There’s no denying that Boston Celtics team president Danny Ainge has little issue shaking things up if he believes it makes sense for the team. And while star point guard Kyrie Irving informed Celtics fans before the year of his intention to re-sign this coming offseason, things got a bit messy Friday.
Previous chatter linked Irving to the New York Knicks as a potential landing spot, and their recent trade to free up cap space ahead of 2019 free agency turned quite a few heads. The team moved Kristaps Porzingis and are expected to go after two stars this offseason. But when the Celtics guard was asked about his future ahead of Friday’s game against the Knicks, he didn’t hold back his thoughts at all.
As Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News detailed, Irving said he respects the Knicks organization and wishes them the best, but the topic of his own upcoming decision didn’t go over well. He stated Boston is “still at the head of that race” when it comes to his future, but provided little beyond that and specifically did not commit to re-signing this time, per Bondy.
“Just do the best for me. That’s what it comes down to,” Irving said. “Obviously this has become an entertainment thing for everyone. Somebody else is asking for a trade and I’m thrown into that. Uncertainty comes back on me. I don’t live in a certain hub. Some people call me about this dumb s–t. Of course my name is keep thrown into this and I’m not worried about a reputation, not worried about a legacy in the league. I’m just trying to be a human being, trying to make the best decision for my family.”
With this coming to light and Irving directly stating to “ask me July 1” when asked about if his mindset has changed on re-signing (per ESPN’s Ian Begley), a trade has to be on the table. Whether Ainge and company believe they can re-sign the 26-year-old remains unknown, but if there’s a legitimate risk of losing him, Boston could strike a deal and pull in a decent return.
The question then becomes, what would teams be willing to give up for a player who very likely will leave after the season? Or on the opposite side, would a team such as the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks even swing a trade if they believe they can sign him in the offseason?
Let’s check out a few possible trade packages for Irving, created with the ESPN NBA Trade Machine.
Lakers Opt Not to Wait, Trade for Kyrie Irving
To be clear, while I think the Lakers can put together a strong package for Irving, I don’t believe they’d actually do it. Instead, they would likely use their trade assets as a way to make a push for Anthony Davis.
By going that route, the Lakers could decide to make pursue Irving in free agency, which makes far more sense. But still, we’re playing the hypothetical game here, and a package with Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma for a player the Celtics may have concern over losing in the near future is a nice haul.
On the Lakers side, they certainly thin out their roster, but could look to potentially sign Carmelo Anthony and one or two others to add depth for the remainder of the season. Realistically, this trade may make the least sense, unless the Lakers badly want Irving and believe he’ll re-sign with Boston.
Nets Swing for Fences With Kyrie Irving
*Nets send Denver’s future first-round pick to Celtics
As RealGM details the Brooklyn Nets have a first-round pick coming in from the Denver Nuggets, but it’s protected 1-12 all the way through 2024. At that time, if it’s not collected then it becomes two second-round picks (it’s going to be collected this year almost without question).
There’s no better place to start than with D’Angelo Russell, who’s heading to the 2019 NBA All-Star Game as Victor Oladipo’s replacement. The 22-year-old is having an impressive year, averaging 19.6 points, 6.4 assists and shooting 37.4 percent from beyond the arc. While he’s set to become a restricted free agent after the season, this allows the Celtics some flexibility in their plan moving forward. If Russell proves to be a good fit, they could potentially keep him for the long haul.
Jarrett Allen is another intriguing young player and would provide a new starting center for the Celtics to pair with Al Horford in the frontcourt. His contract is also great for the Celtics and allows them to keep an open mind in free agency.
Denver Nuggets Make Big Kyrie Irving Trade Offer
*Nuggets send a future second-round pick to Celtics
As mentioned above, the Nuggets have a future pick going to the Nets, so that makes things interesting. Regardless, I think this core group of players and a second-rounder is enough to get the deal done but would be a major risk for Denver unless they’re confident Irving re-signs with them.
Jamal Murray can step in as Boston’s point guard for the foreseeable future while Will Barton is a strong player who adds depth and upside. The addition of Trey Lyles would provide a short-term boost while Michael Porter Jr. offers an intriguing upside but does come with question marks.
It’s a huge offer from Denver, but would essentially be one that points to them committing to the fact that Irving and Nikola Jokic can push them over the top. There’s a very real chance that the Nuggets wouldn’t make the offer this strong, but much of that depends on their thought process on the situation.