Most of the rumors (and the latest betting odds) have pointed toward the Brooklyn Nets as the most likely landing spot for Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving in NBA free agency, but it sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers are going to try to get in the bidding for his services.
The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Thursday night that Irving is a free-agent target for the Lakers after they created almost enough salary cap space for a max free agent in Thursday's reported trade with the Washington Wizards.
Kyrie Irving remains as much a target for the Lakers as Kawhi Leonard, league sources say, now that the Lakers are sure they can open maximum cap space. They are swinging for the fences despite all of the signals that have pointed Irving to Brooklyn ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 28, 2019
The Nets have been rumored as the landing spot for both Irving and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who's also an unrestricted free agent. But the lure of playing for a franchise like the Lakers, and reuniting with LeBron James (with whom he spent three seasons on the Cleveland Cavaliers and won a championship in 2016) could be appealing to Irving.
The Lakers need a point guard after the offseason departure of veteran Rajon Rondo and the loss of Lonzo Ball, who was part of the Anthony Davis trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. If the Lakers aren't able to convince Irving to come to Hollywood, they could target Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell.
Russell was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers in 2015, but he was traded to the Nets before the 2017 draft in a salary dump. The 23-year-old developed into an All-Star with the Nets and has matured quite a bit since his brief tenure in Los Angeles. Russell currently is a restricted free agent, but if the Nets need more salary cap space to sign two max free agents, they can renounce their rights to him. This scenario would make Russell an unrestricted free agent.
Another potential point guard option for the Lakers is Charlotte Hornets star Kemba Walker. However, the Boston Celtics reportedly have "emerged as the frontrunner" to land the 29-year-old veteran in free agency.
The best path for the Lakers might be to avoid signing a max free agent and instead use their cap space on multiple role players to build the team's depth. Whatever route the Lakers take, the fact they now have near-max cap space should only increase the drama that free agency will stir up beginning Sunday night.
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