On Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic claimed that Kyrie Irving would use his player option for the 2022-2023 season rather than become a free agency.
With any luck, Danny Leroux, our resident authority on the NBA’s salary cap and collective bargaining agreement, will shed light on the decision’s immediate and long-term implications for Irving and the Nets.
Any Idea what this means?
Kyrie Irving has a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets, through the 2022–23 season, that guarantees him a base salary of $36,503,300 plus incentives.
What are the Nets’ Options for Trading Irving, and do they need His Permission to do so?
Since Irving’s contract lacks a no-trade clause, Sean Marks and the Nets front office have the authority to make trades without worrying about a player veto.
The matter is much more complicated than that, though, because trading Irving without his permission would have far-reaching consequences for both the team and the league.
Irving’s choices important because potential trade partners would presumably provide more in a transaction if they were confident he would stay beyond the 2022-2023 season.
While it is theoretically feasible for the Nets to transfer Kyrie Irving to a team he has no interest in playing for, it is much more likely that any trade involving Irving will include at least some degree of mutual support.
Should we Sign an Extension, Instead? Can that even Happen?
It is! Until the new league year begins on July 1, 2023, Irving can sign an extension to the four-year deal he signed in 2019.
Irving and the Nets may extend his contract by four more seasons at $43.8 million each season, slightly below the expected 35 percent max salary in 2023–24, thanks to a 20 percent pay raise in the first new year of an extension, as allowed by the CBA for veterans.
While those numbers represent the maximums, Irving and the Nets are free to negotiate a contract that is for fewer years or a smaller total amount.
Even after next year’s playoffs conclude, the parties have a full year to work out the details of an agreement.
What if You Make a Deal with a New Team, such at the Trade Deadline, and then you want to Extend?
That’s where the difficulty level increases. The “extend-and-trade” clause was added to the CBA after Carmelo Anthony’s move to the Knicks; it prevents players from switching teams and then signing a lucrative longer-term contract with the new team without first becoming a free agency.
If the Nets move Kyrie Irving, his new team can offer him a maximum of two further seasons and a salary of no more than $38.3 million for the first six months after the deal.
The six-month limit would last through at least the end of the regular season if Irving starts the year in Brooklyn, and the extend-and-move restrictions resulting from a trade at the deadline would last until Irving’s free agency in 2023.
The team that signs him would have complete Bird rights and could offer him any contract they like. Those don’t outright make an extension impossible, but they put enough restrictions on things that it seems doubtful, especially with free agency right around the corner.
Thus, if Irving switches teams before the deadline, he will become a free agent in 2023, though I anticipate that he would remain with his new team beyond the current season.
I mean, he must have some value if they’re willing to swap for him.
What is the Current and Future Salary Cap Situation for the Nets?
They have $147.5 million in completely guaranteed money after Irving’s opt-in, not including Patty Mills’ $6.2 million player option, their $1.6 million club option on Kessler Edwards, or any of their pending free agents like Nicolas Claxton or Bruce Brown.
As a result, they will be subject to the luxury tax in 2022–23, the precise amount of which will depend on how much money Marks spends on personnel.
I estimate that player salaries will be around $174 million, leading to a massive $71.5 million tax burden and a total player cost of $245.5 million.
Marks can cut that down somewhat by dumping some contracts, but the Nets don’t have a lot of dead money in their payroll, and using the taxpayer mid-level exception or acquiring talent through a trade may increase the cost even further.
What happens after the upcoming season may be more intriguing. Besides Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Joe Harris, plus potential multi-year deals in 2022, the major wages on the books are for Kyrie Irving, who is extension-eligible but has no commitment beyond 2022-23.
If Irving were to leave Brooklyn as a free agency next summer, the Nets would be in a bind unless they were able to pull off a sign-and-trade. The trajectory might be altered rapidly, with or without a corresponding Durant deal.
One could argue that the Nets benefited greatly from this outcome, since they will have a whole season to assess this team without any long-term commitments that would make dismantling the team more difficult if it turns out to be the best course of action.
The Nets do not own their own first-round pick outright until 2028, as the Rockets own their picks in 2024 and 2026 and have swap rights in 2023, 2025, and 2027.
This is an important consideration if things in Brooklyn ever go south. Because of this, Brooklyn would earn a far smaller share of the stronger draught picks that come with a lower record, which removes a significant incentive to rebuild.
Not having their own picks is a major factor to think about in the future, even though it’s still possible to make the right option and a hypothetical eventual Durant trade would considerably strengthen their pick coffers.
When doing a Projection for the Upcoming Season, How Good do You see the Nets being?
That’s the best news about Irving’s decision: we’ll finally get to watch this version of the Nets play together.
When Irving and Durant played together for the Nets in the regular season last year, the team had a 13.2 point per 100 possessions advantage over their opponents (1,096 possessions per Cleaning The Glass).
With the potential additions of Simmons, Harris, Seth Curry, and whoever else Marks brings in this offseason, this club might have a formidable collection of surrounding talent next year and improve on the +9.6 NetRtg they posted in their first season together (1,618 possessions).
Championship candidates should not be judged too early, and the Nets need to improve their defence after being swept by the Celtics in the first round.
A lot of the puzzle pieces are in place for them to be a contender in the Eastern Conference.
What Should we do Next?
It’s worth noting that if Irving can avoid injuries in 2022-23, he should enjoy a breakout season and raise his profile in the league.
After all, in just 29 games last season, the seven-time All-Star tied a career high with 27.4 points per game, while shooting about the same percentage from the field as he had throughout his career.
Even if Irving doesn’t play a full season, he may be able to show the basketball world what he’s still capable of doing at age 30 and earn a lengthier contract with the Brooklyn Nets or a more substantial long-term commitment from another organisation than he has in recent weeks. It will be intriguing to watch, and it will have major implications for the league and the Nets’ future.