Kyrie Irving remains one of the absolute lynchpins of summer free agency, and his decision may have the most ripple effects.
Kevin Durant may leave Golden State for New York, maybe Kawhi Leonard bolts the Raptors for the Clippers, but the choices there tend to be more binary. One or the other. Irving, whatever he decides, will impact the fates of a lot of teams, including the looming Anthony Davis trade (which, despite David Griffin’s protestations, is still going to happen).
However, after a down playoffs, Irving’s options may be shrinking, reports Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
The most interesting bit of information from several sources that we’ve been able to consolidate and confirm is that some teams thought to have interest in Irving as a free agent are now a great deal more wary. Based on the way things played out with the Celtics this season and Irving’s role both off the court all year and on it in the playoff loss to Milwaukee, certain clubs are concerned about putting too many eggs in his basket right away.
Two teams for certain are telling people they will only go after him if they land another marquee free agent and that player says he wants Irving. In each of these cases, the initial target is different. (There was worry on one of those clubs that the basketball ops people might be overruled by ownership and told to make Irving a primary aim, but that organization is now on the same page.)
Sources around the league have said the plan for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics has not changed: Trade for Anthony Davis (likely at the draft) then on July 1 max out Kyrie Irving and get him to stay.
Irving had maybe his best regular season ever, 23.8 points per game, shooting 40.1 percent from three, dishing out 6.9 assists, and personal best (or second best) seasons in a lot of advanced stats (PER, win shares, VORP, etc.). However, his leadership throughout the season was in question, and that came to a head during the playoffs. His isolation heavy game took away from the ball movement and player movement that had worked for the younger core led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics were not on the same page as a team and it showed when they faced the Bucks (part of that, also, is that the Bucks have come into their own as a dominant team).
Irving is going to have multiple max offers in front of him this July. If Durant goes to the Knicks and says “get me Irving” there will be one. The Lakers are expected to make a call. The list goes on and on, and it includes the Boston Celtics, but a lot of those teams may be pushed into that decision now, rather than go willingly.
Whatever Irving decides, his decision will have ripple effects throughout the NBA.