A few weeks ago, the Nets were the odds-on favorite to win the NBA title heading into the 2021-22 season. Today, Brooklyn still might be the favorite, but, at the very least, the gap between it and the field has certainly shrunk.
Kyrie Irving has thrown a wrench into the Nets’ 2021-22 plans, to put it mildly. The team last week effectively banned the seven-time All-Star from participating in team activities until he’s eligible to be a full participant, which won’t happen until he is vaccinated.
During an Instagram Live session on Wednesday night, Irving indicated he has no plans of doing so.
While Sean Marks is no doubt exploring possible trade avenues to take with Irving, the Nets general manager might feel a bit more urgency to shore up the roster elsewhere now that his Big Three has been reduced to a Big Two.
NBA columnist Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report sees a way for the Nets to upgrade their roster without including Irving in a trade – or Kevin Durant and James Harden, of course. In a recent piece for Bleacher Report entitled “Last-Minute Trades to Improve Every NBA Team’s Starting Lineup,” Buckley has Brooklyn trading starter Joe Harris and up-and-comer Nic Claxton (plus some draft capital) for Indiana Pacers star Myles Turner and Justin Holiday.
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Why Joe Harris for Myles Turner Makes Sense
Harris is one of the league’s best 3-point shooters and has been a consistent starter for the Nets over the past few seasons. He’s averaged better than 13.7 points in each of the past three seasons, and led the league in 3-point shooting accuracy in two of those years.
Turner, on the other hand, is a premier defender who can also spread the floor as a 6-foot-11 center. The 25-year-old led the league in blocks in two of the past three seasons and is a career 35.2 percent shooter from deep.
Buckley think the deal helps both teams:
Upgrading to Turner at center would do wonders for this defense, and starting him wouldn’t disrupt the spacing Holiday, meanwhile, would offset some of the shooting lost without Harris (as would newcomer Patty Mills), and Holiday would immediately become one of the best perimeter stoppers on the roster.
If Indiana feels it can’t go any further with the Turner-Domantas Sabonis combo up front, the Pacers could modernize their frontcourt by removing Turner and sliding T.J. Warren (once he’s healthy) up to the 4 spot. Harris would scratch their itch for a knockdown shooter, and Claxton would give them a versatile, 22-year-old big man to develop.
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What About Trading Irving?
During his Instagram Live session on Wednesday night, Irving said he was doing “what’s best for me” by refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, per NBA.com.
Unvaccinated players are not eligible to play home games in New York, where a mandate requires professional athletes to be vaccinated to practice or play in public venues.
Still, Irving said Wednesday that he had no plans of this being his final act on the NBA stage. He said he is not going to retire.
So why doesn’t Marks just trade Irving, who no doubt still has value for teams in markets that don’t have such a mandate? It’s more complicated than it sounds, as Buckley writes.
“With Kyrie Irving out of the Nets’ plans for the foreseeable future, it’s tempting to suggest a deal that would send Irving out for someone Brooklyn can actually use,” Buckley wrote. “But if you can pinpoint Irving’s trade value at the moment, you should probably be doing something a lot more important than scrolling through theoretical deals.”