3 reasons the Lakers should stay far away from Kyrie Irving

Peter Dewey
7 Min Read

The NBA offseason is underway, and the rumor mill is already churning for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles has been linked as a potential destination for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving if he leaves the team this offseason. Irving has a player option for the 2022-23 season, but he could also opt out and become an unrestricted free agent.

The first thought for Lakers fans might be to acquire Irving in a deal involving guard Russell Westbrook, but it’s hard to see the Nets signing off on that, especially given Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s contentious relationship.

However, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania pointed out this week, the Lakers would likely need to orchestrate some kind of a trade in order to get Irving on the roster.

“​​For the Lakers, the likely path to acquire Irving — and reunite him with LeBron James — would be Irving opting in to facilitate a trade, because the Lakers cannot realistically clear cap space to sign him themselves, and a sign-and-trade would trigger the hard cap, thus making acquiring Irving significantly more difficult,” Charania wrote. “If Irving would opt in, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would have to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement’s salary-matching rules, meaning if Irving’s $36.6 million was the only incoming salary, the Lakers could send anywhere from $29.3 million to $45.8 million to the Nets and/or a third team in a legal transaction.”

Essentially, the Lakers would need to move Westbrook or Anthony Davis to facilitate a deal for Irving. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst already reported that it is unlikely the team trades Davis for Irving this offseason.

It’s enticing to reunite Irving with James, but the Lakers should resist the temptations. Los Angeles missed the playoffs in the 2021-22 season for several reasons, and Irving wouldn’t be an automatic fix for the Lakers this upcoming regular season.

Here are three reasons why Los Angeles should stay away from a trade for the Nets star this offseason:

1. No need for another injury-prone star

The Lakers need their stars to be healthy to succeed in the 2022-23 season, and they’d be pushing their luck by adding another injury-prone player to the roster.

Los Angeles struggled mightily without James and Davis last season as Davis missed over half of the 2021-22 campaign, appearing in just 40 games.

Irving, who played in just 29 games for the Nets in the 2021-22 season due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, hasn’t been the healthiest player either in his career.

Since being traded to the Boston Celtics ahead of the 2017-18 regular season, Irving has played in over 60 games just once in five regular seasons. He played exactly 60 games in the 2017-18 campaign.

The Lakers can’t rely on a player who might only be in the lineup about three quarters of the time to carry the load when James and Davis have been banged up in recent years.

Irving has missed time due to injuries, vaccination status and personal reasons. He’s allowed to miss games when he wants, but the Lakers need a more dependable third option if they’re going to compete for an NBA title in the 2022-23 season.

2. Unnecessary distractions

Irving is a fantastic basketball player and one of the most skilled players in the league, but he comes at a price.

Irving’s off-the-court actions impacted the Nets in a big way last season, as he cost the team meaningful games by choosing not to get vaccinated. He is also a polarizing figure in the media, something the Lakers may want to avoid since the team is already under a ton of scrutiny.

If only on-court issues mattered, there would be an obvious fit for Irving in Los Angeles. However, the Lakers have to be smart about how they deal with the team’s chemistry if they try to make a potential Irving deal.

After missing the playoffs last season and failing to win a playoff series in the 2020-21 campaign, the Lakers don’t need any non-basketball obstacles in their way this season.

3. Another season with no depth

Depth may be the most important reason to stay away from Irving, as the Lakers saw what having three max contract players did to their depth in the 2021-22 season.

Los Angeles cycled through several different role players after trading for Westbrook, and it lost key pieces such as Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last offseason.

Even though the idea of having a third star can be tantalizing, the Lakers really suffered with their depth last season. The team’s bench unit was questionable at best, and the Lakers were forced to rely on several veterans that were well past their primes in the 2021-22 season.

In addition, the Lakers could lose out on a key free agent like Malik Monk if they acquire Irving via trade and don’t want to go deep into the luxury tax to make other signings. It happened with Caruso last offseason, as the Lakers chose Talen Horton-Tucker over him rather than keeping both players on the roster.

The Lakers are going to need a solid supporting cast to win a title, and adding a third star may not be the best way to surround James and Davis with talent next season, especially after it failed in the 2021-22 campaign.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.