There was significant optimism surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers pulling off a trade for Kyrie Irving shortly after free agency officially opened. No deal has transpired with the Brooklyn Nets, and it seems increasingly less likely to occur.
Without a trade for Irving in place, the Lakers would be missing the most seamless way to move on from Russell Westbrook while making their team noticeably better.
In order to get a deal done for Irving, the Lakers would need for a litany of events to transpire, including:
1) Kevin Durant would need to get traded elsewhere, causing the Nets to enter a transitional period.
2) Jeanie Buss would need to sign off on the Lakers including more future draft assets in a trade.
For now, it remains to be seen if Durant will actually end up getting traded. Teams don't tend to want to move on from a superstar when they aren't completely backed into a corner, essentially being forced to do so.
The Nets aren't in a position where they have to trade Durant. He's signed for the next four seasons, and by all means, many do not consider him to have the constitution of one who would not conduct themselves in a professional manner in a means to force their way out of town.
The Lakers may need to consider alternative options they deem worthy of parting with multiple draft assets. Any team that acquires Westbrook's contract will require a first-round pick in exchange for facilitating a salary dump. The actual trade return would require more compensation, too.
In a recent trade speculation piece, Bleacher Report, they compiled five "brutal" trades involving Westbrook that the Lakers need to actually consider. Among those hypothetical ideas involved the Dallas Mavericks.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG Tim Hardaway Jr., PF Davis Bertans, SF Reggie Bullock
Dallas Mavericks Receive: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Austin Reaves, 2027 and 2029 first-round picks (unprotected)
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For the Mavericks, it seems unlikely that Westbrook would be acquired with the intention of doing it for basketball reasons. Such a transaction would be completed with the likely intent of using his expiring salary to clear future cap space. It would be achieved here by including Hardaway Jr. and Bertans.
Austin Reaves showed a few flashes of being a helpful player during his rookie campaign last season. He averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 61 appearances. However, the appeal would be the two future first-round picks (unprotected) the Lakers would be sending.
Given the intent was to field 'brutal' trade packages, this was a job well-done for the Lakers. Parting with two fully unprotected future first-round picks for a trade return that features two bad contracts and Reggie Bullock seems like a high price to play.
The Lakers need to be certain that whatever they do with those future draft assets, it's enough to make them contenders. As a result, that's why Kyrie Irving has been such a frequently mentioned trade target since he has the talent to make a meaningful change in the team's fate.
The Lakers may be better off pursuing a deal with a team like the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield seems more advantageous. The issue in those negotiations was an unwillingness to part with a second first-round pick. If that's the case, why do it for this Mavericks deal? Also, some NBA executives don't even feel it's worth it for the Lakers to pay that price for Hield and Turner.
Even a trade with the Utah Jazz could check more boxes for the Lakers than doing business with the Mavericks. Between veterans like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley, and Malik Beasley, there are some intriguing options signed to more favorable contracts.
The New York Knicks are another team that could potentially field a more intriguing trade return for the Lakers in exchange for Westbrook. The Knicks could be motivated to move on Julius Randle and when considering he was an All-NBA Second-Team nominee in 2020-21, it seems like the ceiling of that trade return would be higher.
In a trade scenario of this kind, the Mavericks would be hitting a home-run if this were an option. They'd add two future unprotected first-round picks with the only meaningful subtraction from their Western Conference Finals run being Bullock.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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