Draymond Green on If Lakers Paired LeBron James, Kyrie Irving: 'They Won't Beat Us'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 26, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors talks with injured LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half at Chase Center on April 07, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If the Los Angeles Lakers somehow find a way to land Kyrie Irving this summer, they would be a major title contender this upcoming season.

Not that Draymond Green is too worried about it.

"With LeBron James, if you give them someone like Kyrie... they'll have a chance because of the way Kyrie can score the basketball," Green told Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg. "LeBron will only put him in a position to do that. Kyrie has not proven to be a great leader. LeBron will put an umbrella over that. If you can do what you're good at, you have LeBron leading."

"They could contend, but they won't beat us."

Of course, Irving ending up on the Lakers is a major long shot. First, he would have to decline his $36.5 million player option and decide he wants to leave the Brooklyn Nets.

Then the Lakers would have to hope for one of three scenarios to play out:

  • Convince the Nets to take Russell Westbrook and his $47 million contract for the 2022-23 season in a sign-and-trade or opt-in-and-trade for Irving. Odds of that happening: basically impossible. If the Nets lose Irving, they'll already be facing the threat of Kevin Durant demanding a trade. An awkward reunion between Westbrook and Durant likely wouldn't entice him to stick around. Plus, the Nets would have to give up more salary (i.e., another player or two) just to make the trade work, all to receive a major downgrade at point guard. Completely illogical.
  • Trade players like Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.2 million) and Kendrick Nunn ($5.2 million) and decline the team options on Stanley Johnson, Wenyen Gabriel and Austin Reaves to clear around $39 million in cap space to sign Irving outright. Odds of that happening: again, basically impossible. The Lakers don't really have the assets to attach to Westbrook to send him into another team's cap space, and they'd have to take salary back to make it work given Westbrook's enormous cap hit unless a third team, or more, got involved. Plus, trading THT and Nunn and releasing the other three would leave them with a grand total of three players on their roster. Not ideal. Way too many moving pieces to make this feasible.
  • Sign Irving to the taxpayer mid-level exception worth $6.3 million. Odds of that happening: For most players, you would say impossible. Most players wouldn't take a $30 million pay cut just to get to a new team. But this is Irving, so it might actually be a legitimate possibility. You never quite know with him. Still feels unlikely, however.

And through all of that, the Lakers' title hopes would still be reliant on players like James and Anthony Davis staying healthy. Those two combined to miss 68 games last season, a worrying trend for the team's championship aspirations.

There's no doubt that adding Irving would make the Lakers one of the biggest threats to unseat the Warriors, alongside teams like the Phoenix Suns and a healthy Los Angeles Clippers in the West and a slew of contenders from the East.

But Green isn't sweating it. And he likely won't have to, considering an Irving defection to Los Angeles still feels like an improbability.