We interrupt the programming I had planned for this space to bring you an important update … one that will likely impact nearly everything else that happens ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
Here’s the biggest aftershock from the Kyrie Irving trade that nobody is quite thinking about just yet: I expect teams to be very guarded with their future first-round picks this week, much more so than they would have been oh, say, Sunday morning. (Exception: The Lakers. But you probably already knew that.)
The reason is that the Irving trade opens up two different potential whale-hunting stories for savvy traders. Sharp NBA front offices will not want to foreclose upon these possibilities, for any reason, until there is more clarity after the season on where each of those situations might be headed.
The first, obvious one is what it means for Kevin Durant. Given the fact that Durant already demanded a trade once, and that he’s for the moment marooned as the only All-Star (not even the most die-hard Nets fan can muster a hopeful “Ben Simmons?”) on an old team without much draft capital, his situation warrants monitoring. He still has three years left on his deal with no options, which means the Nets still have the upper hand in any kind of ultimatum situation (like if he were to demand the general manager be fired, for instance, but who does a crazy thing like that?). Nonetheless, the clock is ticking.
Perhaps the Nets can flip the assets from the Dallas deal (an unprotected 2029 first, two future seconds, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith) into more win-now help, such as turning this into a three-way deal for Toronto’s Fred VanVleet.
But let’s assume things stand pat for the Nets, and that their season goes about how you might expect from there — a spot in the 4-5 bracket in the Eastern Conference, a competitive first-round series, and, if they survive, another quick exit at the hands of Boston. That Nets team would be limping into the summer with a soon-to-be-35, not-terribly-happy franchise centerpiece in Durant, and the prospect of owing picks and swaps to Houston through 2027 boxing out any tanking scenarios.