Three years ago, after years of dysfunction, struggle, and minimal draft capital, the Brooklyn Nets seemed to be turning things around. Led by D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, a respectable bench, and Kenny Atkinson, the Nets finally returned to the playoffs as the sixth seed, and the buzz of the organization was at an all-time high. That 2018-19 Nets young core perhaps didn’t have the upside to bring Brooklyn back to the promised land alone, but it put the Nets in position to do something the Knicks have never been able to do: land multiple superstars.
It was inferred for a while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant- known to be close friends- both had deep interest in playing in the New York market. Once they signed with the Nets, expectations became different. A year later, that expectation only skyrocketed when the Nets pulled a massive deal, in which the Nets relinquished seven firsts and multiple of their key young players, to land another offensive superstar in James Harden. Between those three, the Nets suddenly looked like they were unbeatable: When you have three future Hall of Famers who possess generational offensive tools in an offensive-driven league, it’s hard to think in any other way. But if you don’t have a loaded bench, you can’t afford to be missing one of those superstars. That’s what the Nets are going through with Kyrie Irving this season, because he has refused to play due to his skepticism toward the COVID-19 vaccine. Because the investment the Brooklyn Nets have put into this core, especially when considering Kevin Durant’s window, they will need to find a resolution quick, even if that means dealing Kyrie Irving. In an ideal world for them, Kyrie Irving will decide to get the vaccine so they can go back to having one of the greatest offensive juggernauts the league has ever seen, but exactly who knows how feasible it is at this point? There has been reports, notably from the NY Post, that have said Kyrie “might be swayed to take plant-based COVID vaccine in works.” Another report from Shams suggested there is “renewed optimism” that he will return to Brooklyn somehow, some way. But if that never comes into fruition, perhaps it’s smart to deal Kyrie Irving now and get assets that can give this team a chance to compete with the other superpowers in the league such as the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and Milwaukee Bucks. There aren’t many teams that would realistically have interest in Kyrie Irving, but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be any suitors for a talent of his caliber. Let’s take a look at two trades that could help the Nets return to being the title favorites:
Trade #1: Questionable Stars get Swapped for Each Other
Nets receive: Ben Simmons, lottery protected 2023 1st round pick
76ers receiver: Kyrie Irving
There are two stars who really shine above the rest in terms of drama: Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons. How funny would it be if they actually were traded for each other? Even funnier, both players fit well on the team they would get traded to.
For Brooklyn, Ben Simmons would give them a legit defensive-stopper, one of the best in the world, who they could match up with any dominant non-center come playoff time, which Brooklyn doesn’t really possess right now. He would also be someone who can put pressure on the rim and create open shots for Harden, KD, Joe Harris, and all of their shooters. After all, Ben Simmons is always among the league leaders in creating open shots for teammates. Simmons is also likely best suited being a third option, someone you don’t ask to emotionally put a team on his back and lead. The reduced pressure of being “the man” in Brooklyn could lead to a less uptight Simmons, especially in the playoffs.
On Philadelphia’s side, they have been pushing mountains in order to find a way to land a legit top 25 player in exchange for Simmons. If it comes to the point where they can’t find anyone like that, Kyrie Irving seems to be the only option there. Kyrie would be the perfect fit next to a Joel Embiid, who is at his best when asked to play physically around the rim and not settle for jumpers. Daryl Morey would have to deal with attempting to get a star to play on the court…. again. But if he has some confidence that he could get to Kyrie in ways he hasn’t been able to with Simmons, it’s worth the exceptional risk.
Trade #2: Nets land a star big-man
Nets receive: Domantas Sabonis, Josh Hart
Pacers receive: Davante Graham, Day’Ron Shape, 2023 first (Top 3 protected) and 2025 1st (both via Pelicans)
Pelicans receive: Kyrie Irving
This isn’t a trade that would be able to get executed until the offseason because Josh Hart isn’t able to get traded until the offseason, but if the Indiana Pacers attempt to blow it up and Kyrie is still in Brooklyn by this summer, this trade makes a ton of sense. If the Nets lack something offensively, it’s a big who can add great force in the interior and facilitate, Sabonis does those things. Josh Hart is also one of those perfect energy role players next to high-usage stars who will bring it defensively and hit open shots. They are also elite rebounders for their positions, making Brooklyn’s ability on the glass even more intimidating (Brooklyn is third in the league in rebounds).
In the perspective of the Pelicans, how long will Zion Williamson’s window be? He’s always had questions about his longevity, now that he has missed more NBA games than he has played due to multiple lower body injuries, that only fuels that concern. They need to maximize Zion’s window while he is healthy, which is why you would take the risk and go for a Kyrie Irving. X’s and O’s wise, Kyrie’s ability to create from the perimeter would take pressure off of Zion and Brandon Ingram. Between those three, New Orleans has a potential championship trio, and they still would have the draft capital to trade for complementary prices to put around those three. Is Kyrie a risky star to pursue if you’re New Orleans? Absolutely. Should they get risky to give Zion immediate help while they are confident he can play at a star level? Also yes.
For Indiana, the organization would get a very respectable rebuild package for a borderline All-Star entering his prime. It would receive multiple Pelicans first round picks, which can become very valuable depending on how often Zion and Kyrie are on the court, it gets a talented young big in Day’Ron Sharpe who could become a solid role player in this league due to his size and feel, Graham could also be a bridge starting point guard while they accumulate young talent in the rebuild, if (when) they deal Malcolm Brogdon.