Kyrie Irving Trade Becomes Worth It If Los Angeles Lakers Can Unload Russell Westbrook
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The Los Angeles Lakers can find a reasonable way out of their Russell Westbrook problem after all.

We’re several days into free agency and the dominant topic is none other than the implosion of the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant is demanding his way out of Brooklyn which is leading to a domino effect.

While we were well aware of Kyrie Irving’s desire to join the Lakers prior to the start of free agency, the move seemed like a dead deal once Irving opted into his $36.5 million option for the upcoming season.

Previous reports had indicated the Nets were only willing to deal Irving to the Lakers for All-Star big man Anthony Davis. That all changed once Durant demanded a trade on the first day of free agency.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Nets are in discussions with the Lakers regarding a Westbrook-for-Irving swap. While the two sides aren’t close to coming to an agreement, the fact that talks have advanced to this stage is a positive sign for Los Angeles in their quest to acquire Irving — and unload Westbrook.

“The Nets are not expected to be rushed into a deal and will continue conversing the complex specifics with the Lakers on an Irving-Westbrook swap,” said Haynes. “Brooklyn is also listening to proposals from nearly half of the league attempting to make a play on Kevin Durant, who requested a trade at the start of free agency.”

The main pieces being discussed in this potential deal are the Lakers unloading first-round picks and whether or not it’s going to be Joe Harris’ remaining two-year deal at $38.6 million or Seth Curry’s expiring $8.5 million deal that’s dealt in this potential trade scenario.

While the Lakers should certainly find a way to acquire Curry over Harris, Los Angeles shouldn’t hesitate in parting with their first-round picks.

One of the main reasons the Lakers have yet to unload Westbrook in a trade — despite all signs pointing towards the veteran guard being a bad fit for the team — has been their unwillingness to trade first-round picks. When Los Angeles had an opportunity to trade Westbrook and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for John Wall, the Lakers balked because they didn’t want to give up their draft asset.

While that trade decline was understandable considering it’s an injury-prone player who was due to earn $47 million for the 2022-23 season, this one you can’t pass up; the Lakers should absolutely surrender first-round picks in exchange for Irving.

The Lakers have never been a franchise that wins championships based upon their draft picks. Their most recent title came off of offseason veteran acquisitions led by LeBron James and Davis. Outside of a draft-day trade featuring Kobe Bryant in 1996 — who was technically selected by the Charlotte Hornets — the core pieces of their championship banner seasons of the new millennium were also veteran acquisitions (Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom).

The bottom line is this — the Lakers don’t have much more time left to win with James and Davis. James is the best 37-year-old to ever play basketball, but he’s appearing less and less on the basketball court due to mounting injuries and simple wear-and-tear. The four-time NBA champion appeared in just 56 games this past season and 45 games before that. During his first season with the Lakers, he played in just 55 games during the 2018-19 season.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Davis has never been a healthy basketball player, appearing in just 76 combined games over the past two seasons.

In other words, the Lakers need to capitalize on the James/Davis duo while they can. They can ill-afford to waste another season with Westbrook in the fold and wait for the 2023-24 season to contend again. The time to contend is now, and the only way they can do that is by unloading the stubborn-natured Westbrook.

NBA insider Marc Stein reported that James wants his former teammate Irving — the two won a title together as teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 — “more than anyone.”

“I certainly believe that, too,” says Stein. “I know Irving has been in Los Angeles this week, but that’s not the source of my confidence. It stems from repeated rumbles in circulation that LeBron James is rooting hard for Irving’s addition to the roster.

James, I’m told, wants to see Irving in Lakerland more than anyone. 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.”

This is the Lakers’ best chance at getting rid of their problem child while acquiring a player — who can also be a problem child, but is a vastly better player on the court — who can help them win a title as soon as 2023.

The Lakers obviously have to work out the kinks of the deal, with both sides playing the leverage game of acting as if they’re in no rush to make a trade.

But there’s little doubt that the Lakers absolutely need to pounce on this trade. Pulling off such a deal is the difference between the Lakers being championship contenders and going through another non-playoff season with the inefficient Westbrook.

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