Ted Cruz suggests Rockets trade for Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving

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U.S. Senator and longtime Houston sports fan Ted Cruz offered immediate reaction to Brooklyn’s decision to block seven-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving from joining the Nets until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. “The Rockets could use a point guard,” Cruz tweeted. He tagged Irving at the end of the post.

At first glance, it’s not implausible. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer recently reported that during Rockets-Nets trade talks involving James Harden in January, Houston general manager Rafael Stone inquired about Irving. While Brooklyn had no interest in moving Irving then, the vaccine mandate (which isn’t in place in Houston) adds a new wrinkle.

While Brooklyn’s preference is clearly to have Irving play there, a trade allowing them to recoup some compensation would probably be a better outcome for them than having Irving sit out the entire season while the Nets receive nothing. In such a scenario, it could be argued that the Nets might have more interest in shipping Irving to a Western Conference team, as opposed to a competitor in the East.

Moreover, while Irving’s $35.1 million salary is high, the Rockets do have enough tradable salaries for a deal to work. For example, a hypothetical trade of Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr., and DJ Augustin for Irving would work under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Other teams that are above the salary cap — who, like the Rockets, would have to send out nearly as much money as they take in as part of any trade — may not have enough tradable salaries to approach Irving’s cap number.

But the devil is in the details. For starters, recent reports have suggested that Irving might retire, if traded. It’s obviously not worth it for Houston to give up any value for Irving in that scenario. But even if Irving commits to play, he’s a point guard. Contrary to Cruz’s tweet, the Rockets clearly don’t believe they need a point guard — as evidenced by their plan to sit veteran John Wall for the entire season in exchange for giving more reps at the position to Kevin Porter Jr., a promising young talent.

With that said, it could certainly be argued that Irving is a better and younger player than Wall, which might alter the thought process for Stone. But Irving has a player option to enter free agency in 2022. Even if he’s willing to play for the Rockets this season, would it be worth altering Houston’s rebuilding and development plan if Irving (without a contract extension) is viewed as a potential flight risk next offseason? There’s also the matter of Houston’s young roster being fully vaccinated, and it’s conceivable that Stone and head coach Stephen Silas may not want to add a non-vaccinated player to the mix to change that dynamic.

Finally, even if Irving and the Rockets were somehow both mutually interested, it remains to be seen if Houston could satisfy Brooklyn’s desires in a trade. While the aforementioned hypothetical would bring the Nets three capable players in Gordon, House, and Augustin, it’s certainly not standard value for a seven-time All-Star who is only 28 years old. (Granted, in this case, there are major extenuating circumstances.)

In theory, Wall and Christian Wood could also be targets for the Nets, who are clearly making an immediate title push with a roster headlined by Harden and Kevin Durant. But a trade market for Wall hasn’t yet materialized due to his bloated contract (nearly $92 million owed over two years), and it seems doubtful that the Rockets would move Wood for Irving — an older player who could enter free agency within months.

A package built around Gordon could make the most sense for both teams, and he could provide value as a strong veteran shooter and defender surrounding Harden and Durant. But would the Nets see a trade offer headlined by a 32-year-old role player as sufficient? Even if they did, and Houston’s offer wasn’t topped by a bid from somewhere else, would the Rockets view it as worthy of changing their rebuilding philosophy (which currently prioritizes point guard reps for Porter Jr.)? Finally, would Irving be willing to play for a non-contender in Houston?

It’s not impossible. But despite Cruz’s desires, the odds of all those dominoes lining up would appear to be quite low.

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