It's getting hard to deny Kyrie Irving's tea leaves are forming a giant arrow pointing out of the Brooklyn Nets. They may be doing the same for Kevin Durant as well.
Hours before the 2022 NBA draft, a pair of complementary reports emerged signaling that not only does Irving have a list of preferred destinations if he ends up going the sign-and-trade route, but Durant is also considering his future with the Nets.
The Durant report came from The Athletic's Shams Charania, while ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Irving's list of destinations.
Sources: Kevin Durant is monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ situation and considering options with his future.
This now opens the path for Kyrie Irving to proceed on finding a new home via opt-in and trade.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 23, 2022
ESPN Sources: If Kyrie Irving can’t reach an agreement to stay with Brooklyn, he has a list of teams he’d like them to consider on sign-and-trades, including Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, Mavs and 76ers. None of those teams have cap space to sign him without Nets’ help.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2022
Wojnarowski noted the teams on Irving's list may not prioritize him despite his interest.
The two reports are our firmest sign yet the Nets could be walking into an unexpectedly seismic offseason, with both of their superstars potentially looking for an exit sign.
What are the Nets going to do with Kyrie Irving?
It hasn't exactly been a secret Irving may be on his way out of Brooklyn. Nets general manager Sean Marks fired the starter's pistol for those rumors by pointedly saying his team wants players who can "be available" following a shocking first-round sweep, and an impasse over Irving's potential contract extension followed.
Irving is eligible for a five-year extension worth up to $248 million this offseason, but the Nets are seemingly apprehensive about committing long-term to a player with his issues, namely the sideshow that emerged last season over his refusal to get vaccinated. If no deal is reached, Irving holds a $36.9 million player option for next season and could enter free agency this summer if he declines it.
That list of potential sign-and-trade destinations presents some wild outcomes, most notably a reunion with LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers (Russell Westbrook presents quite a factor there). There's also the possibility of following James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers and replacing Jalen Brunson on the Dallas Mavericks.
The group basically consists of clear contenders (depending on your standards) and the New York Knicks. Whether or not all of those teams would want Irving remains to be seen, both for basketball reasons and because of the issues that are clearly unavoidable when you employ the All-Star point guard.
If this is really it for the Nets and Irving, the team is going to be under immense pressure to maintain its own contender status, especially given that Durant just seemingly signaled he may mull his future with the team if things don't work out.
Durant signed a four-year, $198 million extension last offseason, but players have forced their way out of a team early in their contracts before.
The Nets have been trending toward this situation for a while, but it remains shocking just how badly the Durant-Irving era has worked out so far.
A deep run into the NBA playoffs basically felt like a foregone conclusion when they engineered a team-up three years ago. Then they spent the first season with Durant sidelined by a torn Achilles, fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals despite reaching superteam status with James Harden aboard, then dealt with the drama of Harden's exit, Irving's lack of vaccination and another Durant injury this season.
Across three seasons with both under contract, the Nets have posted a 127-99 regular-season record without a conference finals appearance. Durant has played in 39.8 percent of those games, while Irving has played in 45.6 percent.