It’s funny how quickly things can change in the NBA. In the months after the end of the season, the Lakers were the ones trying to manufacture leverage to trade their former superstar point guard, but Kevin Durant’s trade request hours before free agency flipped the league on its head, and now it’s the Nets are trying to manufacture leverage as they try to find their best deal for their point guard in Kyrie Irving.
Ironically, the Lakers seem to be the ones lined up to reap the benefits of all of this. Let’s take a look at the latest reports and rumors regarding the Kyrie’s Nets and Lakers standoff.
Nets not interested in helping Kyrie
Probably rightfully so, the Nets reportedly have zero interest in helping Kyrie Irving find a suitable landing spot. In response to his threat last week to leave the franchise high and dry after a tumultuous season that he sat out three-quarters of, Brooklyn isn’t willing to play ball with Kyrie anymore.
Not only are they not willing to placate Irving, they may not even be entertaining separate trade ideas until a KD deal is done, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN (h/t Nets Daily).
“The Nets don’t know what they’re trading Kevin Durant for,” said Windhorst. “They may not want to do a trade with Kyrie Irving that takes on money. You may take on a bunch of money when you do a Kevin Durant trade. You don’t know what your books are going to look like...
[T]he Nets have no interest in accommodating Kyrie Irving. They have no interest in doing it. If it comes up maybe a three-team trade or a four-team trade to get the Nets satisfied with what they want. To get them maybe a start. To take draft picks from Phoenix and reroute them somewhere else... Kyrie might get thrown into that four-team trade just as salary ballast. He’s going to be used as a tool to help the Nets.”
The Nets are wise to posture right now, similar to how the Lakers swore they were going to run it back with Russ this season. Now, the idea that the Nets would need to aggregate KD and Kyrie’s salaries for a total of about $70 million to complete a deal feels a little farfetched, but not nearly as farfetched as some other suggestions.
Among the wildest ideas out there is that the Nets would consider stretching Kyrie instead of trading him. It’s an idea reported by Vincent Goodwilll of Yahoo Sports and one that honestly seems too preposterous to be true.
It ended up being every man for himself, a true Battle Royale for the exits, at various times for various reasons.
Harden was invested until he wasn’t, and best believe the Nets have seen the last of Irving in their uniform — don’t be surprised if the Nets use the waive-and-stretch provision to rid themselves of Irving’s presence even if his scent will linger over the next three years.
If you’re keeping track at home, stretching Kyrie’s remaining expiring $36,934,550 deal would cost the Nets $12,311,516.70 in each of the next three seasons. That number is too big to open up a significant amount of salary given the Nets’ overall cap sheet.
As a member of #TeamPetty, waiving and stretching Kyrie would be an incredibly petty move. Kyrie would still get paid the money, but he wouldn’t be able to sign for much of anything in the free agent market this summer given how many teams have used up their cap space and mid-level exceptions.
However, waiving and stretching Kyrie would prevent the Nets from gaining any assets in return for him, even if they can’t extract his optimal market value in a trade. Really, Brooklyn only does this if they really, truly despise Kyrie and just want him out of their lives immediately at their own detriment. It’s funny, but it’s hard to believe.
What do the Lakers offer?
Clearly, then, the Nets don’t have much in the way of leverage in a trade. That opens up the question of how much the Lakers should offer in a deal and what the framework should be, something discussed by Dan Woike and Brad Turner of the LA Times.
The Lakers, though, need to weigh what they consider is appropriate compensation for a player in the final year of a contract with reliability and durability issues. The team previously balked at adding future first-round draft picks in Irving discussions, and without much league-wide interest in Irving, it’s hard to know what his actual value is and how urgent the Lakers need to act.
It’s also unknown if and how the Lakers could pursue a third team to aid in the transaction should Brooklyn prefer not to acquire Westbrook.
There are real questions about how much the Lakers should be willing to give up. Obviously, it will require some compensation to swap Russ and Kyrie and the Nets will have to include something to make up for the gap in salary, but who is included and what the total package of picks or players should be is a matter of real debate.
In our latest Reacts survey, well over half of Lakers fans felt the team should attach picks to Russ to offload him in a trade.
That poll came before the latest developments in Brooklyn, but it also shows how eager L.A. fans are to move on from Russ.
Kyrie is a talented player, but he comes with so much baggage that there are genuine reasons to question how much the Lakers, seemingly the only interested team, should trade to acquire him.
It’s a calculus the Lakers in the process of making as they look to inch closer towards a deal. If they do end up meeting Brooklyn’s demands, landing Kyrie could lead to a brighter on-court future in LA.