Does Kyrie Irving stay with the Boston Celtics long-term?
A blockbuster trade shocked the basketball world as Kyrie Irving was dealt to the Celtics. How this trade ends up working out for Boston on the court remains to be seen. If we want to look ahead however, Irving has the ability to become a free agent in just two years. Will he stay in Boston or will he find a new home? Let’s analyze.
To help in making this determination, we can look to one of the greatest video game franchises of our generation, NBA 2K. In NBA 2K, players are given three factors rated 1 through 100 to help inform their decision-making when they become free agents. Those three factors are “Financial security,” “Loyalty,” and “Play for Winner.” Let’s try to determine Irving’s rating in each of these categories, as well as Boston’s rating to provide Irving with said factor.
Based on what we know about him, the figure in his bank account is not Kyrie’s main priority. He gave up a chance at a supermax extension when Cleveland traded him (upon his request). Like any human, I’m sure he likes money, but we have evidence that he will give some of it up for other factors.
The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured towards getting players to stay with their teams. Given this, the Celtics will be able to not only go over the salary cap to re-sign Irving but also give him an extra year on his contract to provide him with more security. Given how quickly Irving changed his mind about Cleveland however, he may not want that extra year. There are also a few ways around this, including a sign-and-trade.
Halfway through his contract with the Cavs, Kyrie requested a trade. Staying loyal to a team does not seem to be too much of a concern for Kyrie. It shouldn’t be either, given how disloyal most NBA franchises are to their players.
Boston does not have much of a stake in Kyrie’s loyalty anyway. Assuming he opts out, he will only have played two seasons in Boston. Beyond that, Boston just traded half of its roster this past season and has shown the ability to trade anyone of its players at anytime. Why would Kyrie ever feel beholden towards the Celtics?
Play for Winner
This really does not seem to be a huge selling point for Irving. He was on a team that has been in the Finals in each of the last three years, and he was playing alongside one of the best basketball players this world has ever seen. He still requested a trade. I’m sure he would rather win than lose, but he could have easily been traded to a really terrible team, yet he still requested the trade.
Boston is set up pretty good to be competitive. It has added two big-time free agents in Gordon Hayward and Al Horford over the last two years. It also has loads of potential in Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and another likely high pick to come (Lakers in 2018 if it lands 2-5 or Kings in 2019).
Well, if those really are the only factors then Kyrie does not seem to care about too much of anything. How will he make his decision? Well, there are two factors that can be added to the list.
NBA 2K used to have player roles and it would be particularly important in Kyrie’s case.
One of the main reasons reported for Kyrie’s trade request was that he had grown sick of his role. Being the focal part of an offense appears to be important to him. Meanwhile, playing beside other ball-dominant stars like LeBron James seems to have little appeal.
The Celtics want to win and they know that they need multiple star players to do so. They won’t be content just letting Kyrie valiantly lead the team if they don’t believe it will result in championships. They already added Hayward this offseason, who is a pretty good scorer in his own right. That being said, Kyrie will certainly carry more of an offensive load than he did in Cleveland.
It seems clear through all of this madness that Kyrie did not have a great relationship with some of his teammates. There are reports he went consecutive days without speaking to them during the playoffs. Kyrie also confirmed he never spoke with LeBron after asking about the trade. This could be another big reason he asked to be traded.
If his relationships on the Cavs was in this bad of a state, having good relationships elsewhere could help a team retain him. If the Celtics really bring a culture around him where Kyrie like everyone he works for and with, they’ll have a great shot at re-signing him when his contract is up.
The Celtics seem excellent at cultivating this culture. Players seem to love Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. All the players that end up leaving Boston seem sad that they are leaving as well. Everybody knows that Stevens’ relationship with Hayward was important in getting him to sign, and according to Irving, Stevens was a factor in getting him to Boston as well.
Given all of this, it could definitely go either way. I do think Kyrie will end up staying however. Boston has done a great job building a fun culture and a team that players want to play for. I think this will end up being the deciding factor.
If Kyrie does leave when his contract is up, it will either be to go put up great numbers on a bad team or to play with one of his friends around the league, like Jimmy Butler.