Lakers Refuse to Trade for Kyrie Irving. Here’s What It Really Means
Maximilian Haupt/picture alliance via Getty Images. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
The one big move the Lakers had in front of them is now off the table.
The Los Angeles Lakers were interested in trading for Kyrie Irving dating back to last summer. The fit made sense on every level. Irving was a compromised asset due to his expansive history of off-court issues and lack of availability. He wanted a max contract extension, fully guaranteed. The Nets could absorb Russell Westbrook’s contract. LeBron James had a desire to reunite with his old Cavaliers running mate.
It made a ton of sense.
But the Lakers didn’t want to trade those two picks, the remaining assets they have to make moves this season. Despite James’ very obvious consternation and disappointment in the team not choosing to make trades to improve the team, the Lakers simply would not move those picks. Not for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, not for various assets from Utah, not for various assets from San Antonio and, according to league sources, not in weekend discussions for Irving.
The Dallas Mavericks were willing to part with a first-rounder and two seconds and reportedly came to an agreement Sunday to acquire Irving.
The Lakers were not going to get back a better player than Irving in a Westbrook deal. They may be able to move Westbrook in another deal, but Irving is off the table, for now. (The Lakers can offer him a max contract this summer if he hits free agency, though the Mavericks will be able to out-bid them. L.A. would also have to clear space after trading for Rui Hachimura.)
As a result, the Lakers’ title odds plummeted Sunday.
Lakers NBA Title Odds Movement
The Lakers have played better than they started, but their surge has been greatly exaggerated. They are 7-5 in their past 12 games, and 17-17 since Dec. 1.
The NBA trade deadline is less than a week away. The Lakers could still try to pull a superstar rabbit out of their hat, but if they were unwilling to move the two draft picks for Irving — who James actively wanted — who would they realistically acquire for those picks? What team is taking Westbrook and those two late firsts for their star?
A move that seems to fit what they want is a trade for Bradley Beal, but the Wizards have made it clear over and over again that they have no interest in trading Beal (despite having a lot of long-term incentive to do so) and he has a no-trade clause.
The Lakers might be able to make a move at the deadline to improve the roster, but a move that improves the value on their odds to win their division, the conference or the NBA title is very unlikely.
This isn’t a buy-low spot for the Lakers, the move up with the Irving news was a preemptive overreaction. Even if they had traded for Irving, the number the Lakers moved to Friday wasn’t good value.
So even though the Lakers moved back Sunday in reaction to not getting Irving, that movement doesn’t mean they’re underrated in the market. They’re accurately rated as a mid-tier team that struggles to stay around .500.
They might make a run: They have two generational talents in James and Anthony Davis. But if nothing else, it’s preferable to wait until the playoffs to see if they’re in the play-in, and what their potential path is before taking a shot on them being a team they haven’t been since 2020.
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