Examining Lakers' Top Trade Targets Amid Latest Kyrie Irving, Buddy Hield Rumors
While the Los Angeles Lakers are limited in terms of cap space and financial flexibility, they still managed to have an active start to 2022 free agency. On Friday, the team announced the signing of Troy Brown Jr., Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson.
L.A. did not release salary details, but the Lakers are essentially limited to minimum contracts and the mid-level exception in free agency. If Los Angeles is going to add a star alongside the aforementioned three new role players, it will have to do so via a trade.
The Lakers are interested in making a deal, and Kevin Durant's trade request to the Brooklyn Nets may have reopened the door for a run at LeBron James' former teammate Kyrie Irving.
The Lakers were interested in adding Irving before he opted in with Brooklyn for the 2022-23 season. According to Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic, they may now have a second chance:
"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."
Irving isn't the only trade target Los Angeles is going to consider, though, and here, we'll dive into all the latest Lakers trade buzz and who L.A. should have at the top of its wish list.
The Lakers are interested in reuniting James and Irving in Los Angeles, and the interest is mutual. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer told NBA insider Marc Stein that Irving had considered playing on the mid-level exception in L.A. this season before opting in.
Irving still seems to have his sights set on Los Angeles.
"Irving is telling everybody he plans on going to L.A., meaning the Lakers, as soon as he possibly can," ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said Thursday on NBA Today.
Adding Irving would make perfect sense. He's a tremendous scorer who would complement James and Anthony Davis better than Russell Westbrook did last season. He also has plenty of experience playing alongside James, as the two won a title together with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
The downside of targeting Irving is that a trade won't be easy. The Lakers will have to figure out how to unload Westbrook's contract, and the Nets aren't exactly eager to give Irving what he wants.
ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst appeared on First Take on Friday to discuss this very topic (beginning at the 4:30 mark).
"Nets have no interest in accommodating Kyrie Irving. They have no interest in doing it," Windhorst said.
According to Windhorst, the Nets don't view Irving as having maximum trade value and may only consider moving him in a multiteam deal as "salary ballast." Any sort of Westbrook-for-Irving swap is probably off the table.
Irving represents L.A.'s best chance of building a title contender this season, but if the Lakers want him, they're almost certainly going to have to involve other teams in a trade.
The good news for the Lakers is that if they can't swing a deal for Irving, they have other potential options. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, L.A. is already eying those alternatives.
McMenamin said the following on NBA Today (at the 3:03 mark):
"If Kyrie doesn’t work out, they have plans in place, or plans they hope they’ll be able to execute, to achieve shooting on that roster in other directions. Whether that be a veteran like Buddy Hield, who they almost got last year on draft day, and you see Indiana just traded away Malcolm Brogdon, and there could be more moves to come, or perhaps a guy like Eric Gordon in Houston. Those guys aren’t Kyrie Irving, of course, but they are players they feel they may be able to acquire to help their team."
Hield is a logical Plan B because of his three-point prowess—he has shot 39.8 percent from beyond the arc in his career.
The Lakers need perimeter shooters around James and Davis, especially with Malik Monk's agent telling McMenamin he has agreed to a deal with the Sacramento Kings. Hield, who was a Lakers target before the team pivoted to Westbrook last offseason, would make L.A. a more complete team, but there are obstacles to acquiring him.
As is the case with Irving, the Lakers would have to find a way to move Westbrook. As McMenamin noted, Indiana could be open to dealing Hield in the wake of the Brogdon trade, but that doesn't mean they want to take on Westbrook's contract.
If the Lakers could make a deal work, though, Hield would make L.A. a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
If the Lakers are going to make a run at Irving or Hield, they'll likely have to give up more than just Westbrook—even if additional teams get involved. McMenamin pointed to potential trade chips like L.A.'s 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and young players like Talen Horton-Tucker.
Trading for Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets may seem a bit easier, as Houston is in full rebuilding mode. The Rockers were willing to eat a large chunk of John Wall's salary in a buyout and may be eager to move the 33-year-old Gordon too.
The problem for Los Angeles is that Houston presumably has no interest in having Westbrook back, so the Lakers would still be eying a multiteam trade—or first finding a taker for Westbrook.
The other issue is that Los Angeles isn't the only team that could be eyeing Gordon. According to Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Philadelphia 76ers have already made offers but haven't gotten Houston's interest just yet.
"The Rockets haven't been impressed with the Sixers' offers," Hermann wrote.
Even if Gordon is a cheaper option than Irving or Hield, the Lakers are unlikely to land him for proverbial pennies, especially with Philadelphia also in the mix. Still, he represents an intriguing potential addition who would help the Lakers chase a championship.
Again, shooting is the key here. The Lakers need help on the perimeter and a reliable third scorer—neither of which Westbrook provided last season. Gordon averaged 13.4 points with the Rockets last year while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from three-point range.
Gordon is another solid option for the Lakers to consider, though at this point it appears he'll remain on the back burner as long as L.A. believes it has a chance to add Irving.