason.
Regular Season Per Game Stats:
6.9 assists 5.0 rebounds
Shooting splits: 48.7 FG%, 40.1 3P%, 87.3 FT%
Shooting splits: 38.5 FG%, 31.0 3P%, 90.0 FT%
Kyrie is one of the true elite scoring talents in professional basketball. His shot creation and execution are perhaps unrivaled. In Uncle Drew resides instant offense.
At the same time, his defense, especially during his time in Boston, has proven to be rather effective. He is no sieve on the defensive end, and Irving has shown he can be an above-average player in this regard when he wants to be.
Kyrie also represents championship experience. As the Milwaukee Bucks showed us during the 2019 playoffs, having been to the promised land is an important intangible when attempting to lead others to glory.
The extent of Irving’s weaknesses are still unknown. He was unwilling or incapable of consistent leadership in Boston. He was moody and difficult, which is a tricky proposition for a player who desperately wants to stand out as a leader of mean.
Irving’s injury history also can’t be ignored. His collegiate and NBA careers have been dotted with frequent surgeries and other issues.
Irving would be at his best sharing the spotlight, preferably with an older player. Not only would he not be tasked with leading a team on his own, but alongside a fellow All-Star, his offensive load would be lightened. Facing elimination against the Bucks, Irving’s insistence to do it all deeply harmed the Celtics.
Possible Landing Spots:
LOL just kidding.
The Nets have worked hard to open up cap-space, allegedly with Irving in mind. Irving clearly pines for a change of scenery and the biggest stage he can find. He just signed with Roc Nation, and reportedly favors Brooklyn over the cross-town Knicks.
Irving would join a crop of young players eager to take the next step in the Eastern Conference. Just swapping Kyrie for D’Angelo Russell, however, won’t be enough to vault the Nets into true contention. But it would sure be a start.
Los Angeles Clippers:
The worst-kept secret in the NBA is Kawhi Leonard’s impending Clipperdom. It seems almost inevitable at this point.
Leonard would be an excellent player for Irving to team up with. He’s steady, collected, and focused in all the ways Irving sometimes isn’t. Together the two would form the nucleus of a very potent offense.
Expected Next Contract:
Given some of the harrowing injuries we just saw this spring, I would expect fewer 1+1 contracts to be signed this summer, bucking the recent trend of star players maximizing flexibility. That said, Irving may look to take max money on a shorter contract.
It seems unlikely that Kyrie will find a situation to commit to whole-heartedly this summer. Likewise, teams would be smart to have hesitation in locking up such a volatile player.