Brooklyn has structured the contracts of its two stars in an interesting way.
The Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to four-year, max deals this summer with player options in 2022-2023, but the duo will have to meet some specific requirements to get all their money, according to a report from ESPN. Brooklyn included approximately $1 million apiece for the two in yearly performance-based incentives in a likely attempt manipulate cap space favorably. These marks won’t be easy to reach.
ESPN’s report states Irving has a total of eight incentives he is “unlikely” to reach that become more difficult in each year of his contract. The Nets are asking Irving to play in 70 games, shoot 88.5 percent from the free throw line and make at least 2.8 3-pointers per game in the regular season, among other things. He has played more than 70 regular season games three times in his eight-year career, is a career 87.5 percent free throw shooter and has averaged 2.8 3-pointers per game once (2017-18).
There are team incentives that would likely require Irving to help Brooklyn rise to the cream of the crop as a unit statistically — on both sides of the ball. It didn’t rank better than 15th in offensive or defensive rating in 2018-19, according to NBA.com.
On the other hand, Durant, who will likely miss most if not all of 2019-20 while recovering from a ruptured Achilles, has his own unique set of expectations. Durant receives his bonus if the Nets make the playoffs, win 43 or more games, he appears in 50 or more games or makes the All-Star team. While the two-time Finals MVP has had plenty of success in the past, it’s unclear how such a serious injury will affect his turnaround.
Brooklyn was considered to have won 2019 free agency before the Clippers landed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But the Nets still have the opportunity to surge to the top of the Eastern Conference, and they’ll do everything they can to field a competitive roster in the meantime.