A lot that was reported about two of the three best free agents in this 2019 class was correct.
We knew Kevin Durant had interest in playing in New York.
We knew Kyrie Irving had interest in playing in New York.
And we knew the two of them had discussed playing together.
We just had the wrong team.
Despite all of the rumors (Kyrie to the Lakers, Durant maybe coming back to Golden State, Durant then teaming up with Kawhi, Durant going to the Knicks no matter what, Anthony Davis getting involved with both players), most of what we thought happened. And on top of all of that, the one thing I thought should have happened did: they (smartly) didn’t go the Knicks.
It made sense all along. The Knicks were a disaster in the front office and in their ownership. They had a young core which had the wrong players being hyped up (Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr.) and the right ones being shuttered (Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, Damyean Dotson). If Kyrie and KD wanted to team up, that was cool. But if they went to the Knicks, they’d be putting themselves in a troubling situation.
Instead they went to Brooklyn, a team with Jay-Z as its biggest fan, the NBA hipsters’ backing and a much better and more fun roster in an area that is taking off as tech and media hub.
When ‘Public Service Announcement’ by Jay came on in my car Monday morning, I got it. KD and Kyrie in Brooklyn felt right. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Durant is going to have to wait awhile. But when he returns in the 2020-21 season, the Nets will likely have one of the two-to-four best teams in the league, and will have a path to being the best. Irving-Caris LeVert-Kevin Durant-Joe Harris-DeAndre Jordan/Jarrett Allen is insane. That’s two of the seven best players in the league alongside LeVert, who, with a little bit of Durant in his game, was having one of the 20 best seasons in the league in 2018-19 before getting hurt and could easily be that again next season, and be even better the next year. If Kawhi ends up on the Lakers, we’re looking at the Nets and the Lakers as the next installment of a Cavaliers-Warriors-like deal.
Durant’s decision to leave was a bit puzzling but also made sense. If not for devastating injuries to two of the top 15 players in the league, the Warriors are likely three-peating. Durant would have won three titles in three years. Why leave that? Why leave Golden State? They were running it back either way. The whole league was figuring how to stop you for three years. No one had any success. It’s likely no one would have found it. You would have been the best player on a team that could have won an unprecedented amount of titles in a row. Who would give that up?
Durant did because some things didn’t break right. But he also did because he wanted to play with a different group of guys. He wanted to play with his friends that he’d been wanting to play with for awhile. Would you leave a good job to take a good job that your best friend worked at as well?
Durant also left to go play in, and bring greatness to, a city that has lacked it in the sport of basketball for so long. It may not be the most prominent team in the city, but that could change soon. If he succeeds there, he’s the king of New York and Brooklyn.
Despite Durant not being able to contribute next season, the Nets are still in really good shape. The Nets did in fact upgrade from D’Angelo Russell to Kyrie Irving, though some disagree with that statement (Something I’ll get into later this week)
The reason why Kemba Walker could be an upgrade over Irving has nothing to do with Kyrie himself. It’s about the surrounding pieces and how those guys fit with Walker compared to Kyrie.
Kyrie is one of the few guys who really matter in the league. I do believe, despite the failure in Boston, he’s a No.1 guy on a championship team.
As much as people blame Irving for Boston’s failures, there’s also a lot he couldn’t do. The Celtics had team-wide effort issues on the defensive side of the ball, and decided to hit zero shots in the first halves of games, leaving Irving to have to bail them out at the end. The Celtics don’t win nearly as many games as they did last season without Irving’s heroics late.
That’s why the Nets signed Kyrie over D’Angelo Russell. Because he matters. Is D-Lo really ever going to be one of the ten best guys in the league? Are we sure D-Lo is going to live up to that max contract (It seemed much more likely that deal would be an overpay before he ended up in Golden State)? When a guy like Kyrie is available, and you can easily get him, you do it. That’s what Boston did. It didn’t work out, but they tried. You just do it and see what happens.
Because of what Kyrie brings to the table, and the foundation they already have, the Nets could easily be contenders next season even without KD. We’re looking at a lineup of Kyrie-LeVert-Harris-Garrett Temple/Taurean Prince-Jarrett Allen/DeAndre Jordan. Kyrie and LeVert is a deadly duo; both have the ability to play off one another as they can hit threes. LeVert’s length makes him a threat off-the-ball as well. Joe Harris is a sniper; and whoever of Temple and Prince provides shooting and defense (I assume Temple starts due to the signing and his experience). Center is in an odd spot; the Jordan signing is easily one of the worst of the summer, but it’s clear that KD and Kyrie pulled a LeBron-like move on the Nets and said “Pay him or we ain’t coming.” Allen did get exposed a bit in the playoffs, but Jordan isn’t exactly bringing good rim protection either. Maybe playing with his friends will bring his effort back up. Anyways, if Kawhi leaves the conference, the Nets automatically slide in as the No.2 seed behind Milwaukee, with Indiana, Miami, Boston and Philadelphia challenging them for it. If Kawhi stays, it likely slides everyone back a spot. Nonetheless, the Nets have boosted themselves into the East’s, and the league’s, top tier. They only have up to go from there.