With the start of NBA free agency just around the corner, all eyes are currently on Kyrie Irving as he and the Brooklyn Nets are believed to be at an impasse in contract negotiations, which could pave the way for a team like the Los Angeles Lakers to step in.
It’s understandable why the Nets are hesitant to give Irving a full max contract given his lack of availability in recent years. If they are unwilling to step up their offer though, then it looks like Irving could be headed elsewhere and the Nets’ title window will be closed before it really even opened.
While that would be a stunning turn of events, it seems to be the direction that things are headed. According to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily Nets, Irving has requested and been granted permission to seek sign-and-trade offers that would land him in a new home:
The Nets and Kyrie Irving have not gotten any closer to finding an amicable solution that keeps the superstar guard in Brooklyn.
In fact, things are trending the opposite direction: While Nets GM Sean Marks and superstar forward Kevin Durant have yet to speak this offseason, Irving’s camp has requested and received permission from the Nets to speak with other teams about sign-and-trade packages, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
The Lakers have known interest in acquiring Irving, which makes sense considering they do not have too many other paths to contention given their lack of cap space and assets.
L.A. could acquire Irving in one of two ways. The first is that he opts out of his current contract which is around $36 million for the 2022-23 season and signs with the Lakers for the taxpayer mid-level exception of around $6 million.
If Irving is unwilling to take that kind of pay cut though then the other option is for him to opt into the final year of his deal and get traded to the Lakers.
In that scenario, the Lakers would send back Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract for salary-matching purposes along with other assets. The Lakers have two first-round picks they could trade in 2027 and 2029, as well as some young talent like Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves.
If the Lakers want to get a deal of that nature done then they may need to find a third team to help facilitate it as the Nets reportedly don’t have interest in reuniting Kevin Durant and Westbrook:
Which brings us to a sign-and-trade, and Irving reportedly has six teams on his radar: the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, 76ers and Mavericks. A Durant and Westbrook reunion in Brooklyn remains unlikely, according to a source. The Knicks, Mavericks and Heat are the teams that have the biggest capacity to pull off a deal for Irving, but the Knicks and Mavericks appear to be in a bidding war over free agent guard Jalen Brunson.
If the Lakers want to find a third team to help facilitate a deal, perhaps their best option is the Charlotte Hornets as they are known to have interest in Westbrook in order to get off some long-term salaries.
Regardless though, the Nets offering Irving a max extension could put an immediate end to all of this noise. If that never comes though, then the Lakers are perhaps in the best position to acquire Irving, which would form perhaps a deadly trio with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Davis not expected to be traded
Another scenario that people have discussed is sending Davis to the Nets for Irving, although the Lakers are said to have no interest in trading away their star big man.
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