Is Kyrie Irving Worth the Cost for the Lakers amid Trade Rumors?

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJuly 11, 2022

Is Kyrie Irving Worth the Cost for the Lakers amid Trade Rumors?

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    The Los Angeles Lakers could be on the verge of building the NBA's next Big Three.

    They already have a pair of franchise pillars in place with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but a trade for Kyrie Irving could take this team over the top—if the organization can stomach the cost. So far, that reportedly isn't the case.

    "There's not a huge appetite in L.A. at this point to take on all the money they're going to have to take on to be a deeper-into-the-luxury-tax team and fork over a first-round pick in return," SI's Chris Mannix said. "As long as that is the asking price, the Lakers are not going to get their hands on Kyrie Irving."

    Is a pick and a tax hit really too much for a 30-year-old with a resume as rich as Irving's? Let's explore.

The Case for Paying the Price

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    Want the simplest argument for pursuing Irving at any (reasonable) cost?

    He's Kyrie bleepin' Irving. He has booked seven All-Star trips in 11 NBA seasons. He hasn't averaged fewer than 26.9 points in three seasons or shot worse than 46.9 percent in six. His 4.8 career offensive box plus/minus ranks 13th all-time, per Basketball Reference. He delivered one of the most clutch shots in NBA history—right alongside James, no less.

    Basketball-wise, Irving could be as snug of a fit as L.A.'s third star as anyone. He has already proved he can win big with James, and Irving could work two-man magic with Davis.

    In case all of that isn't enough, James wants this to happen to the point he is reportedly "putting some pressure" on the franchise behind the scenes, per The Athletic's Jovan Buha.

The Case Against Buying Big on Irving

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    Irving has made it impossible to keep this solely a basketball discussion.

    Due to injuries and personal decisions, he has suited up just 103 games over the past three seasons combined. He last played 70-plus games in 2016-17 and has only cleared that threshold three times in his career.

    Think about it. Irving is in the prime of his career and one of the more decorated players of his generation. Theoretically, teams should be tripping over themselves to get a deal done. And yet, the Lakers "appear to be the only market for the point guard," per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Even then, there are some in the organization who prefer "a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield-type deal," per Buha.

    If the Lakers are the only team in the bidding, where is the incentive to up their offer?

The Best Option Is...

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    As much as James might want this to happen, there should be no urgency for the Lakers.

    If no one else is bidding now, why would that change in the next month or two? It's not like Irving can suddenly prove capable of giving his club 70-plus games.

    Now, L.A. will need to concede something to eventually get this done. Even with a lack of interest, the Nets won't give Irving away for nothing. Still, the Lakers can try to orchestrate the trade on their terms for now.

    Maybe it's giving up a first-round pick but not taking back additional salary. Perhaps the Lakers take on some money but keep picks out of it, or at least don't lose a first-rounder.

    The point is, L.A. has options, plus the time to explore them. If nothing is done by the time training camp is about to get going, the Lakers can consider increasing their offer then. For now, though, there is no rush to pay top dollar.

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