A fresh round of Brooklyn Nets rumors links the team to a potential run at a pair of premier 2019 free agents in Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler.
For the second time in a month, there are Brooklyn Nets rumors circulating about a potential run at Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler as a package deal should both opt to hit the free agency market next summer.
There is growing buzz that the two All-Stars are interested in teaming up for someone in the Eastern Conference and growing speculation that the Nets, along with the New York Knicks, could be two of the leaders in pursuit of Irving and Butler.
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This talk began about a month ago, when stories circulated that Irving is almost certain to decline his 2019-20 option with the Boston Celtics to become an unrestricted free agent and that Butler is unhappy with some of his young teammated with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Business Insider reported this week that chatter about Irving and Butler teaming up next summer is “substantial,” following up on a Chicago Sun-Times report from mid-July that there had already been talks between the two stars about how to create a package deal.
In that Sun-Times piece, Joe Cowley reported that Butler tried to get the Chicago Bulls, whom he was with at the time, to try and trade for Irving before Irving actually requested to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before anything could develop, however, the Bulls traded Butler to Minnesota.
When this topic first surfaced in July, ESPN’s Zach Lowe termed the chatter about the stars uniting as “credible.”
The Business Insider report, citing two NBA sources, called the chatter “substantial.”
Like Irving, Butler also has a player option for 2019-20 that he is expected to decline in order to become an unrestricted free agent next July 1.
The New York Knicks, along with the Nets, are expected to have loads of cap space next summer and could be top contenders to land the free-agent double-dip.
One source told Business Insider:
“It wouldn’t surprise me if either New York team or potentially both New York teams hit it big next summer.”
The Nets would appear to be in a position to have the necessary cap space to sign both, while the Knicks would have to do some juggling to make it work.
Among the decisions New York could make would be to delay an extension for All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, instead opting to sign him as a restricted free agent next summer without having to use cap space because of his full Bird rights.
Knicks general manager Scott Perry hasn’t been coy about the club’s plan to be a player in free agency in 2019 and there are reports the Knicks could pitch Kevin Durant next summer should be decline his option with the Golden State Warriors.
Irving and Butler traveled distinctly different roads to stardom after being selected in the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Irving was the No. 1 overall pick by the Cavaliers and was the Rookie of the Year in 2011-12.
Butler was the last pick of the first round, 30th overall, by the Bulls and was a bit player as a rookie, averaging just 8.5 minutes per game, and didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season.
Neither has experienced unrestricted free agency. Butler’s rookie deal expired in 2015, but he signed a five-year, $95 million deal in July 2015 to remain with Chicago as a restricted free agent, with the Bulls able to sweeten the offer by an extra year with Butler’s Bird rights.
Irving never hit the market, agreeing to a five-year, $94.3 million extension with the Cavs in July 2014 that kicked in for the 2015-16 season.
Irving said in June that signing an extension with the Celtics wasn’t something he was interested in doing, saying it didn’t make financial sense.
Butler’s unhappiness in Minnesota reportedly centered on the work habits — or lack thereof — of his young teammates, particularly All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Irving and Butler have played together with USA Basketball, members of the Olympic team that won a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Both are on the extended 2018-20 national team roster that will compete in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The buzz about the pair teaming up centers on doing so in the Eastern Conference. Butler got a full taste of life in the Western Conference last season, while Irving did battle with the Warriors in three straight NBA Finals from 2015-17.
The concerns about Irving and Butler wouldn’t be based on ability as much as they would availability. Butler played in 76 games with the Bulls in 2016-17, but has missed at least 15 games every other season since 2013-14.
Last season, Butler sat out 23 games with a knee injury and he has worked a heavy minutes load since becoming a full-time starter in 2013-14, averaging at least 36.7 minutes per game each season, with last season;s 36.7 mark the lowest.
He led the league in minutes per game in 2014-15.
Irving likewise has a checkered injury history, missing at least 10 games in every season but 2014-15. Last season, Irving missed 22 regular-season games and was out for the entire playoffs after surgery to remove two screws from the left patella he fractured in the 2015 NBA Finals.
The surgery was deemed necessary after a bacterial infection was discovered in the left knee at the location the screws had been implanted.
Butler will be 30 by the time the 2019-20 season starts. Irving will turn 27 in March.
They are still an intriguing pair — Irving is a five-time All-Star, a former All-NBA player and has a ring from the 2016 Cavaliers. Butler has gone to four All-Star games, is a four-time All-Defensive pick and has been All-NBA twice, but has never been past the second round of the playoffs.