On Wednesday, Celtics star Kyrie Irving made two big decisions ahead of free agency.
The Athletic reported that Kyrie will opt-out of his $21 million player option, and become an unrestricted free agency. The same day, it was announced that he would be changing agents, and is expected to sign with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
Kyrie’s time in Boston appears to be over. While the recent Roc Nation signing may mean the Nets are a lock to sign the six-time All Star, Kyrie Irving controls his own destiny, and will likely play on one of four teams next season. Here is a look at which team would be the best fit for Kyrie, a top free agent, to sign with long team.
On paper, the Celtics were expected to run through the Eastern Conference and compete for an NBA title this season. At the beginning of the year,, Kyrie even said he wanted to sign long-time with the storied franchise. Instead, the season was inconsistent, drama filled, and ended in a five game loss to Milwaukee in the semi-finals.
While Kyrie didn’t choose to be traded to Boston, it seemingly had all the ingredients a superstar would want. While he put up great numbers in his second season (23.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.9 APG), the Celtics seemed to play better, movement-based basketball without Kyrie. Boston is in a difficult spot should he leave in free agency, but a mutual parting could benefit both sides.
Los Angeles Lakers
Throughout the season, there was buzz that Kyrie and LeBron could reunite this summer in L.A.While this would be a largely personal decision for both players, the pay off could be multiple championships.
The split from Cleveland seemed to be messy, leading Kyrie to want to be the leader of his own team. LeBron reportedly wanted to keep Irving, but he was dealt anyway. If any remaining personal beef was squashed, Kyrie and LeBron could team up once again, though both players would probably receive a lot of criticism.
With Anthony Davis headed to L.A., either this summer or in 2020 free agency, the Lakers could have a big three on their hands. If A.D. and Kyrie joined LeBron, the Lakers would easily be the favorites for the foreseeable future.
While it isn’t as likely as one of the New York teams, Kyrie heading to L.A. can’t be ruled out.
New York Knicks
Kevin Durant’s injury could be a huge blow for the Knicks, as well as the impact it has on signing Kyrie Irving. The two, now both Roc clients, were heavily rumored to team up and revitalize the dysfunctional yet historic franchise.
Even if the Knicks signed both superstars, Kyrie would be throwing away a season of his career. Durant will likely not play next season, and Irving would be leading a Knicks roster with several plays that are still developing.
Kyrie, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and others would not make the playoffs with KD sidelined. If they both decide it would still be worth it when Durant is healthy, the Knicks could still be the landing spot. Without KD, New York’s other team seems to be the most likely location for the soon-to-be former Celtic.
All signs point to the Nets for Kyrie. He grew up in a suburb of Newark, NJ, so Brooklyn is incredibly close to home. Signing with Roc Nation also says a lot, as Roc Nation President Michael Yormark’s twin brother Brett is the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets.
The dominoes seemed to be falling further, with the Nets recently clearing space for two max contracts. D’Angelo Russell would likely not come back if the Nets signed Kyrie. The team could eye players like Tobias Harris, Nikola Vuvecic, Khris Middleton, and others as the second option.
While Kyrie would control his destiny and play in his desired location by joining the Nets, it’s hard to see the tremendous upside in terms of winning. He would be the main scoring option and de-facto leader of the team, something that proved to be unsuccessful in his second season with the Celtics. Was last season a fluke?
Being “Robin” next to LeBron, or potentially Durant, is a role we saw Kyrie excel in with the Cavs. As the focal point of a team, even when surrounded by talent in Boston, he didn’t lead, and instead imploded against the Bucks, shooting 6-21 in Game 5.
The jury is still out on Kyrie’s leadership ability, but perhaps different scenery could change his career trajectory.
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.