According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavs are “operating under a self-prescribed mandate” that presumes a future without LeBron James and are seeking “a young star like New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson, or Denver’s Jamal Murray” for Kyrie Irving.
With strong rumors of LeBron James possibly joining the Lakers as a free agent next summer, it seems ridiculous to question whether the Lakers are targeting the wrong Cleveland Cavaliers superstar to wear purple and gold, especially with Magic’s obvious bromance with the King. But you can easily make a strong argument that a 25-year old Kyrie Irving would be a better fit and wiser investment for the Lakers than a 34-year old LeBron James.
Engineering a trade for Kyrie Irving would likely cost the Lakers promising small forward Brandon Ingram, whom Magic has said was “untouchable,” and talented combo guard Jordan Clarkson. While the cost would be high, I think the opportunity to add a proven superstar with championship mettle who would be a great fit is too good to pass. While I love Brandon Ingram’s upside, Kyrie Irving is already a superstar and would be a top-5 at the 2.
The single biggest reason the Lakers should consider pursuing Kyrie Irving rather than LeBron James is their age. Kyrie just turned 25 in March while LeBron will turn 33 in December so we’re talking about a 7 year difference. Realistically, I doubt there is another 33-year old superstar out there whom the Lakers would even consider adding to their roster at this point in time. And that does not take into consideration LeBron’s miles and baggage.
A 25-year old Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, would be a perfect fit to play shooting guard alongside the Lakers’ 20-year old point guard Lonzo Ball. Kyrie’s ability to create his own shot and score would be a complement to Lonzo’s unique ability to get players the ball when and where they like it. The NBA today is a guard driven league and a dynamic backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Kyrie Irving would give the Lakers an elite backcourt of the future.
Trading Ingram and Clarkson for Irving would also still leave the Lakers with the potential cap space to add two max contract superstars like Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins. They would still have to let Julius Randle walk and waive and stretch Luol Deng, but they would have cap space to sign Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins each to $30 million max contracts.
Here is a breakdown of the Lakers 2018 cap situation after trading for Kyrie:
I believe trading for Kyrie Irving would give the Lakers a better chance to make the playoffs this year and compete for a championship next year. But the most important reason to make the trade is it would allow the Lakers to build a sustainable championship contender whose window was not limited to LeBron’s remaining productive years or hindered by his multi-year $200 max contract or need to control whom the team signs or how it plays.
While unlikely, the Lakers would be smart to reconsider which Cleveland Cavaliers superstar would be a better fit and investment for the Lakers. A 2018–19 Lakers team with a starting lineup of 21-year old Lonzo Ball, 26-year old Kyrie Irving, 28-year old Paul George, 23-year old Kyle Kuzma, and 28-year old DeMarcus Cousins would quickly be a serious threat to dethrone the Golden State Warriors and create another Lakers Showtime dynasty.