Before NBA free agency could bring any sort of excitement, Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets provided all the fireworks we could ask for, with his trade request that flipping the franchise — and the league — on its head. One of the biggest ripples of that move was the revival of the possibility of Kyrie Irving to the Lakers, a move that looked dead in the water earlier this week after he opted into the final year of his contract.
What are the odds the Lakers and Kyrie are together by the offseason’s end? Let's take a look at the latest reports and rumors.
Kyrie to LA is alive and roaring
After Durant’s trade request, the Nets opened the door to moving any and all players, Kyrie included. With the Lakers one of the only teams willing to put up with his nonsense, to be frank, a trade package centered around Russell Westbrook has quickly become far more of an option, as reported by Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic.
Yet now that Durant has formally asked for a trade, a natural next question has emerged: Does this mean the possibility of Irving reuniting with LeBron James and the Lakers is alive again?
Yes. Very much so.
A source close to the situation indicated as much in the aftermath of the Durant trade request, and it makes all sorts of sense that the Durant decision ups the Lakers’ odds here. As The Athletic reported on Monday, Irving was hyper-focused on landing with the Lakers in the days and weeks leading up to his opt-in decision.
Suddenly, a trade package that seemed inadequate centered around Westbrook now feels much closer with the Nets no longer looking to build a title-contender.
Westbrook’s expiring deal is much more enticing now, and assuming they can provide enough assets around it either in the form of draft picks, prospects or players from separate teams, it could be enough to get Irving into purple and gold, especially if it’s a move he’s pushing for.
Anthony Davis stays
The added storyline to the Nets trade drama for the Lakers was the possibility of both Durant and Irving coming to Los Angeles. To do so, a package centered around Anthony Davis would have to be offered, but that sounds like a non-starter for the Lakers, also according to Amick and Buha.
As for the prospect of the Lakers trying to get in on the Durant sweepstakes themselves, perhaps by making Davis available in the process, a source close to the situation put the chances at “zero.” Their focus, it seems, is on Irving. And vice versa.
There is a human element that often is forgotten when discussing these types of trades. One-for-one, trading AD for KD might be an intriguing deal. But fellow Klutch client LeBron James is not going to ship out the man he fought so hard to get to LA, nor is general manager Rob Pelinka going to deal the player that played such a big in winning the franchise a title.
The Lakers aren’t Danny Ainge and the Celtics. The stuff outside of the basketball court matters to them. As it should.
The search for shooting
The common theme among the Lakers signees so far this offseason is a complete lack of dependable outside shooting. While they got much younger, they did not add any sort of dependable 3-point shooting.
With two roster spots remaining, the Lakers plan on looking for shooting in the final slots, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
The Lakers’ next priority as the offseason unfolds is to address their outside shooting, sources told ESPN. L.A. ranked 22nd in the league in 3-point shooting last season, hitting just 34.7% of its team attempts.
There are few names left on the open market that could be both a shooter and playable as more than a specialist — effectively be more than Wayne Ellington last year — and those that are likely aren’t available for the veteran’s minimum that the Lakers can offer.
The catch may be in a potential Kyrie trade. Swapping Russ for Kyrie straight up does not work financially as Brooklyn would have to offer more to make the deal work. Perhaps a Joe Harris or Seth Curry could pique the Lakers interest and solve multiple problems at once.
McMenamin himself suggested on television that Irving could potentially fill the gap there.
Speaking of shooting, one of the team’s best shooters left in Malik Monk to join the Kings. After stating publicly he would take a discount to remain with the Lakers, he reportedly turned down the team’s taxpayer mid-level exception offer to go to the Kings, as also reported by McMenamin.
L.A. initially offered Malik Monk the taxpayer midlevel exception before turning its attention to Walker after Monk agreed to the full midlevel exception on a two-year, $19 million deal with the Kings, sources told ESPN.
Look, I’m never going to criticize someone for securing the bag. But saying you’d take less and then not doing so is opening yourself up to criticism, fair or foul.