With NBA free agency set to get underway on Thursday afternoon, all eyes quickly shifted to Kevin Durant as the Brooklyn Nets star dropped a bomb on his organization by requesting a trade.
Earlier in the week, there was some noise surrounding the Nets potentially blowing things up considering they were unwilling to offer Kyrie Irving a full max contract.
Irving had a player option for the 2022-23 season but was threatening to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Lakers being a potential landing spot.
All of that noise died down though when Irving elected to pick up his player option, saying he wanted to fulfill his four-year commitment to Durant and the Nets.
Now that Durant is on his way out the door though, it seems unlikely that the Nets will keep Irving in the final year of his contract.
That has opened the door back up for the Lakers, who will now look to acquire Irving via trade according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“The Lakers obviously, there are absolutely incumbent on them to make a call here to see if they can swap Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving, so that’s where they’re gonna go. But with Kyrie Irving locked into just a one-year contract, there will be more teams I believe that will call who can potentially trump the Lakers’ position… In a strange way, I think the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes could potentially be more explosive than the Kevin Durant sweepstakes because I really don’t think Durant’s gonna be able to go to too many teams even though you would think he would kind of lose some control since he has four years on his contract.”
Shortly after Windhorst’s report, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also commented on the potential of Irving landing with the Lakers:
“The trade interest in Kyrie Irving for a sign-and-trade will be different than what you’ll see just trade him as an expiring contract. Because in a sign-and-trade scenario, you got to be willing to give Kyrie Irving at least three years on a max extension. While the Nets were really interested in doing that kind of a deal with the Lakers, but for Irving now, as an expiring contract, and a team that essentially might just take him on for the last year of his deal, teams who are talent-starved. Listen, certainly the Lakers. A big part of the reason is they know they certainly aren’t good enough right now and Kyrie Irving delivers a talent that certainly changes the trajectory for that team. What I do wonder too, there’s gonna be teams who would look at a Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant package, trying to trade for both of them. I think right now the focus of teams in the league, there’s not a great appetite for Irving, but that doesn’t mean there’s nobody who will take him. I do think there are teams who will do it, but it’s a fraction of what’s available for Kevin Durant. I think the Nets are gonna be open to all of them, I’m told everyone on their roster is gonna be available. They got to look at every scenario right now to see how they come out of this window of time, what kind of assets they can get back. Will they go completely young, all picks and young players, or can they bring back established star players for Kevin Durant that can keep them a contender? They don’t have to decide that today, but certainly the calls are pouring in to Brooklyn.”
Before Irving chose to opt in, the threat was there for him to opt out and sign with the Lakers for the taxpayer mid-level exception. While it’s not surprising that he was unwilling to take a pay cut of around $30 million, the Lakers reportedly have always viewed acquiring Irving via trade as a more likely scenario.
The Lakers don’t have a ton to offer the Nets for Irving as their package would likely include Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract, 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and potentially Talen Horton-Tucker.
If the Nets don’t have any other suitors for Irving then they may be forced to take that deal from the Lakers, or find a third team that would be willing to take on Westbrook.
Regardless though, with Durant requesting a trade, the likelihood that Irving is also on his way out the door is very high.
Lakers expressing interest in Gallinari
With free agency set to get underway, another player the Lakers have reported interest in is Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari was just traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the San Antonio Spurs in the Dejounte Murray deal but the expectation is that he will be waived and hit free agency.
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