The Brooklyn Nets appear to be creating cap space to add Kyrie Irving this summer which could help other attractive free agents shake loose for the Utah Jazz.
The NBA Finals have been exciting thus far as the Toronto Raptors have taken a 2-1 lead over the favorite Golden State Warriors who have been ravaged by injuries. As fun as it is to see a closely contested Finals, as a Utah Jazz fan, or a fan of the other 27 teams not still in action, I’m sure I don’t stand alone in feeling quite a bit of anxiety for the offseason and the ensuing draft and free agency period to finally be here.
After all, the offseason always brings about new hope for an exciting season to come. And depending how the summer goes for the Utah Jazz, they very well could move up to an entirely different level in the Western Conference. With that being the case, it’s understandably difficult to find patience even with an exciting NBA Finals underway.
And that became even more the case on Thursday as some compelling NBA news surfaced that could very well have an impact on the Jazz’s summer plans.
The news I’m referring to involves the Brooklyn Nets who, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, conducted a trade with the Atlanta Hawks. The deal sent Allen Crabbe, the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and a protected 2020 first round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-round pick.
What does this buy the Nets? Well, outside of picking up a promising young stretch-four player in Prince, it also gives them the flexibility to add not one, but two max contracts this offseason. Because of this move, speculation that the Brooklyn Nets are confident in their ability to land a big-time free agent ramped up significantly. And the belief that Kyrie Irving will be heading there in the offseason gained significant steam as well.
In fact, Woj also reported that the Nets are serious about acquiring Irving and beating every other team to the free agent market, and that meanwhile Irving is also quite serious about joining the Nets. Because of the impeccable amount of space Brooklyn has opened up now, they could add Irving on a max contract while also re-signing All-Star D’Angelo Russell or they could renounce Russell and add a separate additional star. Presumably Kevin Durant is their main target, but that could be a tough goal to reach.
However, it’s not hard to see what makes the Nets attractive. They had a solid 2018-19 season which resulted in their first playoff appearance since 2015. They have a promising young core and a solid group of role players. They’ve established a winning culture much above that of opposing free agent destinations such as the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers. And perhaps most enticing of all is head coach Kenny Atkinson who is a brilliant mind and one of the more underrated coaches in the league.
That’s all fine and good for the Brooklyn Nets, but since when do we care about them getting better and adding high profile free agents? I’m sure by now you’re wondering, so what does this mean for the Utah Jazz? Well, let me tell you.
This is big news for the Jazz because it’s looking more and more likely that Kyrie Irving will be heading to Brooklyn, taking up one of their two potential max slots this summer. That in and of itself is no big deal because Irving was never realistically considering Utah. However, it just so happens that two other players that could have been interested in Brooklyn are also very much on Utah’s radar. And if Kyrie takes one of their max spots, then the Nets can only feasibly add one of those two.
The two guys I’m referring to are D’Angelo Russell and Tobias Harris. Russell is currently a restricted free agent and it is entirely possible that the Nets could try to pair him with Irving. Tobias Harris is another player who’s likely set to earn a max contract and many presumed that Brooklyn could be high on his list.
But if the Nets add Kyrie, then they can only add one of Tobias or D’Angelo alongside him. Not both. Meaning while some may have thought Harris could have gone to the Nets to join Russell, eliminating two Jazz targets in one fell swoop, now if the Kyrie rumors are to be believed, the Nets can only get one or the other.
That means the Jazz may very well have a realistic shot at nabbing whichever one doesn’t go/stay in Brooklyn. Harris or Russell may very well be available as unrestricted free agents and up for the taking if Utah can just lure them in. Or, if the Nets succeed in their wish and add Kevin Durant or some other free agent star to go alongside Irving, Utah could pursue both Harris and Russell with space to add one or the other.
That would be absolutely incredible as either one would fill an immense need for the Jazz – adding an additional playmaker who can get into the paint, command the defense’s attention and create his own shot. Though they play different positions, they’d each allow the Jazz to make the proper adjustments to move closer to becoming the team they so desperately want to be.
Of course, there are still a lot of hypotheticals and assumptions being made here. Kyrie to Brooklyn feels very probable, but we’re still barely into the month of June and free agency doesn’t officially begin until June 30th meaning a ton could happen or change between now and then. Not only that, but even if both Harris and Russell shake loose, by no means is that a guarantee that they’re going to Utah. In fact, not even close.
All it would mean is that one team – in this hypothetical instance, the Nets – would be crossed off their list of destinations. Utah would still have to beat out several other appealing teams with cap space including the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, to name a few, as free agent suitors.
That’s a daunting group to go up against and it won’t be easy for Utah to emerge victorious. Nevertheless, the presumption that Brooklyn is clearing space and will likely prioritize adding Irving is still good news for the Jazz. Because if all that comes together, it will certainly improve their odds of adding a high-profile free agent that they so desperately need.
And when you’re facing a lengthy history of struggling to attract any semblance of gifted free agents, an increase in the odds is about all you can hope for. Here’s to hoping the rumors ring true, Kyrie goes to Brooklyn, and a promising free agent therefore shakes free and is won over by the compelling free agent case pitched by the Utah Jazz this summer.