With about a week to go until the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, the Nets are the talk of the sports world – but not for anything that has to do with the fact that they’re the odds-on title favorite entering the year.
The Nets on Tuesday announced that Kyrie Irving, their seven-time All-Star and one leg of their Big Three, will not be allowed to practice or play with the team until he can be a “full participant.” Irving won’t be a full participant until he’s fully vaccinated.
During a press conference, Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters that the decision to effectively ban Irving was ultimately made by himself and team owner Joe Tsai.
And so the title-favorite Nets are left in an awkward spot as they continue to deal with an unprecedented situation. It begs the question: Might the Nets be better of trading their 29-year-old superstar if they determine they’ve reached a point of no return?
If Brooklyn does get to that point, their potential trade partners are limited. The Knicks and Golden State Warriors are certainly out – both teams play in cities that have vaccine mandates in place. And then there’s Irving’s hefty contract, which limits his plausible landing spots.
ALL the latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Thunder Make a Lot of Sense
In their ESPN story, Bontemps and Marks wrote that “ the Oklahoma City Thunder are the type of team that makes sense as a possible trade partner.”
It boils down to the financials.
“The Thunder can absorb the entire Irving contract and save Brooklyn $145 million in salary and tax penalties for this season,” the ESPN duo wrote. “More important, the Nets would go under the luxury tax for this season and stop the clock as it pertains to the repeater tax penalty in the future.
“The Nets would also create a $35.3 million trade exception — the largest in league history.”
It’s unclear the type of assets the Nets might yield in return – OKC’s roster isn’t exactly overflowing with talent – but this move, more than anything, would do a lot to help the Nets financially. They currently have the second-largest luxury tax bill in the NBA, behind only the Golden State Warriors, per spotrac.com.
Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!
How Will Nets Cope in Irving’s Absence
Even without Irving in the mix, the Nets have no reason to panic regarding their guard situation.
Offseason signee Patty Mills, who played the past 10 seasons for the San Antonio Spurs, would be the top option off the bench. And rookie Cameron Thomas also could be a factor in the rotation.
“I mean, he’s a special player, so it is going to be hard to duplicate what he brings,” Durant said of Irving, per ESPN. “But professional sports are about the next-man-up mentality, so we are looking forward to guys stepping up and filling in that role as best as they can.
“He’s a special player. We want him a part of this group. But a lot of stuff is out of our control, and we will let him figure that out for himself. It doesn’t mean that I will say that I don’t want him on the team. He’s a huge part of what we do, but guys got to step up in his absence and be who they are and move forward.”