ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst believes the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets will eventually make a deal involving Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook.
Appearing Friday on ESPN's Get Up, Windhorst discussed the potential trade and how he sees it playing out (beginning at 1:33 mark):
Windhorst called the market for Irving "very narrow," and noted that a trade between the Lakers and Nets is complicated by the fact that it would have to involve Westbrook, who makes nearly $11 million more than Kyrie and is a downgrade in talent.
Despite the obstacles, Windhorst sees the trade going down, although he suggested it will be a "fight along the way."
Last week, Irving made the somewhat surprising decision to opt into the final year of his contract with the Nets at a salary of $36.5 million amid rumors that he wanted out of Brooklyn.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Kyrie had previously submitted a list of teams to the Nets that he wanted them to explore sign-and-trade scenarios with. Wojnarowski noted that the only team on the list known to have mutual interest in Irving was the Lakers.
Had Irving opted out and signed with the Lakers as a free agent, however, he would have left about $30 million on the table since L.A. is over the salary cap and only could have offered him the taxpayer mid-level exception.
By opting in, Irving guarantees he will make $36.5 million, plus it is still possible he will play for the Lakers next season if the sides can get a deal done.
The Nets may have even more urgency to ship out Irving if they trade Kevin Durant as well on the heels of the latter requesting a trade last week.
Last offseason, the Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in hopes that he would be a third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but he struggled and could not carry the Lakers when James and Davis missed time because of injury, as L.A. went 33-49 and missed the playoffs.
Westbrook opted into his deal for this season as well, and since his salary is so high at $47.1 million and he didn't play well last year, he has little trade value.
Trading for Irving may be the only way the Lakers can offload Westbrook and make an upgrade, but doing so will likely cost them draft capital, as they don't have much else of value.
The Nets would also have to trade another player to Los Angeles to make the salaries work, and Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes has reported that that aspect may be holding things up.
Haynes noted that while the Nets want to send the Lakers Joe Harris as part of the trade, the Lakers would rather have Seth Curry.
It is unclear if or when the trade will be consummated, but for now, it appears as though the Lakers are the only team with legitimate interest in Irving, a seven-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion.