Kyrie Irving’s free agency decision has been in the public spotlight ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him to the Boston Celtics in August 2017. Nearly two years later, the time has finally arrived. Irving will become a free agent on July 1 and will have plenty of suitors hoping to convince the 26-year-old six-time All-Star to accept a maximum contract.
Oddsmakers finally revealed their initial thoughts on where Irving may sign this summer, and to no one’s surprise the New York Knicks lead the way. Here, according to top oddsmakers, is where each team stands on the NBA betting market heading into the final month before Irving’s negotiations begin.
Knicks Heavy Favorite to Land Irving
Irving has been linked to the Knicks for a while on the NBA betting futures market and the pairing makes sense. He grew up 30 minutes from Madison Square Garden in West Orange, New Jersey, he reportedly has interest in teaming with Kevin Durant (also linked to the Knicks) and, of course, it would keep him in a major market.
The Knicks will have room for two max free agents, meaning there’s a chance to build a super-team. That’s enticing to players chasing titles, and the fact that New York is the NBA’s largest market only adds to the speculation that it’s destination No. 1 for free agents.
That starts with Irving, who has championship experience and is just entering his prime. His +100 odds feel like the correct play.
Could Kyrie Reunite with LeBron James?
Irving didn’t find much success in Boston (relative to what was expected of him and the Celtics) after demanding a trade away from LeBron James. Irving learned a valuable lesson about just how hard it is to be “the guy” for a franchise, so maybe he decides to go back to a No. 2 role where he’s more comfortable playing next to a guy he teamed up with to win a title.
The Lakers are an absolute mess but winning cures everything. Los Angeles has room to add a max player, and a core of James, Irving and youngsters (Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, 2019 first-round pick) is pretty solid. Add in the potential of trading for Anthony Davis and Irving could certainly entertain joining back up with James.
Like the New York option, playing in Los Angeles is enticing for superstars. At +300, it’s a good value play.
Grass Isn’t Always Greener in NBA
The Celtics couldn’t win the Eastern Conference in either of Irving’s two seasons – he missed the 2018 playoffs – but that’s not to say Boston is in trouble. They’re still very much in play for an Anthony Davis trade, they’ve won 104 games and three playoff series the past two seasons, they should bring back much of the same roster and they have three first-round draft picks.
Though things ended poorly with a five-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2, Irving had plenty of success in Boston (24.1 points, 48.9% FG, 6.1 assists) and the East is considerably easier than the West. Does he really want to leave a contender for a potential rebuild? He knows what that can entail, having done it in Cleveland for three seasons.
If Irving wants to stay put, the Celtics are nice value at +500. Think Paul George in Oklahoma City as a recent example.
What About the Other New York Team?
If Irving wants to come home and play in a big market but also be the go-to guy (as in, not in Durant’s shadow), perhaps he’ll consider the Brooklyn Nets. They were a major surprise in 2018-19, winning 42 games and taking the Sixers to six games in Round 1.
The Nets are trending in the right direction and could move some pieces around to have room for a max deal. Irving certainly feels like a potential “final piece” that could turn Brooklyn into true contenders, and for that reason his +400 odds are a solid bet. If Durant stays in Golden State and Irving wants a change of scenery entirely, Brooklyn could become the favorite.
Mavs Might Be Darkhorse Pick
The Dallas Mavericks are quietly putting together nice foundation pieces while keeping plenty of salary cap open for this upcoming summer. Dallas can afford a max free agent who would pair of with likely Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Irving and those two wouldn’t be instant contenders but it would move along a promising rebuild.
Irving and Porzingis had been linked while Porzingis was with the Knicks, so perhaps Irving still has a desire to play with the 7-foot-3 unicorn. They’re a long shot to sign Irving at +2000 but make for an intriguing darkhorse pick.