Kyrie Staying in Brooklyn? Lakers Moving on to Hield and Turner?

The latest on Kyrie from Shams Charania, via Lakers Nation because Athletic articles are behind a paywall:

As training camp draws closer though, the odds of the Nets keeping Irving are continuing to increase. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Nets are telling interested teams that they’re planning on keeping the seven-time All-Star for the 2022-23 season:

All-Star Kyrie Irving also opted into his $37 million player option, committed to the 2022-23 season in Brooklyn and sources with knowledge of the situation say he has been working out with teammates and holding constructive dialogue with the organization this offseason. Brooklyn has made clear to interested teams that they plan to keep the seven-time All-Star, according to sources.

Right off the bat, I’m suspicious of this story.

So let me get this straight: the Nets love Kyrie now? After they wouldn’t offer him a max contract without first loading it up with caveats and incentives?

I don’t buy this story for a second. If the Nets love Kyrie so much, why didn’t they give him an extension in June when they had the chance?

Are we supposed to believe they’ve just worked it all out and everything is hunky dory between the Nets and Kyrie Irving? They just figured everything out?

Kyrie Irving does not seem like the kind of guy who would fall in line. I doubt he just said, “Yep, whatever you want, Joe Tsai. Whatever you want, Sean Marks. I’ll do whatever you say now.”

Now, beyond that suspicious aspect of this story, eagle-eyed observers locked on to this part of the paragraph by Shams: “Brooklyn has made clear to interested teams that they plan to keep the seven-time All-Star, according to sources.”

Interested teams, you say?

We all know there’s just one team interested and that’s the Lakers.

Now, this could just be a matter semantics and how Shams and/or his editors at the Athletic typed up the story. Maybe they just wrote “teams” without thinking twice about whether or not the word was actually an accurate description of the Kyrie Irving trade market.

Or, maybe they just typed up exactly what the Nets told them. That would make sense. The Nets would obviously want to make it appear there are multiple teams interested in Kyrie.

One final semantic point: “Brooklyn has made clear to interested teams that they plan to keep the seven-time All-Star, according to sources.

They plan to keep Kyrie–not that they are keeping Kyrie.

It would have sounded a lot more definitive if it was written, “Brooklyn has made clear to interested teams that they are keeping the seven-time All-Star, according to sources.”

That’s final. That sound like they’ve got their minds made up.

But that’s not what was said. What was said was that Brooklyn plans to keep Kyrie.

Implying that those plans could certainly change in the future–say, if the right offer is made. Or, perhaps if Kevin Durant is traded.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but it seems like this statement from Shams is carefully worded and not the definitive slamming of the proverbial door that it appears to be.

But this brings up a bigger question, and that is this: at this point, a week away from September, should the Lakers just abandon their plans to trade for Kyrie Irving?

Is it even worth it anymore?

It seems almost impossible Kyrie gets traded before KD does, and that’s a problem because the Nets are locked in a staredown with KD. The Nets are asking for a king’s ransom in return for KD, no team is willing to pay that high a price, and the Nets will not lower their asking price, even though KD is adamant that he wants to be traded.

So we really have no idea how long this KD-Nets staredown lasts. Who will blink first, and when?

Should the Lakers keep waiting and waiting and waiting for Kyrie?

I am now of the opinion that the Lakers should close the book on the Kyrie trade. Forget about it.

Go for the Indiana trade involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

I know that having Kyrie would be nice because of how unreliable AD is due to his injuries, but let’s be honest here: Kyrie is unreliable, too. And not just because he likes to take time off for whatever reason. Lost in the fact that he only played 29 games last season is the fact that he’s one of the most notoriously injury-prone players in the league, arguably even more so than Anthony Davis.

In other words, people forgot how injury prone Kyrie is because he only played 29 games last year plus four playoff games. He didn’t get hurt because he didn’t really have much of a chance to get hurt.

Kyrie’s injuries in the 2015 playoffs likely cost the Cavs a ring. LeBron knows this. He hasn’t forgotten. He knows Kyrie’s body is not reliable.

He got hurt in the 2021 playoffs, which likely cost the Nets a trip to the Finals.

He only played 20 games in the 2020 season and missed the Bubble entirely.

You have to go back to 2019 to find the last season in which Kyrie played more than 65 games. He played 67 that year, and played the entire postseason for Boston.

In 2018, he played 60 games but missed the postseason.

The Lakers are barking up the wrong tree if they think Kyrie Irving is going to be their insurance policy against an AD injury.

And they should know better given that wanting an insurance policy against an AD injury was one of the main reasons they traded for Russell Westbrook last year. They thought he’d be able to keep the team afloat when LeBron and/or AD were out with injuries. They were right about the injuries, but they were dead wrong about Russ keeping the team afloat.

These two guys, Sean Davis and Jeff Spiegel, have a good and productive discussion about the Kyrie situation for the Lakers. And I think some great points are brought up.

  • Spiegel says Kyrie is the “shiny object” of this offseason where people are enamored by him and completely overlook the negatives. He says he’s glad the door now appears to be shut on the Kyrie-to-LA trade.
  • Davis points out that the Indiana route would represent the Lakers following the “2020 strategy” where they had LeBron and AD surrounded by defensive role players and shot-makers. But he also noted that that strategy needed a lot to go right in order to pay off: they needed everyone to stay healthy, which happened, but 2020 was also the only one of LeBron’s 4 seasons in LA where the team wasn’t ravaged by injuries. 3 out of 4 isn’t good odds. But then again, I would refer you to what I just said above if your priority is getting Kyrie to mitigate injury risk.
  • Davis says if the Lakers go the Indiana route, they have a tiny margin of error to win a Championship. basically everything has to go right in order for it to happen. They have to completely avoid injuries. And LeBron is 3 years older now than he was in the Bubble.
  • Here’s a great point: getting Myles Turner will allow AD to commit fully to playing the 4. There won’t be any question about whether he’s a 4 or a 5. AD does not want to play the 5. He’s said it many times, he doesn’t like playing the 5. Getting Myles Turner will be great for AD because it will provide the Lakers with a top-tier rim protector and defensive big man, which enables AD to play the game the way he wants to play it: as a floor-spacing 4. AD is at his best at the 4, not the 5, even though he can play both positions at an elite level. And since LeBron is going to be 38, you want AD to be the focal point of the offense. You want him to be at his best. You want him at the peak of his powers with his potential being fully realized. AD was the leading scorer on the Lakers during the 2020 championship run. The Lakers are at their best when Anthony Davis is scoring 26-28 a game and the offense runs through him. LeBron is going to get his no matter what; the key is getting AD in a place where he’s firing on all cylinders.
  • Spiegel brings up a great point: will Kyrie actually be okay with playing third banana to LeBron and AD? I doubt that. A team with LeBron, Kyrie and AD is a team where you don’t want any of those guys to be a third option, because it diminishes their value. No matter how you slice it, you’re not getting the most out of each player.

And that’s the subject I want to conclude with here: the idea of the superteam. The “roll the ball out there” and let them ball approach.

I’m out on this approach.

Yes, it worked with the KG/Pierce/Ray Allen Celtics in 2008. But they only got one ring in 6 years together.

Yes, it worked with the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Heat. But by no means was it a seamless process. They (LeBron) choked royally in 2011. And by 2014, Wade was a shell of himself.

And yes, it worked out with the KD Warriors, but that was a salary cap anomaly that shouldn’t have even happened in the first place. Plus, that team’s chemistry broke down basically after 2 years, and KD was gone after year 3.

The most important thing is there have been a bunch of “superteams” that flamed out spectacularly:

  • Westbrook, Paul George and Melo in OKC in 2018
  • Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash in LA in 2013
  • Harden and Westbrook in Houston in 2020
  • KD, Harden and Kyrie in Brooklyn in 2021 and 2022
  • LeBron, AD and Westbrook in LA in 2022
  • Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton and Karl Malone in LA in 2004
  • Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaq on the 2009 Phoenix Suns
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley on the 1999 Houston Rockets

It’s no sure thing when it comes to superteams.

Just combining the three best players you can get does not magically work out.

This is becoming more and more apparent in today’s NBA.

It’s about chemistry and fit more than raw talent.

The reason the KD Warriors were the greatest team ever assembled was not just because of the amount of talent on the roster: it was also because of the fit. KD fit perfectly into that system. (Now, I think there are a lot of other superstar players that would have and would still fit great in the Golden State system, and that’s because they have such a great system–unselfish, efficient and cohesive).

The Lakers need to rediscover the value of having “mid-level” players–guys who are not stars, but who are not vet minimum guys either. Guys who are in between.

There’s this mentality that because it worked in Miami and it worked in Golden State that you can just get 3-4 superstars on a team and surround them with anybody and they’ll win no matter what.

But that’s not how it works. For one thing, the KD Warriors did have “mid-level” guys on the roster. Iguodala had to become a “mid-level” player once KD came around. Draymond Green took on a reduced role and became more of a facilitator and defensive anchor once KD was on the team.

Usually a superstar player has to sacrifice and become a “super role player,” or else the super team experiment won’t work. You can’t have three superstars on a team. You can barely even have two.

Look at Kevin Love’s stats in Minnesota: from 2012-2014 the dude was averaging 25-13-3 on 18 shots a night. His three years with LeBron and Kyrie on the team, he averaged 17-10-2 on 13 shots a night. Kevin Love sacrificed a lot, but it wound up working out for the team. He had to play a role where he focused predominantly on rebounding, defense and doing a lot of the dirty work. And he was okay with it, because LeBron and Kyrie could handle the scoring.

Chris Bosh had to take on a much lesser role in Miami with LeBron and Wade. In the 5 seasons before he joined the Heat, Bosh averaged 23 & 10 on 16 shots a night. In his 4 seasons with LeBron, he averaged 17 & 7 on 13 shots a night.

The problem with Kyrie coming to the Lakers is two-fold:

  1. LeBron, AD and Kyrie are all too good of players for any one of them to be a third-option. Nobody wants AD to be a 17 & 10 guy. You’re better off trading him at that point because you’re only using like 60% of his potential.
  2. LeBron and AD alone combine for over $82 million in salary. Add Kyrie’s $37 million on to that and you have about $120 million committed to those three players. Now, that’s better than Westbrook’s salary alongside LeBron and AD–about $10 million better. But the Lakers would still be way over the cap. That would cause big problems for next offseason when Kyrie will be due for a new contract, which will be closer to $50 million than $40 million. That will put the Lakers in a position where they have to A. pay the luxury tax, and B. fill out their roster with vet minimum guys, just like they had to do last season and to a large extent this season. That means almost zero margin for error if any of the Big Three get injured for any prolonged stretch.

Superteams are possible in the modern NBA, but the way the rules are set up, you have to fill out your roster with vet minimum guys. The league does not want teams amassing three superstars. There are massive tradeoffs that teams have to accept if they want to team three superstars together.

All this is to say that the Lakers would probably be better off forgetting about Kyrie and pursuing the Indiana trade. It’s better to have to star players surrounded by role players who represent a good fit.

The ideal team is one where everyone has a clear and defined job, and where there is a clear and defined pecking order. The 1990s Bulls are a perfect example of this. Those teams were perfectly constructed, with each player being basically perfect for the role he was asked to perform.

Clear and defined roles are preferable to the “just roll the ball out there and let talent win out” strategy.

Forget about Kyrie. The Lakers should for Turner and Hield.

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