The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are currently engaged in some of the most unorthodox trade negotiations in NBA history. Both teams have a renowned playmaker that no one else seems to want. The Lakers are trying to trade Russell Westbrook, who owes $47 million and is coming off his worst season as a pro. The Nets want to move Kyrie Irving, who narrowly missed most of the 2021-22 season due to his refusal to comply with New York’s vaccination mandate. There is no other clearly visible trading partner for either party, which has considerably complicated the negotiations.
According to Marc Stein, the Nets want first-round compensation from the Lakers in order to make the trade, but perhaps more importantly, are focused on resolving the Kevin Durant situation before turning to Irving. Durant is also looking for a trade, but with four years remaining on his deal, the Nets have the power to take their time. While they might want to leave Irving, doing so before moving Durant would make it virtually impossible for them to fight for a title should they end up retaining the 2014 MVP.
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The Lakers have two tradeable first-round picks: one in 2027 and another in 2029. The Lakers have resisted including them in trade talks, but a player of Irving’s caliber could be an exception. Speaking of hesitation, the Nets would prefer not to take on Westbrook in a potential deal because of his exorbitant cap. The $11 million salary gap between the two point guards would cost Brooklyn more than $50 million with luxury taxes factored in before considering the financial implications of a possible Durant trade. The San Antonio Spurs, with over $30 million in cap space, have been mentioned as a possible third team to take on Westbrook so the Nets don’t have to.
The Lakers are reportedly considering deals with the Indiana Pacers (for Buddy Hield) and Houston Rockets (for Eric Gordon) to add the shot, but both players have much lower caps than Westbrook. Indiana could fill that gap by including center Myles Turner, who the Lakers have long coveted, but according to Stein, they probably won’t have the credentials to land both Turners. and Hield. Several reports suggested that LeBron James really wanted Irving to join him in Los Angeles.
But until Durant’s situation is resolved, the Nets have no reason to rush. If a Durant trade happens, the Lakers should be able to make an Irving trade simply because the Nets would no longer have any reason to keep him. For now, however, the ball is in Brooklyn’s court.