As speculation about Kyrie Irving signing with the Brooklyn Nets grows, there’s one player that would be significantly affected. Ian Begley of SportsNet New York writes that, in such a scenario, D’Angelo Russell would be ‘highly unlikely’ to remain with the team.
Russell, who could be a restricted free agent this summer if the Nets extend a qualifying offer, has a skill set that would overlap considerably with Irving’s and is fresh off a career year in Brooklyn.
In 81 games for the Nets this year, Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game. He served as a leader for the young squad that returned to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Alas, Brooklyn has made it clear that they’re at least preparing for the possibility of signing two max free agents. By agreeing to shed Allen Crabbe’s contract in a trade with the Hawks earlier this month, the Nets put themselves in a position to do just that.
Suffice it to say, that’s a position they can claim only if they rescind the rights to Russell. Given Russell’s impending free agency, he’ll have a $21 million cap hold until the Nets figure out what to do with him.
If Brooklyn wants to actually free up and use that $21 million to chase a co-star for Irving – somebody like Kevin Durant, for example – they’ll need to forfeit their ability to match any offer for Russell in free agency (and then some). That, of course, would make him an unrestricted free agent.
It would be possible financially for the Nets to sign one max free agent while retaining Russell’s restricted free agency rights but, as Begley reports, that may be moot if the addition is Irving and Russell feels compelled to look elsewhere.