Players like D’Angelo Russell are not supposed to be available in free agency. Young players that help lead their teams to the NBA Playoffs while on their rookie contract usually are no-brainers for being re-signed to four year deals. They don’t get to free agency unless it’s a formality where the team is having the player get his value on the free agent market so that team can match whatever deal that player gets. D’Angelo Russell IS NOT supposed to be available ... except that there’s a growing chance that he is.
Brooklyn is trading Allen Crabbe and No. 17 pick in 2019 NBA Draft and protected first in 2020 to Atlanta for Taurean Prince and 2021 second-round pick, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2019
With that trade the Brooklyn Nets opened enough cap space to land two max free agents. If you’re thinking, “Well ... there’s no way they could do that.” THINK AGAIN. Brooklyn believes they already have on star in hand. That star? Kyrie Irving.
Kyrie Irving is serious about the Nets -- and the Nets are serious about beating the Knicks -- and rest of league -- to the biggest free agents in the marketplace, per league sources.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2019
The Brooklyn Nets would have enough cap space to sign both Kyrie Irving and another max free agent like Kevin Durant, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson or even Kawhi Leonard while being able to retain D’Angelo Russell. However, there’s a lot of factors at play here like how they’d fit playing together and if D’Angelo Russell’s side would even want to stay in Brooklyn at that point, and if Brooklyn wants to go down that road since they’d have to trade another prized asset away to make enough room in that scenario. Currently as constituted, Brooklyn can still only sign D’Angelo Russell and Kyrie Irving or Kyrie Irving and a yet to be named Max Free Agent like KD, Harris, or Butler. This is according to Kevin Pelton.
Assuming the cap comes in as projected at $109 million, Brooklyn would have more than enough room to sign two players with 7-9 years of experience (like Irving, Jimmy Butlerand Kawhi Leonard) to max deals by renouncing the rights to Russell. Pairing one such max player with another who’s got 10 or more years of experience (say, Kevin Durant) would be trickier but doable if the Nets were to trade Prince to a team with the cap space to take his salary without sending anything in return.
Kevin Pelton believes that Taurean Prince is a key part to Brooklyn moving forward and what will make Brooklyn’s team makeup work with a future core of Kyrie + Max Free Agent. Their remaining pieces are all wing players that can guard positions 1-4 and can play either wing spot. Some of them can play power forward as well. With Brooklyn Head Coach Kenny Atkinson being a disciple of Mike Budenholzer, it should be easy for Prince to step into Brooklyn and contribute right away and understand the system.
Cool cool cool cool cool but where do the Utah Jazz come into play with all of this.
With Brooklyn having to renounce the rights of D’Angelo Russell (pull Russell’s qualifying offer or never offer it to him in the first place) to obtain two max free agents, that means D’Angelo Russell could hit the unrestricted free agent market without Utah having to worry about Brooklyn matching a contract. Utah is one of four teams not named Brooklyn who are STRONGLY linked to D’Angelo Russell.
According to Shams Charania, the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, and Indiana Pacers. Out of those four teams, only two have teams are real contenders. The Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz. There are some definite reasons the Utah Jazz should be considered the frontrunner if D’Angelo Russell hits the unrestricted free agency.
The Utah Jazz are already one of top three teams in the West without D’Angelo Russell.
D’Angelo Russell would have a chance to come to a team that some consider one of the top three teams in the West. As the Nuggets-Blazers side of the NBA Playoff bracket showed, those two were more of a paper tiger when it came to their record as the Blazers were steamrolled in the Western Conference finals. Utah has made it to the second round of the playoffs two out of the last three years and is this close to being a contender. If Russell stays in the East playing for Orlando or Indiana, he could be making regular run ins with Brooklyn with KD and Kyrie, the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakim, and Philadelphia with Simmons, Embiid, and Butler. If he goes to the West, he could be entering the conference at the same time there’s a power vacuum.
Remember how we said Russell’s coach in Brooklyn runs a system close to Budenholzer? So does Quin Snyder.
Quin Snyder and Kenny Atkinson are both from the Mike Budenholzer system. The sets they run are similar. If Russell went to Indiana, Orlando, or Minnesota he’d have to run a completely different system. In Minnesota, he’d be stuck with a VERY inexperienced coach and roster. In Orlando, he’d be the top dog, but be in a situation similar to Donovan Mitchell last year where he has no help in the backcourt AND in a different system. In Indiana, completely new system and Victor Oladipo has no timetable for his return.
In Utah, he’d get to be in a system he’s familiar with and with a coach known for helping point guards improve their game (see also, Ricky Rubio and George Hill). Quin Snyder used to be a point guard, he’s good at this. He’d also have a healthy backcourt teammate. This allows D’Angelo Russell to focus on the game rather than focus on what the hell he’s supposed to run.
Donovan and D’Angelo are friends and also share the same agency CAA.
This is a connection that cannot be understated. D’Angelo Russell and Donovan Mitchell have even had fun with this when they last hung out.
Here is a thing Donovan Mitchell posted on his Insta story, which is fun given what time of year it is pic.twitter.com/cyIof7c9bf— Ryan McDonald (@ryanwmcdonald) May 21, 2019
If D’Angelo wanted to still keep that good culture he had in Brooklyn when he changed locations, Utah is the place to do it. He has a better Jarrett Allen with Rudy Gobert, a sharpshooter like Joe Harris in Joe Ingles, a defensive minded sometimes stretch four in Jae Crowder, and then he gets one thing he never had in Brooklyn: a backcourt star to take the pressure off of him. He had Dinwiddie, but Dinwiddie will never command the type of gravity that Donovan Mitchell will command. Both players would see immediate relief while the role players in Utah would see insane daylight and open shots.
NBA Agencies are like dark matter. They may not be visible to the naked eye, but they make up a good amount of the cosmos and have a very direct effect on most of the NBA galaxy. Donovan Mitchell has 100% told his agent—and his agent has been able to witness firsthand—how he has become a superstar in Utah, how well Utah has treated him, and how good of an organization Utah is from top to bottom. D’Angelo Russell is looking for that type of team. The ability to hop into a contending playoff team, know the system, and have buddies on that squad already is worth its price in gold ... or in a max contract.
NBA Free Agency begins June 30th at 6:00PM ET. Get your popcorn ready.