Kyrie Irving has reportedly declined his player option for the 2019-20 season, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Now 27-years-old, Irving is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career despite the ups-and-downs of the Boston Celtics. He averaged 23.8 points per game, knocking down 40.1% of his 3-point attempts.
His biggest jump came from his playmaking for others, dishing out a career-high 6.9 assists per game with 21 games (playoffs included) of 10 or more assists.
Irving's free agency decision is one of the biggest this offseason, so let's take a look at some of the best destinations for the All-Star guard.
According to multiple reports, Irving didn't enjoy living in Boston and was often butting heads with some of his younger teammates. Returning to Boston doesn't seem to be in Irving's interest, but we have to make the case for it anyway.
Irving still fits perfectly with the Celtics on paper. He was a fantastic playmaker this season, he's still a top-10 player in the NBA and he has the championship experience to take this team to the next level. Yet, with the current relationships he has with the supporting cast and coaching staff in Boston, it makes a return unlikely.
Irving should have fit in perfectly around Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. There's a reason this team was so heavily favoured to reach the Finals - with the amount of talent that they had, there's no excuse for their disappointing season.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, this isn't NBA 2K where you can just turn team chemistry off. If that were the case, Irving's return to Boston would make plenty of sense. But since this is real life, Irving packing up his things and heading elsewhere is probably in the best interest of himself and the Celtics.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
The Nets and Irving have been heavily linked to each other throughout the offseason thus far, with reports suggesting this is close to a done deal.
This destination makes the most sense. Irving left Cleveland because he didn't want to play under LeBron James' wing anymore. He wanted to prove he could lead his own team in pursuit of a championship. He went to Boston and never gelled with the team or the city, and things just simply did not work out.
Would going to Los Angeles to play under LeBron's wing and play third-fiddle to Anthony Davis really be his best decision? Would going to the Knicks with a ton of roster uncertainty and a team a few years away from truly competing be a great move? In my opinion, the answers would be no and no.
Irving would be competing for a title in Los Angeles, there's no question about that. But in Brooklyn, there's already a solid team in place that is capable of a playoff push. The Nets showed a ton of upside potential this past season and their young pieces are only going to improve next year. This would be Irving's second chance to prove he can be the go-to player on a championship run. It's his chance to prove that he can still be a Batman and that Boston just wasn't the right fit.
If Irving wants to prove himself as a leader, Brooklyn is his best bet.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
Los Angeles Lakers
It's no secret that LeBron James and the Lakers are trying to form a Big 3 in Los Angeles to try and chase another ring. With the Warriors wounded, the Western Conference hasn't been as open as it will be heading into the 2019-20 season for a long time.
With Anthony Davis already in town, adding Irving makes a lot of sense for both the Lakers and Irving.
Let's focus on Irving, though. He'd re-join LeBron, the teammate he enjoyed the most success he's had as an NBA player thus far in his career. And with Davis manning the middle instead of Kevin Love, he'll have one of the league's best defenders lurking behind him to erase any mistakes he makes on the perimeter.
But let's face it, if Irving joins LeBron and AD in L.A., this would be about rings, and he has proven he can elevate his play to a championship level as a second option next to James. In the three seasons he and LeBron played together in Cleveland, Irving averaged 23.9 points, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 47% shooting from the field in the playoffs.
The bottom line is if Irving wants to win more rings, his best option to do so may be in Los Angeles running alongside LeBron again.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
New York Knicks
It's been a long time since a top named free agent decided to sign in New York. It's been an even longer time since winning a championship was a possibility in Gotham.
Irving would change one of those two things - and maybe even both.
The Knicks' roster is young and hungry. With RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox, there's a young core in place for Irving to lead. Barrett and Knox would be two great slashers for Irving to distribute to and Robinson proved he can protect the rim at a high level, giving Irving the safety net on defence he would desire.
Irving would also be the clear cut number one option, a role he thrived in on the court in Boston. In his two seasons in Beantown, Irving posted the two most efficient seasons of his career. The way things are seemingly ending in Boston may lead some to believe Irving isn't ready to lead a young team, but the dynamics and coaching staff are different in New York. The Knicks won't be expecting to win right out of the gate and Irving has surely learned some lessons from his time as the Alpha with the Celtics.
An Irving-Knicks marriage might be the perfect situation at the right time.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
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