Where Will Kyrie Irving Play Next Season?

by Taylor Smith
on October 16, 2018
10

Minute Read

The NBA is a weird league. Among all major American sports leagues, the NBA is definitely the one that most resembles a telenovela. If you have read anything about the ongoing Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There is also a ton of fan interest in the league when the NBA isn’t even in season. The NBA Draft has become a huge television event, while free agency and trades that take place during the offseason generate nearly as much interest from fans as the actual games themselves. There is no shortage of star power in the league today, and said star players have a way of getting what they want.

Butler became the latest All-Star to publicly ask his team for a trade. Kawhi Leonard held the San Antonio Spurs hostage earlier this summer before they shipped him to the Toronto Raptors. Paul George essentially did the same thing with the Indiana Pacers in the summer of 2017. In case you may have forgotten, Kyrie Irving shocked the NBA world when he demanded that the Cleveland Cavaliers trade him just a year removed from the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.

He got his wish, as the Cavaliers ultimately shipped him to the rival Boston Celtics in a deal that netted Cleveland Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a future first-round pick. That trade hasn’t quite panned out for the Cavaliers, but the Celtics seem to be happy with what they’ve gotten. Irving was putting together a stellar first season in Boston before suffering an unfortunate season-ending knee injury. Kyrie went on to miss the entirety of the Celtics’ postseason run, but he’s back and healthy heading into the new campaign.

Irving will be a free agent next summer, so get ready for speculation! Will he sign a new deal to stay with the Celtics on a long-term basis? Or will he find a new home in free agency? Below are the odds (via BetOnline) for where Kyrie will be playing to begin the 2019-20 season:

  • Boston Celtics +200
  • Brooklyn Nets +400
  • New York Knicks +400
  • Atlanta Hawks +800
  • Philadelphia 76ers +1200
  • Detroit Pistons +1200
  • Orlando Magic +1200
  • Cleveland Cavaliers +2000
  • Field +250

Incumbent Favorites

The Celtics are currently the odds-on favorites to retain Irving’s services at +200. There has already been rampant speculation regarding the possibility that Kyrie could leave as a free agent, but he recently addressed the elephant in the room at an event with Celtics fans. At the team’s Fan Appreciation Night, Irving said, “I’m happy here. Every single day is an all-time competitive high. What more can you ask for from an organization than taking a chance as far as getting me out of Cleveland? Really taking a chance regardless of whether I signed back or not.”

Irving has said that he plans to opt out of his current contract at the end of the season. However, he caught the Celtics off-guard when he said that he plans to sign a long-term extension with the team. According to ESPN, Irving’s camp and the Celtics have not been in contact at all regarding a potential extension. Kyrie said that he didn’t want to have to uproot his family and find a new home so shortly after leaving Cleveland.

It makes sense that Irving would want to stay with the Celtics. Boston is currently the favorite to win the Eastern Conference now that the Cavaliers are expected to tumble down the standings following this offseason’s departure of LeBron James. The Celtics will face stiff competition from the likes of the 76ers and the Raptors, but most believe Boston’s overall talent level is unmatched within the conference.

Assuming nothing changes with Irving’s health or with his happiness with his teammates and coaching staff, I think the Celtics are an awesome bet here at +200. I’m surprised they don’t have negative odds, honestly. All signs at this time point to Irving re-upping with the Celts. Feel free to jump all over the Celtics at +200.

Things Can Change

However, things can change. Nobody outside the organization had any idea that Irving was unhappy playing in LeBron’s shadow with the Cavaliers. That trade request blindsided just about everybody. Irving wanted to leave in order to be the man on his own team, and the Cavaliers granted him that wish. Most will tell you that Kyrie is currently the Celtics’ best player, but he does have plenty of competition.

He joined a team that already had All-Star Al Horford entrenched as the starting center. About a month before Irving’s arrival, the Celtics signed another All-Star in Gordon Hayward. Unfortunately, Hayward only played about 6 minutes last season before going down with a season-ending broken leg. So, we have hardly seen how Irving and Hayward can coexist on the basketball court. Most also believe that second-year swingman Jayson Tatum is on the verge of superstardom. If Tatum becomes “the guy” in Boston, does that negatively affect Irving’s desire to stick around?

We also don’t really know what the Celtics’ plans are. One would imagine they would want to keep Kyrie around for the next several years, but what if he struggles this season after his aforementioned knee procedures? Terry Rozier played quite well in Irving’s stead last season. If Kyrie struggles and Rozier continues to get better as his backup, might the Celtics prefer to keep the younger Rozier around instead? Just because Kyrie said he wants to stay doesn’t necessarily mean the Celtics want to keep him. Paying big money to a player with Kyrie’s injury history is certainly a gamble.

I don’t necessarily think the Celtics would have made the trade to acquire Irving if they did not have designs on signing him and keeping him there long-term. So, I imagine they will find a way to work things out.

However, let’s say things go south between Irving and the Celtics, and that he hits the free agent market next summer looking for a new home. Where could he wind up?

New York State of Mind

NBA players like to play in big media markets. There is arguably more money to be had if you’re playing in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. There’s a reason players tend to flock to these cities whenever they get to choose their destinations. One would imagine Kyrie won’t want to play with LeBron again, so the Lakers aren’t even listed as a potential suitor here. In fact, every team with listed betting odds is in the Eastern Conference.

There have already been murmurs that Irving has interest in playing in the Big Apple. The class of 2019 will have no shortage of big names. In addition to Irving, we are likely to see the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kevin Durant test the waters of free agency. The New York Knicks are expected to be one of the more active teams in the free agent market next summer.

With Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina in tow, the Knicks may actually have better days ahead. However, they may need an established, star-level veteran to ultimately help lift the franchise back to respectability. Could Irving be the guy? It’s possible. Sherrod Blakely, who is a Celtics beat writer, said on a podcast over the summer that Irving is the “Knicks’ No. 1 target.” Blakely said, “I’ve spoken with people within the Knicks organization. They have made it absolutely crystal clear to me that, if they had their pick of guys that are going to be in the free agent market next summer, Kyrie would be their first, second, third and fourth choice. He is a guy they definitely want.” Well then. Sounds clear enough to me.

Because they’re the marquee franchise in New York, the Knicks will always have that big-city exceptionalism. They believe they can get any player they want. Of course, this hasn’t been the case at all. Who was the last big-name free agent to agree to join the Knicks as a free agent? Amar’e Stoudemire? Tyson Chandler? Meh. Meh.

The Nets have the same odds as the Knicks to land Kyrie at +400. Brooklyn has been mired in a lengthy rebuild since their ill-fated attempt to compete with the likes of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce several years back. They are only now starting to recover. GM Sean Marks has made a number of shrewd moves to try and improve the team’s personnel, and there’s an outside chance we could see the Nets on the fringe of playoff contention this season. Brooklyn has been building toward being able to offer a big-time free agent the chance to spearhead their revival, and perhaps that’s something that could interest Irving in a year.

I think Irving would prefer the chance to play alongside an up-and-comer like Porzingis rather than join a Nets team without any established young stars currently in the fold. So, I think the Knicks make for a more likely destination than the Nets if Kyrie is to leave Boston next summer. New York finally has what appears to be a reputable coach in former Grizzlies boss David Fizdale. Assuming Porzingis returns from his ACL tear and gets back to where he was before, the Knicks have a potential superstar already in the fold. The jury is out on Ntilikina, while Knox looks like a high-upside rookie. All of a sudden, there is something legitimate brewing in New York.

The old rumors said that Irving and Jimmy Butler had talked about joining forces in New York with the Knicks, but Kyrie essentially squashed that notion, saying that he and Butler don’t have much of a relationship. Assuming the Knicks can rid themselves of the Joakim Noah albatross contract and find a way to shed the likes of Courtney lee and possibly Tim Hardaway Jr., there’s a chance New York could have enough cap space to chase a couple of superstar free agents next summer.

Could the allure of forming a new super team in New York be enough to entice Kyrie to leave what is already a good situation with the Celtics? I’m not necessarily buying it, but I think the Knicks have to be considered the betting favorite if Irving ultimately does opt to part ways with Boston.

So, go with New York at +400.

Outsiders

The other teams on the list here leave plenty to be desired. The Hawks, Pistons, Magic and Cavaliers are unlikely to crack the top-8 of the Eastern Conference this season. I can’t really imagine Kyrie having much interest in signing with any of them, but we’ll make the case, anyway.

The Cavaliers being listed here at all is a strange one. Irving has essentially burned the bridge to Cleveland with some recent comments. I know LeBron isn’t there to steal the spotlight anymore, but there’s no way Kyrie is going back to the Cavs on his own volition. Pass on Cleveland at +2000.

Unless he likes nice weather, I don’t really see much reason for Kyrie to consider joining the Orlando Magic, either. The Magic have been running on the treadmill of mediocrity for the better part of a decade now. While they may have some intriguing youngsters set to break out, there’s no telling when this team is going to be good again. The Magic actually have a decent track record when it comes to luring big-name free agents, but I can’t imagine Orlando being a hugely popular destination again until they start to show signs of being a competent franchise. I don’t think that is going to happen this year, so I’m willing to write off the Magic at +1200, too.

The 76ers are well-stocked at point guard with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz already on the roster. No thanks to Philly at +1200 to acquire Kyrie.

The Hawks just drafted Trae Young in the lottery this past summer, and I think they will wind up being the worst team in basketball next season. Why would Irving sign away his prime years to join a rebuilding team that appears to be nowhere close to contention? The answer is that he wouldn’t do such a thing, so scratch the Hawks at +800 off the list.

The Pistons essentially took themselves out of the running for big-name free agents when they agreed to acquire Blake Griffin in a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers last year. Griffin is owed more than $30 million dollars over each of the next 4 years. Detroit is also paying big money to the likes of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Unless they manage to slash some salary, the Pistons are currently on the hook for over $104 million in salary commitments for the 2019-20 campaign. Former coach and GM Stan Van Gundy said he essentially made the Griffin trade because a team like Detroit has little chance at attracting star players to town via free agency. Irving would be an interesting fit if the Pistons could afford him, but they likely won’t be able to. So, once again, thumbs down to Detroit as a Kyrie landing spot at +1200.

There is always merit to taking the field with bets like these. The most likely outcome here is that Kyrie winds up re-signing to stay with the Celtics, but as mentioned previously, things change. There wasn’t a single Western Conference team given betting odds to land Irving, but you can bet several Western Conference clubs will give Kyrie a call once he hits free agency. Who’s to say he won’t join a team like the Suns so he can play with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton?

At +250 I like the field as a punt option here.

I will rank my favorite betting options for Kyrie Irving’s destination ahead of the 2018-19 campaign as follows:

  1. Boston Celtics +200
  2. Field +250
  3. New York Knicks +400
  4. Brooklyn Nets +400
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