That may come down to whether or not the Nets can land another max player.
According to a report in the New York Post, the Nets are having second thoughts about swapping point guards unless Irving can also recruit Kevin Durant to join him in Brooklyn. Since Russell was a key part of the Nets’ resurgence from bottom-feeder to playoff darling, the decision may not be as easy as it looks.
How do the players’ contracts factor into this?
The Nets may be choosing between several max players, but not all max contracts are made the same. Since they are based on years in the league and accolades, there’s a lot of money on the line.
The cheapest and easiest option for the Nets would be to re-sign their own restricted free agent, Russell. As a player with four years of experience, Russell is eligible for a four-year, $117 million contract.
Four years older, Irving can earn up to $141 million over four years, while Durant can make $164 million over the same span. Signing both Irving and Durant would require the Nets to trade away another one of their mid-level players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris or Taurean Prince, but that’s just the cost of doing business when adding two franchise-altering players.
The question becomes whether or not the Nets will want to pony up extra money for Irving, given the way he fell out with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, when they already know Russell is a great fit.
Do the Nets think they’re better off with Russell than Irving?
It would be hard to argue that Russell is a better player than — or on the same level as — Irving. Last season was Russell’s breakout, and he still had just over half as many win shares (5.0 vs. 9.1) as Irving.
However, there is something to be said about preserving cap space and having continuity if the Nets can’t hit the lottery with Durant as well.
More importantly, the extra $6 million per year could go a long way in attracting a second All-Star if Durant says no. Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and Al Horford have all been connected to the Nets in the past, and would actually have a full max slot to work with.
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