On Friday, the NBA world was hit by a thunderbolt when it was reported that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving had asked to be traded.
That gives the Nets, as well as the few teams that would be interested in Irving, less than six days to make some happen.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been mentioned as one of three teams that are expected to have interest in the perennial All-Star guard. Of course, they went through this last summer, only to see nothing materialize.
But this time, with Irving becoming a free agent this summer and the Nets already in some turmoil because of Kevin Durant’s sprained MCL, they could be more motivated to make a deal.
Already, there are reports of what a potential trade between LA and Brooklyn could look like.
Second verse, same as first
In July, when the Lakers were reportedly discussing a possible Irving trade with Brooklyn, the framework of such a deal was rumored to be Russell Westbrook and two future first-round draft picks for Irving and one Nets role player, who was rumored to be either Joe Harris or Seth Curry.
According to Jovan Buha, that hasn’t changed as of now.
Street The Athletic:
“The Lakers have interest in acquiring Irving, according to multiple league sources who were granted anonymity to speak freely on the subject. The framework of a potential deal would be Russell Westbrook and the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first-round picks — with the Lakers pushing to add lottery protection to at least one of them — in exchange for Irving and another Nets role player (likely Joe Harris ), according to those sources. Depending on how the Nets value the Lakers’ picks and what happens with Kevin Durant in the wake of this news, the Lakers could reroute one of their picks to a third team, who would then send additional players to Brooklyn to help the Nets remain competitive .”
Despite his improved play this season, Westbrook may not be seen as having any value from other teams, other than his $47 million expiring contract. That is what could necessitate a third team getting involved.
From the Lakers’ point of view, this type of deal would be a slam dunk and a home run all in one. Not only would they get Irving, who is averaging 27.1 points a game this season, but also potentially Harris, who would give them another 3-point sniper that teams would have to account for.
Weak 3-point shooting is LA’s biggest weakness, and such a trade would radically address it.
Draft picks could be a sticking point for LA
The Lakers have been very reluctant to trade away one or both of their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks, as they have wanted to save them for a trade that would instantly make them championship contenders again. An Irving trade would be exactly that type of trade.
However, getting him would mean having to give him a contract extension. He reportedly asked the Nets for one worth nearly $200 million over four years, and it remains to be seen if LA would be willing to commit that much money and that many years to a player whose commitment to basketball has been iffy at times.
Keeping one of those draft picks, or at least adding some protection to them, could be seen as a safeguard against an Irving trade going awry. But Buha wrote that would change the calculus of such a deal.
“The situation remains fluid. The going cost to get a team to take on Westbrook and his $47.1 million salary has been one first-round pick at a minimum since last summer. But given Irving’s on-court pedigree and play this season, the Lakers would almost certainly have to include both first-round picks. Protecting one of those picks could result in the Nets asking for the Lakers to perhaps include Austin Reaves or Max Christie, two of the Lakers’ promising young role players. But the Lakers aren’t interested in including either in a potential package, according to those sources.”
It wouldn’t be in the best interest of the Lakers to acquire Irving by gutting their roster of viable role players such as Reaves and Christie, only to have a very top-heavy squad that wouldn’t have enough support around Irving, LeBron James and Anthony Davis moving forward.
The team wants to re-sign Reaves, who will be a free agent this summer, and perhaps the same will be true of center Thomas Bryant and also starting guard Dennis Schroder. Giving Irving the contract he wants could complicate the efforts to keep those players in the fold past this season.
Buha also mentioned that guards Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV could also be included in a possible Irving trade. Could one or both of them possibly be sufficient as a substitute for one of the two first-round draft picks Brooklyn is likely to demand?
If neither of them goes out to get Irving, they could be involved in a separate deal to round out the roster, according to Buha.