For the Los Angeles Lakers, this may be the most important offseason in quite some time with so much uncertainty surrounding the organization.
The team as currently constructed has three players under contract, the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, over $25 million in salary cap space, and a head coach vacancy. What this shows is that the Lakers can head in several directions this offseason with much of the team in flux.
One direction that they could possibly head in is to possibly look into the Kyrie Irving and Cleveland Cavaliers situation. Over the past day or so, there have been numerous rumors that the Cavaliers have taken calls for the two-time All-Star. This does not come as much of a surprise given the franchise’s current state, as they currently hold the first overall pick in this year’s draft and want to explore as many options as possible to make the team better.
With that said, this may be something deeper than what it appears to be. Irving is the Cavaliers’ franchise player and the fact that they are dangling him out there says a lot about the standing between Irving and the team. Things have seemed to worsen between both sides this past season as multiple reports in late January stated that Irving wants out of Cleveland. What also adds to this train of thought has been the issue of whether the 22-year-old would be willing to sign a max contract with the team.
That is not only it, as rumors swirled throughout the season that Irving has had problems in the locker room with teammates, in particular Dion Waiters, that became public to the point where the Cavaliers guard traded barbs with Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon about the locker room rift.
The way things are heading, it may be a matter of time before it becomes publicly ugly between Irving and Cleveland. This is where the Lakers can swoop into the picture as they can take advantage of this situation. As stated earlier, Los Angeles holds the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft that is deep and full of potential impact players, which may play in huge favor for them. At the seventh spot, there will be a slew of talented players that may be available from Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, or Julius Randle.
The Lakers have already been on record as to saying that trading the pick would be an option if the right situation where to arise, and this may be it if the Cavaliers are willing to make a deal. The trade would work out for both sides as it would give Cleveland another high first-round pick to help build their team, and for Los Angeles it would give them the coveted player to pass the torch to once Kobe Bryant retires in two seasons.
With the seventh pick, the Cavaliers could potentially draft Smart, who could fill the point guard spot with Irving gone and can pair him with whomever they select with the first overall selection in either Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid. This is just one possibility for Cleveland if they indeed were to go through with a trade with the Lakers.
As for Los Angeles, it has been no secret that they have their eyes set on finding the next superstar to build the team around once Bryant is gone. Irving has shown that he has the promising talent to be a star player in the league for many years to come, but what has been his only knocks on the court are his health issues and lack of defense. In his first two seasons in the NBA, Irving missed 38 games over that span because of various injuries.
This may be a red flag for the Lakers, but he was able to play in 71 game this past season and remained relatively healthy outside of a left biceps injury. As for his defense, that is something the team can help him try to improve by surrounding him with defensive-minded players.
Irving can be the player Los Angeles builds around, and his addition this offseason would not force them to take a huge hit financially as he is under contract for the next two seasons for $7.5 million and $9.7 million respectively. This would give the Lakers the ability to make moves in free agency either this offseason or next year as the crop of potential free agents will also be solid with the likes of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, and Marc Gasol to name a few.
What also may play in the Lakers’ favor for Irving is if they hire Byron Scott as their next coach. Scott and the 2012 Rookie of the Year already have a great relationship, as Scott was his head coach in Cleveland for his first two years in the league. When Scott was fired in 2012, Irving was hurt, surprised and went as far as describing him as his “basketball father.”
All in all, it is a situation that the Lakers must keep their eyes on by maintaining a constant dialogue with the Cavaliers, because as the draft nears it could become a realistic possibly.
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