The 2022-23 season is over for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it’s certainly a positive that the team made the Western Conference Finals after an extremely slow start to the campaign.
Now, the Lakers front office and franchise’s fan base can turn their focus to the offseason, where Los Angeles will look to improve the team, especially if star LeBron James decides not to retire. James hinted at the possibility of retiring after the Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
One player that has been linked to the Lakers for quite some time is a former teammate of James, guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving, who was dealt by the Brooklyn Nets to the Dallas Mavericks at the trade deadline during the 2022-23 regular season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
An eight-time All-Star, Irving is one of the most skilled guards in the NBA, and he could help take the Lakers to the next level if they can acquire him this offseason. It won’t be easy, since Los Angeles would almost certainly need to work out a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas, but there is a path to getting Irving to the Purple and Gold.
With James entering the final years of his career, he might want the Lakers to go after Irving to give him a true shot at winning a fifth NBA title. Remember, Irving and James orchestrated arguably the greatest comeback in NBA history in the 2016 NBA Finals, erasing a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors.
The question for the Lakers becomes this: How much are they willing to give up for Irving?
Dallas traded Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 unprotected first-round pick, 2029 second-round pick and 2027 second-round pick for Irving. So far, the deal has proved unsuccessful, as the Mavericks finished 11th in the West this season, missing the postseason entirely.
With Irving set to hit free agency, it’s possible a similar package from Los Angeles could work. Here is a hypothetical deal that would bring Irving to the Lakers for the 2023-24 season and beyond:
Lakers receive: Kyrie Irving
Mavericks receive: D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2023 first-round selection
This would be a double sign-and-trade deal, with the Lakers and Mavericks signing the respective guards that would be dealt.
First, let’s take a look at what the Mavericks would receive.
How the Dallas Mavericks benefit from trading Kyrie Irving
For Dallas, does it make sense to run back a team with Irving in the 2023-24 campaign?
The team failed in the 2022-23 season, and it lacked defense after trading away Finney-Smith. Dallas finished the season with the No. 25 defensive rating in the NBA.
The Mavericks are at their best when playing through Luka Doncic, and they could do that more often with Russell than they could with Irving. The other plus for Dallas would be that it would something in return for Irving.
There’s a chance the veteran guard signs elsewhere and leaves Dallas for absolutely nothing. In a sign-and-trade deal, the Mavericks would be able to at least recoup something after trading several assets for half a season of Irving.
How should Dallas want to build around Doncic?
Well, the blueprint is there from the team’s run to the Western Conference Finals last season. The team had solid defensive wings with Finney-Smith leading the way, another lead guard (Jalen Brunson) and strong shooting on the wings.
Adding Russell would help the Mavericks replace the losses of Brunson and Irving. Plus, the team would net an elite defender in Vanderbilt, who showed he can hang with the likes of Stephen Curry in the playoffs this season.
If the Mavericks want more shooting, they could also pursue Malik Beasley in this deal, but Dallas would need to move off some salary in order to make that work.
Then, there is the draft compensation. Due to the Stepien Rule, the Lakers cannot trade their 2023 first-round pick until they make the selection on draft day. While that could deter Dallas, it would give the Mavericks a young player to add to the roster or another piece they could use to flip for a rotation player.
Plus, the key to remember is that Irving could be gone for nothing in the offseason, so getting anything in return would be somewhat of a win for Dallas.
How the Lakers benefit from acquiring Kyrie Irving
For the Lakers, this move checks several boxes.
First off, it takes away the headache of trying to figure out what Russell is worth to the team in the offseason. After playing well against Golden State, Russell was benched in the Western Conference Finals for his ineffectiveness.
If the Lakers are truly going to maximize another season with James, adding a player who has won with him before (Irving) may be the best way to do it.
Irving is a much better player than Russell, but he obviously would come at the cost of some of the team’s depth.
Vanderbilt may be viewed as one of the more expendable pieces for the team if the Lakers intend to re-sign Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves. As great as Vanderbilt is defensively, he lacks the offensive game to be an effective player for long stretches at times in the playoffs.
The Lakers can always attempt to add a veteran forward for depth, but the chance to add an All-Star caliber player like Irving doesn’t come around as often as one would think. This deal would be much different than the Russell Westbrook trade, as the Lakers would be adding a stronger fit to the roster while only sacrificing two rotation players.
The draft pick can be tricky to give up, but if the Lakers are truly title contenders, it’s possible their 2023 first-round pick isn’t going to see much time in the rotation anyway.
Moving that and Vanderbilt is a small price to pay for the upgrade of Irving over Russell.
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This deal is purely hypothetical, but it is in line with what the Mavericks gave up for Irving in the first place. Russell is likely an upgrade from Dinwiddie, and the Mavericks would have a chance to reconfigure their roster around Doncic to make a playoff run in the 2023-24 campaign.
For the Lakers, next season should be all about giving James a chance to win a title. The team was too close in the 2022-23 season not to go all in for potentially his final run.