Kyrie Irving is set to join the Brooklyn Nets this offseason on a four-year $141 million contract.
The decision will be met with its fair share of raised eyebrows after Irving’s most recent season with the Celtics turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions. However, Irving is one of the premier players and point guards in the league, as well as being a Brooklyn native, thus the argument can be made that for a team looking to break into the upper echelon of the NBA, Irving is the exact type of superstar to lead you there.
By acquiring Irving, Brooklyn has turned down the option of retaining starlet D’Angelo Russell.
So, the question is: have Brooklyn sacrificed everything they’ve worked hard for after making one of the worst trades in NBA history in 2013? The truth is, it is too early to tell.
But where’s the fun in that? Here we take a look at whether or not Brooklyn sold their soul to the NBA devil in the search for success.
To judge whether or not Irving will be a good fit on the Nets or not ultimately lies with his attitude off the court and in the dressing room. In Cleveland, there were constant rumblings and whispers about Irving’s ego and borderline jealousy when LeBron James returned in 2015. These rumours came to fruition in 2017 as Irving demanded a trade to a contender, citing the willingness to lead his own team and ‘be the man’. As a result, the All-Star was traded to a super talented and young Boston Celtics team.
Irving’s first year in Boston went smoothly, averaging 24.4 points per game and 5.1 assists, but ended in disappointment as he was shut down for the playoffs due to injury. The Celtics went on to reach game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Irving.
This may have been the catalyst for the strange, erratic and selfish behaviour Irving displayed all of last season which ended, again in disappointment, losing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Bucks. At the end of it, Boston fans wanted to drive Kyrie to the airport.
In Brooklyn, Irving will be arriving in a similar situation. Of course, Irving will be joined by co-star and close friend Kevin Durant but as we know Durant will be out for the entirety of the 2019/20 season.
The Nets roster currently consists of a collection of talented youngsters such as: Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. This well may turn out to be a case of ‘Déjà vu’ down the line resulting in another young team derailed by the egotistical and downright strange Irving.
However, when analysing the Nets roster there are clear differences between Boston and Brooklyn.
For example, Brad Stevens had a nightmare organising the minutes for each player due to their being too many forwards on the team. Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were all vying for a position.
Speculation about Stevens showing favouritism towards Hayward did not help matters either.
There was also the problem of Terry Rozier insisting he earned the starting role based off of his performance in the 2018 playoffs. Contrasted to Brooklyn and the hilarious ‘bench mob’ reactions on the sideline as well as the clear construction of that roster, it would not surprise me at all if we saw a reduction in the amount of lockeroom drama stories from Kyrie and co.
On the court, Irving and Russell played at a similar level last season. Irving averaging 23.8 ppg, 6.9 apg whilst shooting 40% from three and 53% from two. Compare this to Russell averaging: 21.1 ppg, 7 apg, shooting slightly worse than Irving, 36% from three and 48% from two. Russell’s dependence on his mid-range game is a bit of a red flag. On 10.9 two-point attempts, Russell only went to the line an average of twice per game. A sign that the player doesn’t get to the rim often and relies on a mixtures of floaters and jump shots to score – an ineffective method in the modern NBA. It will be incredibly difficult for Russell to replicate a 48% two-point percentage in back to back years whilst only shooting two free throws per game.
On a purely stats basis, Irving is the better player, however, Russell is three years younger and has a far better health record.
Also, Kyrie will be earning an estimated $141 million over four years, meaning Irving will be being paid $35 million dollars at the age of 31, a risky move for a smaller point guard with a history of knee injuries. With this in mind, it is a good reminder that Irving has been in countless big games, Russell has not, and made one of the biggest shots in NBA history. Irving trumps Russell in terms of experience and the championship pedigree that comes with it.
Kyrie’s move to Brooklyn marks a pivotal point in his career, as well as Brooklyn’s.
For both sides this move is do or die. If Irving fails in New York then his reputation and legacy will be tarnished, something he clearly cares deeply about. On Brooklyn’s side they have shunned a player who was loved and revered by the city. Both sides have worked together to build something solid and be in a position a lot of NBA teams would envy. To risk that all on a volatile Kyrie Irving is a bold move, but this is the modern NBA with little room for sentiment, and after all this isn’t a cutthroat a deal as Irving was involved in last time with Isaiah Thomas.
The Nets are now a powerhouse in the East. A position to celebrate considering how dark the last few years have been for the franchise. Whether or not the organisation went the right route with Irving over Russell will reveal itself in time, but now is a time for celebration for Brooklyn and its fans.