Irving and the Nets reportedly were at an impasse last week with the possibility he could be traded or enter free agency. Both Los Angeles teams and the Knicks were interested in acquiring the seven-time All-Star, and Irving also reportedly had a list of teams he would be interested in potentially heading to in a sign-and-trade.
Instead, Irving is staying put—for now at least—after he opted into his $37 million player option Monday. That decision should also quell the team’s concerns of a possible Kevin Durant trade request in the offseason.
Brooklyn, which was swept by Boston—Irving’s former team—in the first round, has better odds than other contenders like the 2021 champion Bucks (+700) and this year’s top seeds in the Suns (+850) and Heat (+1400).
Faith in what the Nets can be if fully healthy has not been dampened after what’s been a disappointing run in the Durant-Irving era. The franchise has just one playoff series win to show for three years of Durant and Irving and parts of two seasons with James Harden, who was traded to the 76ers for Ben Simmons in February.
The Nets were the favorites to win the 2022 championship after coming close to upending the Bucks in the semifinals the previous summer, but flopped in 2022.
Injuries to all three stars (Simmons notably has yet to suit up for Brooklyn), as well as Irving not complying with New York’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, kept the team from reaching its lofty ceiling. The Nets finished as the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference and had to compete in the play-in tournament.
Availability—both due to injury and Irving’s vaccine decision—has ailed this version of the Nets since the star duo teamed up in the summer of 2019. However, COVID-19 restrictions that kept Irving off the court have been lifted and Simmons, who hasn’t played since the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals, will undergo back surgery.
Brooklyn’s championship odds represent the potential of this star-studded team, though the team’s first-round exit in the spring is a stark reminder of its floor.
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