With the NBA Draft and free agency set to get underway, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers and which way they will go with the roster.
Most of those questions surround Russell Westbrook as it’s unclear if he will be on the team in 2022-23 or if they will trade him. And if they do trade him, there could be some different options whether it be bringing in multiple role players or another star.
One star the Lakers have been linked to in recent days is Kyrie Irving as he and the Brooklyn Nets are reportedly in a standstill in contract negotiations.
If Irving and the Nets are unable to come to an agreement on a new contract, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on “NBA Today” that the Lakers are the biggest threat to pry him away from Brooklyn:
“I think for Kyrie Irving and the Nets is, first of all, does he return to Brooklyn? Now, his options outside of the Nets, especially if the Nets are not willing or don’t get engaged in sign-and-trade talks, are limited. There are not teams with cap space, teams with space are perhaps not teams that he would be interested in, or perhaps I don’t think are interested in him. Now, the Lakers are considered the most significant threat right now for Kyrie Irving, but that would essentially entail him taking $30 million less than he can opt into in Brooklyn. There’s a $6 million taxpayer exemption he can sign with the Lakers. Now, most people would say a player is not going to give up that much money, but Kyrie Irving gave up nearly $17 million last year because of his refusal to get vaccinated, he lost a significant shoe deal with Nike, or is in the process of losing that shoe deal with Nike. So I think that the Nets have gone into this with their eyes open that it’s possible he could walk, he has done things differently in his career. But I think there’s a sweet spot for the Nets and Kyrie Irving to find a deal and if they don’t, how does that impact Kevin Durant’s future with the Nets? All of that is at stake this week.”
As Wojnarowski alluded to, Irving would have to take a significant pay cut to join the Lakers given their lack of cap space. They only have the $6 million taxpayer mid-level exception to offer, which is obviously a lot less than the max contract he currently has in Brooklyn.
Another option would be Irving opting into the final year of his contract with the Nets and then the Lakers trading for him. That would allow him to maintain his max salary while the Nets could get something in return for the point guard. That would require Brooklyn’s cooperation and taking Westbrook back along with draft compensation though, which is unlikely to happen.
Hornets’ interest in Westbrook considered to be ‘real’
If the Lakers are not able to trade Westbrook for another star like Irving then one other option could be the Charlotte Hornets as their interest in acquiring him to unload long-term salary is considered to be ‘real.’
In that potential deal, the Lakers would be acquiring the long-term salary of Gordon Hayward and perhaps Terry Rozier as well.
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