Kyrie Irving was a frequent spectator during the Los Angeles Lakers’ recently concluded playoff run, further fueling speculation about a possible reunion with LeBron James in Southern California.
Just a few months ago, Irving was reportedly on the top of James’ wishlist in the lead up to this year’s trade deadline where he was instead sent to the Dallas Mavericks by the Brooklyn Nets.
The 31-year-old’s ability to create his own shot is still elite and his on-court fit as a co-star next to James, as proven during their time spent together on the Cleveland Cavaliers, is as close to perfection as possible.
A theoretical “Big Three” featuring James, Irving, and Anthony Davis will immediately establish the Lakers as one of the favorites for next season’s NBA championship. The presence of Irving will not only lessen the aging James’ scoring load, but also relieve Davis from the pressure of being a focal point on offense.
It became evident during Los Angeles’ Western Conference Finals loss to the Denver Nuggets that they need more playmaking and this deficiency is something that Irving’s skillset can immediately address.
However, it will not be an easy task for Los Angeles’ front office to bring the pair that powered the 2016 NBA champions back together.
The Lakers will first need the Mavericks to agree to a sign-and-trade for Irving’s services as his max contract exceeds their projected cap space. Dallas’ cooperation will be a challenge in itself given that both teams are in the Western Conference and they are unlikely to agree to a deal unless they receive a significant return.
Initial rumors have emerged that a possible package for Irving could include D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, and a first round pick. Other variations of this hypothetical trade include defensive specialist Jarred Vanderbilt instead of Hachimura.
Both of these offers lack appeal on paper though, especially in the wake of Russell’s poor showing in the Western Conference Finals. A transaction in this form is only plausible if the Mavericks’ sentiment surrounding the mercurial Irving completely sours. Los Angeles will have to tread carefully in these dealings as they are likely to give up most of their rotation pieces for the sake of acquiring Irving.
In the end, a trade for Irving may not necessarily be the best direction for this team to go. It is probable that the Lakers will retain their breakout star Austin Reaves given that the 24-year-old is a restricted free agent. He is poised to take another leap next year after averaging 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists this postseason. The potential presence of Irving will be a hindrance to Reaves’ development and also constrain their flexibility moving forward.
While adding Irving next to James and Davis is the flashy move to make, Los Angeles’ general manager Rob Pelinka proved during last February’s trade deadline that he can find the right pieces without having to break the bank for an All-Star level player. Regardless of what they do with regards to Irving, this will be an interesting offseason for the Lakers as they begin to traverse what could realistically be James’ last campaign with this storied franchise.