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Lakers Must Consider More Than Just This Season amid Latest Kyrie Irving Trade Rumors

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2022

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers may be the favorites to land Kyrie Irving in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

"The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are actively engaged in discussions on a trade package that would send star point guard Russell Westbrook to Brooklyn in exchange for star point guard Kyrie Irving," Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports wrote Saturday.

This proposed trade would make a ton of sense for the Lakers as it pertains to this season. Westbrook didn't quite fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis under former head coach Frank Vogel. Irving would represent an upgrade from a scheme standpoint—his outside shooting capability would complement James and Davis—and would give Los Angeles a chance to contend in the Western Conference next season.

However, while the Lakers may indeed be engaged with the Nets on a Westbrook-Irving swap, they reportedly haven't taken an aggressive approach.

"The Lakers have yet, I'm told, to be aggressive in trying to put a deal together to get [Kyrie] from Brooklyn," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Sunday on SportsCenter (h/t ClutchPoints). "That may come, that may evolve with time. But so far right now, there's no traction really on deals with either Irving or Kevin Durant."

There are perhaps a couple of reasons why the Lakers aren't pushing for a quick resolution to an Irving deal.

The first is that Brooklyn isn't incentivized to move rapidly. The Nets are also dealing with Durant's trade request and may first see what KD can bring in a deal before pivoting to Irving—who did opt in for the 2022-23 season.

"I think Kyrie is going to have wait this out because we're not going to really know what the Nets are going to want to trade him for until we see what Kevin Durant gets traded for," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on Get Up (h/t ClutchPoints).

Why push when Irving is likely to remain available for the immediate future?

The other aspect to consider is that Los Angeles has to weigh the long-term implications of acquiring Irving. He may give the Lakers a legitimate chance to chase a title this season—though the Golden State Warriors will still be the team to beat—but what happens beyond 2023?

By opting in on the $36.5 million deal, Irving has essentially put himself on an expiring contract. The Lakers must consider the possibility that he won't stay beyond one season—and also consider the fact that James may not be in Los Angeles next year either.

James' contract runs through the 2022-23 season, and while he can sign an extension in August, the 37-year-old has yet to commit beyond this year.

How would an Irving pursuit affect James' future? That's a question the Lakers brass is likely pondering. James, it seems, is one of the driving forces behind the proposed acquisition.

"James, I’m told, wants to see Irving in Lakerland more than anyone," NBA insider Marc Stein recently wrote (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll). "What other team, furthermore, has a LeBron-sized personality with the experience to cope with all the chaos that comes with adding Kyrie? James, remember, has often thrived in chaos."

Irving hasn't always been a model teammate, but he did help James win a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. James, it would appear, believes that the duo can replicate that success in Los Angeles. As things stand, however, there's no guarantee that any success could be sustained beyond this season.

This is a huge factor to consider if, for example, the Lakers are forced to part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and/or young players like Talen Horton-Tucker to facilitate a trade.

Giving up more long-term assets would be risky without a commitment from James. If he leaves, Los Angeles is left with Davis, a few support players and no real hope of a quick turnaround.

While agreeing to an Irving trade might not force James to commit to an extension, Los Angeles would surely like to know that he'll return next season before making any sort of firm offer.

On the other hand, any sort of Westbrook-for-Irving swap that doesn't include other Lakers assets would make total sense and be an advantageous opportunity for L.A. However, the Nets are going to do what's best for them and aren't going to jump on such a deal before Durant's future is settled.

This is why any Irving-to-L.A. trade will take time to sort out. As long as the Lakers are making Irving their top offseason target, they'll need to be patient. They'll also need to seek clarity on James' future and continue considering what makes sense for the long-term outlook of the franchise.

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