By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Kyrie Irving is most certainly going to get a max deal as a free agent this summer. But after his and the Celtics’ season ended in disappointing fashion, it sounds like whoever signs him would prefer that he’s not the franchise centerpiece.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald published an eyebrow-raising report about Irving’s future from the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago on Saturday. After speaking to multiple sources around the league, Bulpett surmised that teams once interested in Irving as a free agent are now “a great deal more wary” to do so. The Celtics’ subpar season and Irving’s role in it (both on and off the court) have influenced these new sentiments.
Irving infamously told reporters during Super Bowl week to ask him on July 1 when it comes to his future with the Celtics. His dreadful performance in the second round of the playoffs directly contributed to the Celtics’ season-ending four-game losing streak. So it’s certainly fair to wonder if that was the final time Irving played in Celtics green.
To be certain, Irving’s talent is still that of a player on a max contract and he will be paid as such wherever he ends up. But Bulpett and his sources believe that Irving’s max payday is going to have to be with a team that makes him the second star and not the first.
If the Celtics’ past season is any indication, Irving is best suited as an elite No. 2 option on a championship contender. But by that standard, there aren’t many true No. 1’s in the entire league. For the sake of this discussion, let’s go with these four names as that kind of asset: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis. Look for realistic scenarios where Irving and one of those guys join the same team and you’ll hit a ceiling.
Both Durant and Leonard are highly likely to decline their player options for 2019-20 and become free agents, so Irving could simply dictate his destination along with one of them. Irving and Durant have long been the subject of rumors that they would team up together, possibly for one of the New York teams. Leonard is less likely to join up with Irving, but he’s one of few other possibilities.
Antetokounmpo is signed through 2020-21 with the Bucks, so Irving would have to sign with Milwaukee to join forces with him.
Anthony Davis To Boston?
That brings us to Davis. The big man will almost certainly be traded this offseason, now that the New Orleans Pelicans hold the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and will turn their franchise over to Duke forward Zion Williamson.
The Celtics have to be considered among the top potential trade partners with the Pelicans. Acquiring Davis in a mega-deal may be the only way to convince both him and Irving to sign in Boston long-term. Establishing them as the superstar duo to build around would absolutely ignite an extended run of championship contention. But at the same time, Jayson Tatum (and perhaps Jaylen Brown as well) may have to headline the package that brings Davis to the C’s.
This is just the start of what’s going to be an engrossing (and at times insufferable) NBA offseason for Celtics fans and observers. No matter what Irving ends up doing, his decision will have major ramifications for the future of the Celtics’ roster.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.