Now that the Los Angeles Lakers have gotten their blockbuster trade to pair Anthony Davis with LeBron James out of the way, they can move forward and figure out what other star they’re going to try to bring to L.A. to join them, and there are increasing signs that Kyrie Irving might be a possibility.
While the Brooklyn Nets still appear to be the favorites for Irving, it may not be safe to rule out the Lakers just yet, especially after Saturday’s trade for Davis, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic (emphasis mine):
If Davis waives his $4.7 million trade kicker, the Lakers will be able to add another star in free agency on a max contract. Whether it’s Kemba Walker, whom the New York Times’ Marc Stein reported as a potential Lakers target, or Kyrie Irving, whom sources have maintained for months wants to play with Davis, someone dynamic will likely be on the ball next season in L.A. (Cap guru Albert Nahmad pointed out Saturday that the Lakers might wait 30 days after the June 20 draft to officially execute the trade so Davis could keep his trade bonus.)
According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Lakers will have either $27.8 million in cap space, or $32.5, depending on when they finalize the deal for Davis, and if Davis keeps or waives his $4 million trade kicker. The latter number is only a hair under the max contract that Irving is eligible for, meaning that he might not have to sacrifice much financially to leave the Boston Celtics for L.A., or at least not compared to leaving for any other team, as Boston can still offer him an extra year and more money annually.
But all signs point to Irving being done in Boston, and according to Sam Amick (also of The Athletic), there are some in the know who think that Irving joining the Nets may not be a foregone conclusion (again, emphasis mine):
And now, with the Lakers still capable of creating enough cap room for another max-salary player in time for the start of free agency on June 30, there’s a very real possibility that one of the many available top-tier talents could decide to join them and form the kind of superstar trio that LeBron was accustomed to both in Miami and Cleveland.
Could it be Kyrie Irving, whose frustration with the Celtics experience has been well chronicled and who has been tied to the Brooklyn Nets in recent days? It certainly matters that the two former Cavs co-stars reconciled back in January, when our Joe Vardon detailed the apology phone call heard ‘round the basketball world. What’s more, it was also clear back then that James was open to the possibility of a reunion. Just days before the Davis deal was done, a source close to James indicated some optimism that – Nets noise be darned – Irving was still in play for the Lakers.
That nugget would be big on its own, but paired with a separate report that Irving wants to play with Davis, it’s enough to start to speculate over.
Now that the Lakers have shipped out Lonzo Ball especially, they’ll need point guard depth. Last year showed that the team needs to find ways to lessen James’ load, and while Davis will help, he’s not a primary ballhandler. Irving is incredible in that role, we’ve seen him fit well enough with James to win a title, and he’s a knock-down shooter as well, something the Lakers will sorely need to create space for Davis and James to operate in the paint.
And as our own Pete Zayas astutely pointed out on Twitter, while depth sounds nice, in this market and after working so hard to keep their books clean, the Lakers need to take advantage of their opportunity to sign a third star and figure out the margins of the roster later. Irving, combined with James and Davis, would go a long way in papering over any flaws from the merry minimums the organization will use to fill out the remainder of the team, and the Lakers won’t get anything close to approximate value by spending even half as much as they would on Irving.
Another star ballhandler is the best path forward for now, and whether it’s Irving or Kemba Walker — their other recently rumored target — the team’s next biggest need is the type of dynamic creator they are lacking right now. Irving would more than ably fill that role, and more importantly, at least a few signs now are pointing towards him being willing to do so.
Editor’s Note: This post was written before reports that the Lakers may not have enough cap space to offer a second max due to a variety of circumstances. That would obviously make it much more difficult to add Irving (or Walker, or any other high-level free agent), for reasons explained here.