The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are currently engaged in some of the most unorthodox blockbuster trade negotiations in NBA history. Both sides have a big-name point guard that nobody else seems to want. The Lakers are trying to trade Russell Westbrook, who is owed $47 million and coming off of his worst professional season. The Nets want to move Kyrie Irving, who just missed the bulk of the 2021-22 season because of his refusal to comply with New York City’s vaccine mandate. There is not another clearly visible trade partner for either party, and that has complicated negotiations significantly.
According to Marc Stein, the Nets want first-round draft compensation from the Lakers in order to make the swap, but perhaps more importantly, are focused on resolving the Kevin Durant situation before they turn their attention to Irving. Durant is also seeking a trade, but with four years left on his deal, the Nets have the leverage to take their time. As much as they might want to move on from Irving, doing so before they move Durant would make it virtually impossible for them to contend for a title in the event that they wind up keeping the 2014 MVP.
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The Lakers have two tradable first-round picks: one in 2027 and another in 2029. The Lakers have been resistant to include them in trade negotiations, but a player of Irving’s caliber might represent an exception. Speaking of hesitance, the Nets would prefer not to take back Westbrook in a possible deal because of his exorbitant cap figure. The $11 million salary gap between the two point guards would cost Brooklyn over $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 that the Nets wouldn’t have to.
The Lakers have reportedly mulled deals with the Indiana Pacers (for Buddy Hield) and Houston Rockets (for Eric Gordon) to add shooting, but both players have much lower cap figures than Westbrook. Indiana could bridge that gap by including center Myles Turner, whom the Lakers have long coveted, but according to Stein, they likely won’t have the assets to land both Turner and Hield. Multiple reports have suggested that LeBron James badly wants Irving to join him in Los Angeles.
But until the Durant situation is resolved, the Nets have no reason to rush. If a Durant trade comes, 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, though, the ball is in Brooklyn’s court.