Why a Lakers, Nets, Spurs Blockbuster Trade Could Be a Winner for Everyone
A Win-Win-Win three-team NBA trade is what do you get when you mix two toxic superstars, two disappointed superteams, and a storied franchise hungry to replicate its successful tanking strategy and steal the next Tim Duncan.
We’ve heard all of the reasonable arguments about why this trade won’t happen, most of which ignore that the Lakers simply do not have any other potential trade partners for Russell Westbrook or the Nets for Kyrie Irving. The missing piece to solving the puzzle of how to make the trade work was the San Antonio Spurs, who’re now committed to tanking next season in pursuit of their next Tim Duncan in 7' 3" teenage French center Victor Wembanyama.
Let’s analyze what the actual trade is likely to look like, what each team is looking for from the trade, what each key player on the move is looking for, and why what each team and player ends up getting in this trade is a win.
What Is Trade Likely To Look Like?
It’s never easy to predict how a blockbuster NBA three-team trade will look like but the above example is one that has emerged as a logical alternative that gives all three teams involved what they theoretically want or need.
The trade accomplishes the primary goals of each of the three teams. The Lakers dump Russell Westbrook. The Nets dump Kyrie Irving. The Spurs get paid for taking Westbrook, who has already said he would buy himself out.
The trade saves the Lakers $5 million in salary this season, gives the Nets a $30.7 million traded player exception to bring in a player or players without sending out salary, and gives the tanking Spurs a pick for taking Russ.
There are two additional players the Spurs are looking to dump in Doug McDermott and Zach Collins but both have 2 years left on their contract, which makes them both unlikely candidates for the Lakers or the Nets.
Why Trade Is A Huge Win for the Lakers
The Lakers essentially give up all of their trading chips: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, their 2027 first round pick, and their 2029 first round pick. In return, they basically got everything they wanted.
They got rid of Russell Westbrook. They got a 1-year trial of Kyrie Irving and two legitimate rotation players who can shoot the three in Seth Curry and Josh Richardson. They also got out of the second year of THT’s contract. Subtract Westbrook (29.8% on 3.4 3PA pg), Horton-Tucker (26.9% on 3.0 3PA pg), and Nunn (0% on 0.0 3PA pg) and add Irving (41.8% on 8.2 3PA pg), Curry (46.8% on 6.5 3PA pg), and Richardson (41.5% on 3.8 3PA pg).
The Westbrook for Irving trade allowed the Lakers to rebuild their superstar big three but also to supplement the young and athletic roster they built in free agency with elite three high volume, high percentage 3-point shooters.
Why Trade Is A Huge Win for the Nets
Regardless of what they may say when posturing, the Brooklyn Nets have had it with Kyrie Irving and there is no way they want him on the team next season. The entire Nets organization blames Kyrie for the disaster last season.
For the Net, the opportunity to trade Kyrie to the Lakers and end up with Jakob Poeltl and Kendrick Nunn, two solid rotation players, LA’s 2027 first round pick, and a $30.7 million traded player exception is stunning. Realistically, the Nets should want to pull the trigger on this trade right away to avoid any risk that another NBA team might give the Spurs a more lucrative offer to take advantage of the their open cap space to dump bad contracts.
Bottom line, the Nets would be wise to execute the trade with the Lakers and Spurs so they can reassess their Kevin Durant trade opportunities to reflect the $30.7 million traded player exception they will have a year to use.
Why Trade Is a Huge Win for Spurs?
Most NBA fans forget that the most successful tanking campaign ever in the NBA was executed by none other than the San Antonio Spurs, who benched David Robinson much of the 1997 season in order to tank for Tim Duncan.
With their trade last week of Dejounte Murray, the Spurs officially kicked off their tanking campaign to draft Victor Wembanyama, the transcendent 7' 3" teenage French center who will be the #1 draft pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. San Antonio has created enough cap space to take on Russell Westbrook’s $47 million contract and/or other bad contracts teams want to dump for the right draft capital in compensation. They also have contracts they want to dump.
Rob Pelinka, Sean Marks, and R.C. Buford will all be in Las Vegas this weekend for Summer League. It’s not impossible that they may meet and finalize some version of a Russ for Kyrie trade before the week is over.
Why is the trade a big win for Russ and Kyrie?
Unsaid is that this is a trade totally driven by two superstars whose presence, or absence in Kyrie’s case, lead to stunning collapses by the two teams with superstar big threes who were heavy favorites to meet in the NBA Finals.
But after the Lakers missed the playoffs and the Nets became the only playoff team to fail to win even one game, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving are not set to somehow land on their feet even after what was a disastrous season. Irving especially will find himself in a great position if he’s traded to the Laker, getting to play alongside superstar LeBron James, with whom he won his only NBA ring, and Anthony Davis, still holding his Bird rights in a contract year
For Westbrook, he’s already said he would negotiate a buyout rather than play for the Spurs so he’ll finally be free of his super max contract and will become an unrestricted free agent who can choose where to resume his career.
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