Celtics

How the latest Nets trade adds a new element to their Kyrie Irving pursuit

(Kent Smith/Getty Images)

The NBA Draft is still two weeks away but the wheeling and dealing kicked off already on Thursday as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com was first to report that the Brooklyn Nets have agreed to a salary dump deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Nets will move Allen Crabbe and his $18 million expiring contract for 2019-20 to the Hawks, along with the No. 17 overall pick and a top-14 protected 2020 first round pick for Taurean Prince and a 2020 second round pick.

The logic from Atlanta’s perspective here is quite simple for a deal that will be made official after July 1st in order to satisfy salary cap rules. The Hawks are accumulating assets to build with their young core of Trae Young and John Collins. They get a first round pick this year and likely a second one in 2020 for the price of taking on a bad contract in Crabbe and Prince. They don’t plan on targeting top names in free agency anyway with their cap room so they figure using it to add assets is a better plan, something the Celtics did with plenty of success during their rebuild earlier this decade.

The more noteworthy twist from a Celtics perspective though is the maneuvering by Brooklyn with their cap sheet. The Nets have been linked by multiple reports as a top suitor for Kyrie Irving in the past couple of weeks, joining the Knicks and Lakers as rumored landing spots if he decides to leave Boston. By dumping Crabbe and the No. 17 pick (while taking back Prince’s cheap salary of $3 million), the Nets will have opened up another $18 million in potential cap space this summer.

Nets general manager Sean Marks already had enough space for one max free agent before the deal with Atlanta but with Crabbe off the books now, the door is open for the Nets to potentially land two max guys if they are willing to renounce their other free agents (including D’Angelo Russell). That could potentially make them a more enticing destination to Irving or any other top tier free agent who wants to team up with a star running mate in a new destination.

It’s important to note that the fact the Nets did open up this type of cap space doesn’t mean there is a guarantee that they will land two big names. The Knicks opened up similar big cap room with the Kristaps Porzingis trade back in February (New York can sign up to two max players now) while the Lakers have positioned themselves to have two max slots as well with some roster shuffling. At least one of these teams is going to have very little to show for all of their cap room this summer, especially if bigger names like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker or Tobias Harris elect to stay put (all realistic possibilities).

There are also only a certain number of teams this summer with the necessary cap room that would be willing to take a