Former Champion Pitched as Alternative to Kyrie Irving for Heat in Free Agency

A former NBA champion point guard was pitched as a free agent alternative to Kyrie Irving for the Miami Heat

Getty A former NBA champion point guard was pitched as a free agent alternative to Kyrie Irving for the Miami Heat

Former NBA champion point guard for the Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet, was pitched for the Miami Heat as a free agent alternative to Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving by Deadspin’s Criss Partee in an opinion piece published on June 15.

“VanVleet has championship experience, having been part of the 2019 Toronto Raptors title team playing next to current Heat point guard Kyle Lowry,” Partee prefaced before saying, “He might not be the splashy signing Irving would be, but he’d come in, work hard, and uphold Heat culture.”

Partee doesn’t feel Irving is worth the long-term contract he is expecting in free agency due to his past controversial behaviors; including but not limited to unexplained elongated midseason disappearances and his sharing of a movie deemed antisemitic by The New York Times.

“At this point, Kyrie is too much of a wildcard, especially if he expects that long-term deal he supposedly has his eyes on,” Partee wrote. “It’s true you have to think outside the box sometimes. But with Irving, you’re setting yourself up for failure more often than not lately.”

Fred VanVleet ‘More Realistic’ for Rockets Than Kyrie Irving

Continuing the trend of analysts preferring VanVleet to Irving, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko believes the former is a more realistic target than the latter is for the Houston Rockets and shared as much during The HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto.

“The Kyrie to the Rockets link makes sense because he’s a talented point guard, but when you think of the logistics that have to go behind that deal, I’d be shocked if that happened,” Iko said. “The VanVleet thing is more realistic to me than Kyrie because it makes more sense. VanVleet is a bit younger. He’s also an NBA champion and a quality playmaker. His defense has regressed in recent seasons, but I think under the right guy, he can be reinvigorated.”

The New York Post’s Christian Arnold believes it’s “hard to imagine” Irving reuniting with his former teammate on the Brooklyn Nets, James Harden, who is heavily rumored to be mulling a return to the Rockets in free agency.

“While the Rockets have plenty of salary cap space, it would also be hard to imagine Houston convincing both Harden and Irving in joining up to play with one another again after the way things ended in Brooklyn,” Arnold wrote.

Kyrie Irving May Not Have Leverage If He Leaves Mavericks

Irving was traded for by the Mavericks at the 2023 trade deadline using Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a future first-round pick, and a second-round pick. Because of the value lost on a player who didn’t get Dallas into the 2023 postseason, the Mavericks are beholden to re-signing him in order to avoid upsetting Luka Doncic or the fans.

No other team has any obligation to add Irving, and as evidenced by the incessant suggestions that VanVleet could be a safer transactional path, many teams will likely look elsewhere before ever considering maxing out the 31-year-old.

Irving has leverage on the Mavericks to get a maximum contract, but he has no leverage elsewhere in free agency this offseason.