What does Kyrie Irving’s trade request mean for the Houston Rockets?
Kyrie Irving is at it again. The NBA’s king of controversy has requested that the Brooklyn Nets trade him before the NBA’s February 9th trade deadline and has informed the organization that he has no intention of resigning with the team when his contract expires in the offseason, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The Houston Rockets currently own the Brooklyn Nets draft through 2027 via unprotected picks and swaps. Any trade of Irving could have massive implications on the quality of those picks, and it also gives the Rockets an inside track to acquire Irving via trade. Before we break down the implications for the Rockets, let’s just break down how bizarre Kyrie’s career has truly been.
We should have known Kyrie Irving’s tenure in Brooklyn would end this way
Kyrie Irving’s trade request is both shocking and unsurprising in the same breath. The Brooklyn Nets are fourth in the Eastern Conference and could be higher if not for Kevin Durant’s injury. With a healthy Durant ready for the stretch run, the Nets would have a puncher’s chance at making a run to the Finals. It’s incredibly rare for a player to request a trade in the middle of the season when they’re on a contender, but with Kyrie Irving, if you’re not expecting the unexpected, you’re being willfully ignorant.
Irving demanded a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers after making three consecutive Finals and winning one. He ended up in Boston, a young up-and-coming team featuring Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and while the on-court success was present, there always seemed to be a tinge of toxicity behind the scenes. Even still, he told the fans he was going to extend his stay in Boston and then signed with Brooklyn as a free agent and recruited Kevin Durant.
In Brooklyn, Irving has been statistically magnificent when on the court, but injuries and an unwillingness to be vaccinated for Covid prevented him from being on the court for long stretches over his first three seasons. Then to start this season, Irving promoted a documentary (if you can call it that) that spouted overt and covert anti-semitic tropes, doubled down on it, and only after the Nets and the NBA applied tremendous pressure on him did he half-heartedly apologize over Instagram.
According to reports, Irving requested a trade as extension talks with the Nets stalled, and while failed extensions leading to trade requests are nothing new, asking for one with only a few months before hitting free agency is uncommon. If Irving doesn’t want to stay in Brooklyn, he can play out the season and hit free agency. In fact, it is usually the team that angles for a trade when they cannot extend a player about to hit free agency, not the other way around.
Why the Kyrie Irving trade request is great news for the Rockets
For the Rockets, betting on the Nets' collapse via the James Harden trade seems to have been one of the shrewdest moves in NBA history. Kyrie Irving is the architect of this iteration of the Nets, and he is the NBA’s foremost arsonist. And when an arsonist builds your house, all it takes is a little spark for the whole thing to be set ablaze.
Irving’s trade value, in my opinion, is nowhere near the level of his on-court production. The level of real drama that follows him is absurd, and it’s clear he views himself as a player worthy of significant organizational influence. No sane team is ponying up a massive offer to bring him into town for fear that he’ll jump ship after leaving a stick of dynamite in the engine room.
There’s also the reality that he’s only under contract for the remainder of this season, which means any team trading for him will have next to no leverage in contract negotiations. If you trade for Irving now, you have to be comfortable giving him a massive contract tomorrow. With how erratic his behavior has been, that is a massive gamble that can wait.
This is all good news for the Rockets. The Nets are likely to get meaningfully worse and are unlikely to land reinforcements to offset those losses. With Kevin Durant in the twilight of his prime, the Nets taking a step back could also see him request his own trade. While the Rockets were likely banking on Brooklyn’s 2025 through 2027 picks being juicy, there’s a chance that they could be premium picks as soon as next year.
There’s also the reality that the Rockets could always sign Kyrie Irving in the summer with cap space or trade some of Brooklyn’s own picks back to land him. However, I would argue that no team should give Irving a massive contract and particularly not a young team. Irving seems highly concerned with exercising enormous influence over his organizations. He left Cleveland and LeBron James to be the man in Boston. Boston has one of the strongest organizational structures, and his time there soured quickly. In Brooklyn, he had incredible power, but as soon as the organization pushed back, their relationship crumbled.
Talent wins in the NBA, but sometimes the talent is not worth the baggage, and Irving has repeatedly shown that his baggage rivals that of a spoiled Disney princess’s evil stepsister. This is the best news for the Rockets, so long as Irving remains outside of the city of Houston. Brooklyn is burning, and the Rockets have Kyrie Irving to thank.