Kyrie Irving rumors about joining the Lakers began circling long before they suffered the unfortunate fate of being swept by the Nuggets. With Irving making it a point to show up to the Lakers games, combined with the fact that he has essentially made it clear that he has reconciled with LeBron James, the possibility of a big three in LA is certainly tantalizing. The potential move is not without its critics, there are those that feel that the Lakers sacrificed depth previously to obtain Russell Westbrook, and that move backfired spectacularly. It was trading for depth that once again made the Lakers competitive this season and off-season.
While this is certainly a legitimate argument, it is not a comparable situation by any means. Firstly, Russell Westbrook was always going to be a terrible fit. To be sure, Westbrook is still a great player, but he is a ball dominant guard with close to zero shooting ability. And despite the fact that he is a good passer, he is not a playmaker by any means. Putting a ball dominant guard with poor shooting on a team that already lacked shooting was destined for disaster.
Adding a third superstar just for the sake of adding a third superstar is not a strategy. With this in mind, Kyrie Irving is the best option for the Lakers for a number of reasons. Whilst the Lakers squad as currently constructed is indeed a very good team, and would likely still be competitive next year, they’re not good enough. The Denver Nuggets are great, young, and not going anywhere. The Lakers cannot hope to simply try harder and beat them next year. The West goes through Denver now, that’s just the reality. Secondly, LeBron James is 38, Anthony Davis is in the back half of his prime and injury-prone, if the goal of this team isn’t to win now, then what’s the point?
The Lakers are obviously not a long-term project, so there is little risk in pushing all of their chips in right now. Standing pat is unquestionably the safer move, the Lakers have a slew of good complementary pieces, the kind of complementary pieces that you rely on to push you through rough patches. But it’s still not enough. Sometimes you just need to have more firepower than everyone else, and that is exactly what you would be getting by adding Kyrie Irving.
Like Westbrook, Irving is not the best playmaker, but he is an excellent shooter, a must if you want to thrive with LeBron, and he is not a turnover machine like Westbrook. Even the depth that the Lakers would need to sacrifice to acquire Irving would really only hurt their regular season win total. In the playoffs, having a layer like Kyrie on the squad comes with more pluses than negatives. The idea of parting with players like Rui Hachimura or Austin Reaves may seem painful to Laker fans, but those players are best served on a team that has more of a long-term re-build in mind.
It should be quite telling that the Lakers were unable to steal even a single game in the series against the Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets were the better team, and should have won, but getting swept should be a genuine wake up call to the Lakers. Even the underdog Miami Heat was able to steal a game in Denver against the Nuggets.
All of this being said however, it is still a pie in the sky dream. It is unlikely that the Dallas Mavericks complete a sign and trade that would send Kyrie to the Lakers, and for the Lakers to acquire him outright, they Kyrie would certainly have to be willing to take a pay cut, even if they make salary shedding moves. But despite the unlikelihood of Kyrie Irving actually landing on the Los Angeles Lakers, it is still their best option.