The 2022 NBA draft is less than 24 hours away and with free agency also fast-approaching, there are plenty of interesting storylines to monitor.
None moreso than the future of Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving, who could decline his $36.5 million ($A52.9m) player option and become a free agent this offseason.
In case you missed it, The Athletic’s NBA insider Shams Charania reported earlier in the week that Irving and the Nets are at an impasse when it comes to his future in Brooklyn.
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“Multiple sources tell The Athletic that conversations about Irving’s future have gone stagnant between him and the Nets,” Charania wrote.
“An impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace, those sources said.”
The New York Post’s Brian Lewis reported that while there is an “impasse”, both sides are “still working to find a happy medium” as opposed to Irving going straight for the exit door.
In saying that though, plenty of rival teams have already been linked to the Nets superstar, including a possible reunion with LeBron James at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Speaking on SportsCenter on Thursday morning, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski revealed the Lakers are “considered the most significant threat right now” for Irving’s signature.
That does, of course, come with a catch though because it is not that straight-forward, especially for a team like the Lakers.
“His options outside of the Nets, especially if the Nets are not willing or don’t get engaged in sign-and-trade talks, are limited,” Wojnarowski said.
“The Lakers are considered the most significant threat right now for Kyrie Irving, but that would essentially entail him taking $30 million ($A43m) less than he can opt into in Brooklyn. There’s a $6 million ($A8.7m) taxpayer exemption he can sign with the Lakers.
“Now, most people would say a player is not going to give up that much money, but Kyrie Irving gave up nearly $17 million ($A24.6m) last year because of his refusal to get vaccinated, he lost a significant shoe deal with Nike, or is in the process of losing that shoe deal with Nike.”
Fellow NBA insider Marc Stein has been told it “would be a stretch” at this stage to suggest the Lakers are “current pursuing” Irving.
“They do not possess the trade assets to realistically engage Brooklyn in Irving trade talks even if he exercises his player option for next season,” he wrote in his Substack.
“Also: The Lakers, as things stand, couldn’t offer Irving more than the midlevel exception for tax-paying teams for next season if Irving bypasses his player option to opt for free agency.
“That MLE, remember, tops out at a projected $6.39 million ($A9.3m). The idea of Irving declining his player option and essentially playing for $30 million ($A43m) less in LA, even after the $15-plus million ($A21.7m) he willingly sacrificed last season and missing the first 35 games of the season, just doesn’t seem plausible.”
Stein did though add that there have been “credible rumblings” that Irving has spoken with Lakers star James.
“To presumably discuss a potential reunion in Hollywood,” he added.
As for the reports connecting Irving to the Lakers, Clippers and Knicks as potential suitors, Stein reported rival teams see that as a tactic to get the Nets into offering him a better deal.
Stein did though add that Miami is said to have “some level of interest” in Irving and would have more viable trade assets to offer should it get to that point at Brooklyn.
The Nets will be desperate to avoid it from getting that far though, with Wojnarowski reporting in ESPNthat the franchise’s “deepest fear” is that if Irving walks, Kevin Durant will “want a trade”.
“Irving’s impenetrable connection to Durant looms as a domino to the dismantling of the roster,” he wrote.
“Brooklyn is straddling the narrowest of walkways: Keeping conviction on Irving’s contract talks and keeping Durant’s desire to stay a Net.”
Wojnarowski reported that in previous seasons rival agents and players would tell them of Durant’s “eagerness in talking to potential free agents” but that is no longer the case.
With four years still left on his contract though, Durant may not have much of a say on where he is traded, which Wojnarowski described as a “small-market team’s dream”.
TRADE TWIST COULD IMPACT AUSSIE’S LANDING SPOT IN DRAFT
In other news, the Portland Trail Blazers are not done making moves before this year’s draft.
That is according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, who reported Portland is “in pursuit” of a trade for Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby.
This is after the Blazers made a move on Thursday to land Detroit Pistons star Jerami Grant.
Haynes reported that Portland’s No. 7 pick in this year’s draft would be at the center of any deal made, which could have an immediate impact on Australian Dyson Daniels.
Daniels is expected to be taken with either the seventh (Blazers) or eighth (Pelicans) overall pick on Friday.
The Raptors were one of the teams Daniels met with at the NBA Combine back in May, where he made a significant impression to shoot up draft boards.
Toronto currently does not have a first-round pick after trading its No. 20 pick to the San Antonio Spurs along with Goran Dragic for Thad Young and the No. 33 pick in the draft.
HAWKS STAR ‘PRETTY MUCH EXPECTED’ TO MOVE THIS OFF-SEASON
Speaking of Portland’s trade for Grant, it is unlikely to be the only significant deal struck before the draft gets underway, with the Atlanta Hawks expected to move on forward John Collins this summer.
Collins has four years left on the five-year, $125 million ($A181m) contract he signed with the Hawks, which includes a player option for the 2025-26 season.
“The likelihood of a John Collins trade, league sources indicate, is as high as it’s ever been,” Stein wrote in his Substack.
“I’ve been advised that relocation for Collins this offseason is pretty much expected now.”
The Trail Blazers were mentioned by Stein as one team “with interest” in Collins, although that looks unlikely now after the Grant trade.
The Sacramento Kings were the other suitor for Collins and could build an attractive package around their No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.
‘SIGNIFICANT’ HARDEN MOVE, AUSSIE COULD BE TRADED AT PHILLY
Elsewhere, one of the other big names to monitor this off-season is Sixers superstar James Harden.
According to Wojnarowski, Harden is “headed towards” opting into signing a $47 million player option with the Sixers and then extending for as many as two years.
“Likely something short of a max contract, but still a significant commitment,” Wojnarowski said on Sports Center.
In other Sixers news, The Philadelphia Inquirerreports the franchise is targeting PJ Tucker among revelations he would opt out of his $7.4 million ($A10.7m) player option for the 2022-23 season with the Heat to instead become a free agent.
The Sixers reportedly want to offer him a three-year, $30 million ($A43.4m) contract but do not have the cap space available to do so.
That is where Australian Matisse Thybulle could come in.
Sources told The Inquirer that the Sixers are “looking” to make a three-team trade that could see Thybulle and the No. 23 pick in this year’s drafted moved on to create space.
Philadelphia is also trying to trade Tobias Harris but The Inquirer reports that they are “having a tough time getting teams to take on his lucrative contract”.
Tucker is said to also be interested in a move to Philadelphia but that will be totally dependent on the Sixers clearing enough cap space to sign him.
Of course, with Friday’s draft looming, they are running out of time to do so if they want to use that No. 23 pick in any deals.