During the Lakers playoff series with the Nuggets, Kyrie was seen courtside, and rumors started to swirl.
While Kyrie Irving may claim he doesn’t want to be at the center of NBA free agency speculation, his appearance at a couple of Lakers’ playoff games in Los Angeles is bound to ignite rumors. LeBron James has made it clear that he desires additional help, and the notion of a reunion with Irving has been circulating for some time. This has led to speculation about a potential sign-and-trade deal between the Lakers and Irving, aiming to reunite the core of the Cavaliers’ 2016 championship team.
However, there are obstacles to signing Irving directly as a free agent, as the Lakers have expressed their intention to re-sign Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura as restricted free agents. This would remove the possibility of signing Irving unless he is willing to take a significant pay cut and play for the midlevel exception, which seems unlikely given his recent actions. Therefore, if Irving were to join the Lakers, it would have to be through a sign-and-trade scenario.
“A popular topic all week, in the wake of Denver sweeping the Lakers out of the Western Conference finals, was the notion that L.A. could emerge as a potential sign-and-trade destination for Dallas’ free agent-to-be Kyrie Irving.
While we await a clear indication about the Lakers’ intentions there, with no verifiable signal to date that pursuing Irving is among their offseason priorities, league sources say that the Mavericks would have no interest in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers that features D’Angelo Russell as the primary Dallas-bound player. All indications are that the Mavericks remain intent on re-signing Irving.” -Marc Stein
The Mavs Believe Kyrie is Part of their Future
The question then arises as to who the Lakers would send back to the Dallas Mavericks in such a trade. Speculation had previously focused on the possibility of free agent D’Angelo Russell signing and being traded to play alongside Luka Dončić. However, according to reports, the Mavericks have no interest in pursuing that path. When the Mavericks acquired Irving, they committed to building around him both financially and on the court. Losing Irving in free agency would leave them with no viable means of replacing him, and given their win-now mentality with Dončić, they consider Irving to be an integral part of their team.
As for Irving himself, he desires a lucrative contract, as evidenced by his decision to opt in with the Nets rather than leave for less money. There is a logical case for Dallas and Irving to negotiate a new contract, with the possibility of a trade down the line if the partnership doesn’t work out. The key factors in such negotiations would be the financial terms, the length of the contract, and Irving’s genuine interest in playing for Dallas, which he has previously expressed.
The Lakers May not have Interest As Well
League sources have indicated that the Lakers’ front office is primarily focused on avenues other than Irving. While the Lakers could create nearly $30 million in cap space, it appears that free agency is not their preferred route. Re-signing Reaves and Hachimura alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom earn over $40 million next season, would push the Lakers above the salary cap and into the luxury tax territory. The Lakers are more inclined to explore moves such as exercising the $16.5 million team option on Malik Beasley and potentially trading him or other players to address their needs for shot creation and shooting. A sign-and-trade involving Russell remains a possibility, or they could bring him back at a lower salary than what he may desire, perhaps starting around $20 million per year. Russell had a solid regular season with the Lakers and showcased his abilities with a 31-point performance in the playoffs against the Grizzlies and a 21-point outing against the Warriors, albeit struggling against the Nuggets due to a challenging matchup.
While Irving joining the Lakers is considered a long shot, the desires of LeBron James and Irving cannot be entirely ruled out. If both players are determined to make it happen, nothing can be entirely off the table. The offseason will undoubtedly bring further speculation and intrigue regarding the potential moves of these star players.