On the eve of free agency, news broke from Chris Haynes that Maverick free agent Kyrie Irving plans to meet with the Phoenix Suns. While this news shouldn’t come as a shock considering Irving himself stated he planned to take his time with free agency this year, it does present a thorn in the side of the Mavericks who would much rather have Irving’s quick cooperation in order to maximize their salary cap wranglings.
Dallas opened up the potential to use the full MLE with some savvy draft-night trades, but the ability to use that is dependent on Kyrie signing early and for less than his max, so Dallas can negotiate using the MLE before high-quality free agents come off the board.
This move from Irving is clearly an attempt to increase his own leverage in salary negotiations with Dallas. It’s the same behavior as when he was angling for a sign-and-trade to the Lakers and floated taking the $6M mid-level to join LeBron if Brooklyn didn’t extend him. Instead, they traded him away to Dallas.
Can’t knock a player for trying to get as big a contact as possible... but you can knock him for using perhaps the only team in the league who isn’t a threat to sign him away from Dallas.
Irving and Kevin Durant re-teaming in Phoenix with Devin Booker is a fun 2K fantasy, but here in the real world, where the hard cap exists, finding a way to sign-and-trade Irving onto the Suns is essentially impossible — even if Dallas took Ayton and his contract back in return.
Booker, Durant, Beal, and Irving (with a hypothetical, fairly team-friendly $40 million a year deal) would put the Suns at $170 million for those four players alone. The hard cap, which a sign-and-trade triggers, is $172 million. I’m not sure how Phoenix would add 11 more players for $2 million, but I suppose it would be fun to see them try.
Long story short, this is a blatant move from Irving to gain the upper hand in negotiations with Dallas, but he simply could not have picked a worse team to try and scare Dallas straight with. Real big brain stuff, here. In his search for one last big payday, Kyrie is misplaying his hand to a head-scratching degree.