The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are making progress on a trade that would swap Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, according to Chris Haynes. Other pieces would have to be involved, but there is “palpable optimism” that the two sides can figure out a deal this summer.
Irving recently opted into the final year of his deal worth $36.4 million but is expected to be traded after his star teammate Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Nets. “If Kevin Durant is on the first train out, Kyrie Irving will be on the caboose as far as the Nets are concerned,” Brian Windhorst reported earlier this week.
Coming off a season in which he played just 29 games because he refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and given his previous injury history — Irving hasn’t 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.
The Lakers, though, have very little to lose. Irving represents their best chance to add talent this summer, and he has a previous relationship with LeBron James. Both players will be hitting free agency next season, and the Lakers are trying to squeeze one more title out of the LeBron and Anthony Davis pairing. Irving has his fair share of negatives, but on the court he would be a much better fit than Westbrook, and would greatly increase the Lakers’ title odds.
Of course, trading Westbrook is much easier said than done; the Lakers have been trying to do so since the middle of last season, just months after they originally acquired him. He recently opted into the final year of his contract, which is worth $47 million, which makes a trade tricky from a logistical perspective. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s well past his prime, but still needs the ball in his hands the majority of the time to be effective at all.
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There really aren’t any basketball situations that make sense, but the Nets are in a bad spot after the Durant trade request, and might be willing to take Westbrook on as an expiring contract if they can move Irving and coax some concessions out of the Lakers. In particular, the Nets will be eager to acquire some draft picks given how many they owe the Houston Rockets in the coming years via the James Harden trade.
Per Haynes, draft compensation is currently one of the biggest sticking points in completing a trade. The Lakers are also out a bunch of future draft picks via the Anthony Davis deal, and were previously unwilling to attach future first-round picks to move Westbrook. If they can get Irving, though, it may be worth the price. Furthermore, the teams apparently don’t agree on the other players to be involved. Most notably, the Nets want to move Joe Harris, who has two years and $38.6 million remaining on his contract and is coming off ankle surgery, while the Lakers are pushing to get Seth Curry instead.
It does not appear that a deal is imminent at this point, but if the two sides are this far along in discussions it may not be long before Irving is reunited with LeBron and wearing the purple and gold.