After much of uncertainty, the Brooklyn Nets will enter the 2022-23 season, conceivably, with their core intact.
On Monday, Kyrie Irving chose to opt in to the final year of his deal.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Irving will pick up his $37 million player option “bypassing on multiple opt-in and trade scenarios to fulfill his four-year commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant.”
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is opting into his $37 million player option for the 2022-23 season, @TheAthletic @Stadium has learned. Irving is bypassing on multiple opt-in and trade scenarios to fulfill his four-year commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 27, 2022
The saga may not be over, though. This may be the first act of a very long, chaotic play. The Nets can still facilitate a trade for Irving, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted. “By opting-in, Irving is eligible to be traded to any of the 29 teams and hard cap restriction does not apply.”
Irving could still force his way out of Brooklyn via a trade.
MORE: Kyrie Irving explains decision to stay with Nets, opts in to final year of contract
For now, the Nets plan to continue building around Irving and Kevin Durant in pursuit of winning a championship and with Irving seemingly committed to Brooklyn for next season at least, they can turn their attention to building out the rest of their roster.
Nets roster composition after Kyrie Irving opts in
Irving opting into his deal is the first piece of the puzzle.
If the Nets learned anything last season it’s that their lack of reliable depth became problematic in the postseason. That depth becomes even harder with several key rotation guys (superstars) entering free agency or leaving via trade.
Veteran guard Patty Mills has a player option for $6 million, while Bruce Brown, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic are all unrestricted free agents this summer.
Energetic big man Nic Claxton will hit restricted free agency and is expected to draw interest from rival teams.
The Nets own Brown’s Bird Rights, which means they can go over the salary cap to resign the versatile guard, along with matching any offers Claxton receives.
Further down the roster, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards are also under contract for next season, with the Nets expected to keep undrafted rookie David Duke Jr. as well.
|Unrestricted free agents||Restricted free agents||Player option||Team option|
|Bruce Brown||Nicolas Claxton||Kyrie Irving||None|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||David Duke Jr.||Patty Mills|
Nets future salaries
With Irving opting in, the Nets have a lot of money tied up in their core. They are on the hook for a combined $133.4 million between Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris and Irving, leaving them little wiggle room to add depth.
MORE: Ranking the top 25 free agents from Zach LaVine to Deandre Ayton
As it stands, their only real mechanisms to add depth come in the form of a $6.3 million mid-level exception and a handful of trade exceptions worth $11 million, $6.2 million and $3.3. million.
Here’s the financial outlook for the next few years.
|Kevin Durant||$44.1 million||$47.7 million||$51.2 million|
|Kyrie Irving||$36.9 million (PO)||UFA|
|Ben Simmons||$33 million||$37.9 million||$40.3 million|
|Joe Harris||$17.4 million||$18.6 million||$19.9 million|
|Seth Curry||$8.2 million||$8.5 million||UFA|
|Patty Mills||$5.9 million||UFA|
|Cameron Thomas||$2 million||$2.1 million||$2.2 million (TO)|
|Day’Ron Sharpe||$2 million||$2.1 million||$2.2 million (TO)|
PO = Player option
TO = Team Option
CH = Cap hold
RFA = Restricted free agency
UFA = Unrestricted free agency
Nets free agency watch and potential trades
While the Nets aren’t in position to compete in the free agent market at large, one name has bubbled to the surface in Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton.
As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported, the Nets are reportedly willing to lose both Irving and Durant in order to avoid another drama-filled season.
While an Irving to Phoenix deal seems unlikely, it’s possible Durant could ask out if Irving leaves town.
MORE: Who’s most likely to be traded this offseason?
In that scenario, the Suns could become an interesting option given their reluctance to pay Ayton a max contract to keep him alongside Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
A late surge of action in the betting markets saw Ayton’s odds of joining the Nets slashed as the second-favorite team for him to join behind the Suns.
A series of wild events would have to occur for something like this to happen, but from Phoenix’s view, putting together a deal including Ayton and some combination of Mikal Bridges/Cam Johnson and draft assets could be enough to tempt the Nets if it comes down to it.
Deandre Ayton to Nets odds in the last hour:
50 min ago: +2200
41 min ago: +700
20 min ago: +500
9 min ago: + 400
5 min ago: +300
(Via @Kyle_Odegard )
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) June 27, 2022
The drama in Brooklyn appears far from over, but if Irving is committed to staying with the Nets next season, they remain as one of the most talented rosters in the league. They’ll certainly be among the league’s top betting favorites.
The world just hasn’t had a chance to see them on the floor together.
The big question mark is that of Ben Simmons, who after undergoing back surgery in May, looms as the biggest difference-maker for their fortunes in 2022-23.
Simmons hasn’t played a competitive basketball game since June 2021, but alongside Durant and Irving, on paper at least, gives the Nets a championship-caliber core.
If Simmons can return to his All-Star level of play with his new franchise, a lot of the question marks surrounding their roster will immediately wash away.
As it stands, there’s still plenty of questions surrounding the Nets’ short-term and long term future, but Simmons’ level of health and play answers a lot of them.