Kyrie Irving makes sense for the Suns on the court, but not off it

Some executives around the NBA were wondering this week if the upcoming trade deadline would be quiet. Still, as one cautioned, all it takes to shake things up is one team willing to blow it up and start a domino effect around the league. In this case, perhaps it will be one player.

In a decision that could have an outsized impact not just on the Brooklyn Nets, but the entire league, Kyrie Irving has requested a trade from the organization, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania. Irving told the Nets that he plans to leave in July as a free agent if the team fails to move him prior to next week’s Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Boom. Just like that, the NBA has a situation that could be the fuse to a sizzling trade deadline. Should the Nets move on from Irving, the Suns are expected to be one of his potential suitors, along with the Lakers and Mavericks. Over the coming days, Phoenix will need to evaluate a long list of factors to determine how much to offer, if anything, for the All-Star guard.



Kyrie Irving trade request: Where does he fit? What does it mean for Nets?

The Suns could theoretically put together trade package involving several players, but an Irving acquisition would only make sense if the Suns intend to include Chris Paul in the deal. If Phoenix mounts a serious charge for Irving, Paul’s age would likely factor heavily into the decision. Though CP3’s longevity has been remarkable, he will turn 38 during the coming playoffs and won’t be able to star alongside Devin Booker forever. At some point, likely in the relatively near future, the Suns will need to find a second perimeter play creator more closely aligned with Booker’s timeline.

That doesn’t mean they need to move on from Paul now, nor does it necessarily mean they should. After a slow, injury-riddled start to the season, Paul has started to look far more like his old (or young) self than him recently, helping the Suns win six of their final seven games in January. Paul has had some unusual duds by his standards, including a three-point effort against the Hawks Wednesday, but averaged 18.6 points and 7.9 assists per game during January and again looks capable of running the Suns at an extremely high level. Even without the injured Devin Booker and Cam Johnson, Paul led the Suns to their seventh win in the last nine games Friday, with 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers against the Celtics.

“Phoenix does a great job of managing the game with their offense and their ability to execute,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said after the game.

Nobody does that better than Paul.

Around Paul, the Suns need to figure out where their franchise stands. After cratering early in Booker’s extended absence with a groin injury, they have steadied themselves and still remain a whisker away from homecourt advantage in the open Western Conference. How much more juice can they squeeze out of the current core? Will they still be championship contenders once Booker gets healthy and they’re able to net another rotation player or two via a Jae Crowder trade?

As they try to predict the answers to those questions, new owner Mat Ishbia, whose takeover of the franchise is expected to be made official before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, looms as a new variable in those conversations. How much of the Suns’ basketball decision-making will he control? How badly will he want to make big changes?



Kyrie Irving’s trade request throws the Nets into a familiar place: chaos

After advancing to the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns looked like the league’s best team throughout the 2021-22 regular season, but several questions about the team surfaced after they dropped a disastrous Game 7 against Dallas in the second round of the playoffs. Crowder’s differences with the organization, which have kept him away from the team all season, have left a hole in the roster, one Booker’s extended absence only magnified. The Suns actually looked like a powerhouse early in the season when Booker was healthy, but the extent to which they struggled early on without him could raise doubts within the organization about this team’s contention chances. If they can’t compete for a title, what comes next?

In pure basketball terms, Irving fits the profile of the type of player the Suns should be looking to acquire as Paul’s successor. At age 30, Irving should still have plenty of years to play at a high level, assuming his body holds up. He’s averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game this season for a 31-20 Nets team that ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. Irving has rare talent. He can thrive on the ball or off it. He can drill 3-pointers or get to the rack. He finishes like a wizard at the rim. He owns one of the most complete offensive skill sets in the NBA history. The fully realized version of him would fit nicely next to any great wing player, including Booker.

As mesmerizing as Irving can be with the ball in his hands, any team considering a run at him should think deeply about the negative impact he will likely have inside the locker room. He has brought dissatisfaction and dysfunction to every one of his NBA stops. He demanded a trade from the Cavaliers after they appeared in three straight finals. After declaring he intended to re-sign with the Celtics, he helped to break their locker room before leaving for Brooklyn in free agency. He dazzled when on the court with the Nets, but has once again left a trail of chaos behind him.

Most recently, the Nets suspended Irving in November for a minimum of five games without pay after he posted a link to a documentary promoting anti-Semitic views on his social media accounts, then repeatedly refused to apologize for doing so. He ended up missing eight games. At the time, the team deemed Irving “unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”

When healthy, the Nets have thumped teams since Irving returned from that suspension. Yet, now he wants a trade. Even if this decision is largely related to his contract extension negotiations, it’s another data point to suggest the next mess is always nearby when Irving’s around.

As talented as he is, acquiring him could go very wrong.

(Photo of Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

More Kyrie Irving trade coverage

Jovan Buha: Kyrie Irving to the Lakers? This is why LA held on to its draft picks

Tim Cato: Kyrie Irving’s trade request raises questions the Mavericks can’t easily answer

Round table: Now that Kyrie Irving has requested trade, where does he fit? What does it mean for Nets?


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