Every year, it feels like the NBA's unofficial #TradeSZN gives us some major, out-of-left-field surprise.
And while Kyrie Irving's personal history in the league may preclude us from describing anything related to him as a "surprise," Friday's news (as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, and confirmed by Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes) that he wants out of Brooklyn was at least unexpected.
"There were some talks on a new deal for Irving, but no deal was reached and a trade request was delivered to the organization today," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski later added. "Irving can leave the franchise this summer as a free agent."
Of course, a trade request is a long way from a trade completed. Every team in the league is likely wary of acquiring Brooklyn's notoriously mercurial guard. Even if he tells the acquiring team that he'll re-sign in the summer (when his current deal expires), it'd be hard to have any level of confidence in that.
Still, we're talking about one of the most talented offensive players in the league. Behind averages of 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 threes, Kyrie is in the 97th percentile for 2022-23 offensive estimated plus-minus (one of the league's most trusted all-in-one metrics). And if he's focused, there are a few teams he could help compete for a title.
The best options are below, but even those are rife with potential problems.
Los Angeles Lakers
This is likely the first name that popped up in most fans' heads. There was some buzz about Kyrie heading to the Los Angeles Lakers this past offseason, and it was easy to see why.
The Russell Westbrook experiment has failed in pretty spectacular fashion, and Irving's skill set fits alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a way Russ' never could.
He can shoot threes and has plenty of experience playing off the ball and letting a possession-dominant forward cook.
He also has specific experience with LeBron, with whom he won a championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
Irving has expressed regret over the way things broke down between those two after the title, and a trade to the Lakers now would give him an opportunity to mend that fence.
L.A. would have to feel good about competing for a title if it made a deal for Kyrie.
Is a top three of LeBron, AD and Irving good enough to win the West? Would you feel more confident in your answer to that question if they'd been able to play the entire season together?
And can the Lakers justify giving up both of their highly coveted picks in 2027 and 2029 for a player who might become dissatisfied (again) between now and the end of the campaign?
None of this even gets to how the Brooklyn Nets feel about dealing with the Lakers, either. Imagine trying to sell Kevin Durant on salary filler (also known as Westbrook) and future assets in his age-34 season.