The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are making progress on a transaction that would swap Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, Chris Haynes said. There should be other pieces involved, but there is “palpable optimism” that the two sides could come to a deal this summer.
Irving recently signed up for the final year of his $36.4 million deal, but is expected to trade after star teammate Kevin Durant filed for a transaction from the Nets. “When Kevin Durant is on the first train, Kyrie Irving is on the galley as far as the Nets are concerned,” says Brian Windhorst.†
After a season in which he only played 29 games for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and given his previous injury history, Irving has not played 70 games in a season since 2017, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers — the market for the mercurial guard is understandably not as robust as the one for Durant.
However, the Lakers have little to lose. Irving represents their best opportunity to add talent this summer, and he has a previous relationship with LeBron James. Both players will hit free agency next season and the Lakers are trying to squeeze another title out of the LeBron and Anthony Davis pairing. Irving has quite a few flaws, but on the field he would fit much better than Westbrook and would greatly increase the Lakers’ title chances.
Of course, trading Westbrook is much easier said than done; the Lakers have been trying to do this since the middle of last season, just months after they originally acquired him. He recently signed up for the final year of his contract, which is worth $47 million, making a transaction tricky from a logistical standpoint. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s way past his prime, yet needs the ball in his hands most of the time to be effective at all.
There really aren’t any basketball situations that make sense, but the Nets are in a bad place after the Durant trade request and may be willing to take Westbrook as an expiring contract if they can move Irving and some concessions out of the Lakers. In particular, the Nets will be eager to acquire some draft picks given how much they owe the Houston Rockets over the next few years through the James Harden trade.
According to Haynes, draft compensation is currently one of the biggest bottlenecks in completing a transaction. The Lakers also have a number of future draft picks through the Anthony Davis deal, and were previously unwilling to add future first-round picks to move Westbrook. If they can get Irving, it might be worth the price. In addition, the teams apparently do not agree on the other players that should be involved. Most notably, the Nets are looking to move Joe Harris, who has two years, $38.6 million left on his contract and an ankle surgery, while the Lakers push for Seth Curry.
It doesn’t look like a deal is near at this point, but once the two sides get that far in talks, it won’t be long before Irving is reunited with LeBron and wearing the purple and gold.