Kyrie Irving Trade Saga: How to Approach Betting NBA Futures for Nets, Lakers, More
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets.
Once again, we’re back to nonsense with Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Irving has, once again, demanded a trade before next Thursday’s deadline. Marc Stein reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks are expected to engage the Nets on trade talks.
So far, there’s been no clarity on the Nets’ position here, whether they are willing to help him with a trade, what they’re looking for, etc.
This early report moved markets on Friday as the Nets went from +700 to win the title to +4000 at BetMGM while the Lakers, the presumptive favorite to land Irving based on offseason links to a potential deal, moved from +4000 to +3000.
Let’s run down the questions, and we’ll look at the market fallout.
What Does This Mean for Kevin Durant?
That’s right; the important is not about Irving at all. It’s about Kevin Durant, who requested a trade last summer over the turmoil with Irving and then rescinded it when the Nets stood their ground.
Irving is a good player when he’s around, with great handles and excellent shooting. He gives effort on the defensive end and navigates the floor as well as any player in league history.
But Durant remains a top-five player and one of the most impactful players in the NBA, even at age 34, three years removed from an Achilles injury.
Part of Durant’s trade demand wasn’t just about Irving. It was about the direction of the team under general manager Sean Marks and former head coach Steve Nash. Nash was fired early this season, and since Jacque Vaughn, someone Durant supports, took over the coaching duties, the Nets moved into a top-four position in the East even with Durant having missed the last two weeks.
Given the changes and how the team has played, can the Nets keep Durant on board? Or will his loyalty to Irving win out?
If not, things go haywire. All the conversations about the Phoenix Suns being a potential suitor for Irving get switched to Durant. The Suns were the first team listed on Durant’s wish list when he demanded a trade last summer.
Would Durant’s potential availability turn the Toronto Raptors from sellers to buyers at the deadline? Would it cause another team to make a dramatic move to win a title this year?
Maybe Durant has an epiphany and realizes how many serious chances at a title Irving has already cost him. But as long as there’s a chance Durant will be on the market, he’ll be the real prize in this whole debacle.
Who Is Willing to Take on the Risk of Trading for Irving?
Bear in mind that trading for Irving means being willing to sign him to an extension. That’s the source of the tension: Irving does not want to sacrifice long-term guaranteed money while the Nets want to put heavy incentives and thresholds into his deal.
Here are the things you have to account for with Irving:
- Missing time due to being suspended for posting promotion of anti-semitic materials.
- Missing games in the event of another severe outbreak of COVID-19 requiring vaccination mandates.
- Missing time because he needs a few days away.
To trade for him, a team would have to be desperate. They would have to be flailing in the waters so badly that even with all his distractions, just the chance of better talent is worth it.
So let’s all say hi to the Lakers and Mavericks.
The Lakers have been .500 for quite some time. They went on a run, then Anthony Davis got hurt, and they dipped, and then they went on a run and dipped again.
But ultimately, they’re the team best suited to take on Irving. It’s a star worthy of moving their two remaining picks for; it’s a star with LeBron James’ approval. It’s a way to move the Russell Westbrook contract (conceivably).
They don’t mind the circus Irving brings; that’s where they live anyway.
Does Irving dramatically improve their chances? Well, for what? The playoffs? Absolutely. He probably vaults them over the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. They would likely finish at least in the top two of the play-in with homecourt and be favored to reach the playoffs.
After that? You wind up in the precarious position we find ourselves in with other flailing super teams.
“Do you really want to count out LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Irving?” is the new “Do you really want to count out Durant, Irving, and James Harden” which became the new “Do you really want to count out Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons?”
That’s not to say they can’t make a run, but the move is not to bet the Lakers now but instead to bet them series by series when they would be dogs.
How Does an Irving Trade Happen?
For the Lakers, it starts with Westbrook, of course. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported that there have been discussions between the Jazz and Lakers for Westbrook, a likely salary dump that would include the pick assets. If the Jazz acted as the third team, they could send actual rotation pieces to Brooklyn.
The issue, of course, is that both the Lakers and Nets are short on pick assets and young players to send the Jazz as compensation. But if a deal happens, don’t be surprised if the Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, or Charlotte Hornets get involved as a third team, given there have already been Westbrook conversations there, and those teams have the cap space to absorb Westbrook’s contract for incentive.
As for the Mavericks, they’re just as desperate as the Lakers. They can give Brooklyn the wings they would want for the playoffs. A move to send Spencer Dinwiddie back to the Nets would be, quite frankly, hilarious given his saga, but also would fill their point guard need.
The other team reportedly in conversations is the Suns, and this is why the Suns are the best team to bet right now.
Here’s what league sources have said about the Suns this week (as we’ve previously reported):
- Phoenix is looking for big upgrades, not small moves.
- Phoenix is looking for a long-term replacement option for Chris Paul as he nears the end of his career.
Every conversation with Phoenix expands into a bigger framework.
Whether it’s Paul for Irving, or some combination of players for Durant in the event that Durant also asks out, the Suns have the most incentive and long-standing interest in acquiring a major star from Brooklyn.
They have all of their own picks for the next seven years, which is a nice difference from the Lakers, and players like Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton to throw into a package.
The Suns have the ability to give the Nets a return package to contend immediately with if they keep Durant. They have the ability to give the Nets long-term assets if the Nets have to essentially blow things up. And the Suns have the most incentive to shake up their existing framework.
The Doomsday Scenario
This is speculative, it is not based on reporting. But I continue to go through the logic of this whole disaster and ask this essential question: If Durant is so ready to stick by his friend that he’d ask for a trade as well, what’s stopping a team from putting together a deal for both superstars?
The Lakers were mentioned as desiring such a deal this summer (much the same way I desire “The Last of Us” to come out all at once and not once a week; I can wish and wish, but it won’t be so). The only way that happens if they trade Davis, which repeatedly has been shot down by established reporting.
Would the Suns trade Paul, Johnson, Jae Crowder, and Ayton, along with picks for both Durant and Irving, if the Nets have any interest?
The smart way to bet this situation is to wait for the market to overreact to the trade and go the other way. Irving is an agent of chaos; he’s wrecked three teams’ chances at a title in the last seven seasons. The 2016 game-winner was seven years ago.
The smart move might honestly be to wait for the market to move after Irving is dealt (if he’s dealt) and then go the other way. The only two bets I’ve made under this situation is to add to my portfolio a Net +1400 and a Suns +1200 title bet.
If the Nets just sit tight and decide to play it out, the damage Irving can do is limited (he said, as if he had never seen what carnage Irving could wreak) and they might just win the title anyway. The team is good enough. If they trade for a Paul or a good set of players, the Nets might come out ahead in the talent and vibes department.
And the Suns still stand as the team most likely to benefit from Nets chaos for multiple reasons and can still win without a trade with Devin Booker returning next week.
Either way, buckle up; the next week is about to only get wilder as the NBA trade deadline approaches.
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