Irving, who was traded by the Brooklyn Nets to the Mavericks during the 2022-23 season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Windhorst believes both Irving and James Harden (who spent last season with the Philadelphia 76ers) could be trying to get more money from their teams this offseason.
“The two big names out on the [free agent] market this year are James Harden and Kyrie Irving,” Windhorst said on his podcast. “Both of them, at $48 to $50-something million, seem like very bad bets. But, there is a scarcity [of star talent] there.
“I also think that both of them, Kyrie showing up to Laker games, James Harden being rumored to be attached to the [Houston] Rockets, I still think/suspect all of that is one giant leverage play. That, what James Harden really wants is to elicit the biggest offer out of the Sixers even if it isn’t a max [contract]. Whatever the number of money is, for as long as many years as he can get. And that this slow dance for months and these rumors are all sort of tied to that.
“And I think that Kyrie could be doing the same exact thing [with the Mavericks]. Just doing all of this, and whatever he may do between now and free agency to try to get the juiciest offer he can from the team he’s on. ‘Cause [the Sixers and Mavericks] face the most damage from losing those guys.”
Irving has been linked to the Lakers before, as he and Lakers superstar LeBron James played together earlier in their careers on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The duo won an NBA title in the 2015-16 season, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden State Warriors.
Dallas certainly doesn’t want to lose Irving for nothing this offseason after moving pieces such as Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith for him at the trade deadline. The team could also look to make a sign-and-trade deal with the eight-time All-Star in the offseason.
It’s possible that the Lakers might be open to that if they don’t have to give up too much depth. The team did bench guard D’Angelo Russell in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, so it’s possible the team could look to move him as a primary piece in a deal for Irving.
That’s all hypothetical, and as an unrestricted free agent, Irving will have the ability to sign with any NBA team, although many won’t have the cap space to offer him a max deal.
Dallas can give Irving a max deal due to having his full Bird rights, which allows teams to “re-sign its own free agent to a contract with a first-year salary of up to the maximum player salary if he played for the team for some or all of each of the prior three consecutive seasons (or, if he changed teams, he did so by trade or by assignment via the NBA’s waiver procedures during the first of the three seasons),” which Irving did.
The Lakers will likely be linked for much of the offseason to Irving because of his connection with James, but it doesn’t seem like Windhorst expects the All-Star guard to end up in Los Angeles.